CONCORD — A Meredith man known for his fish-catching prowess shattered the New Hampshire record for lake trout set in 1958 with a 37.65 pound specimen.
On Tuesday, Thomas Knight caught the giant trout, a Fish and Game-certified record, while ice-fishing in Big Diamond Pond in West Stewartstown.
Knight’s fish measured over 40 inches in length with a 27-inch girth.
Andy Schafermeyer, a fisheries biologist with the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department, estimated the fish, which was a male, to be between 50 and 60 years old. He said this could be verified by examining a bone in the fish’s ear and putting it under an electron microscope. Despite its age, the laker could still reproduce, he said.
The previous record, caught in Newfound Lake in Bristol was 28 pounds.
Lake trout, which are native to New Hampshire, can also be caught in Carroll County locations such as Silver Lake and Lake Winnipesaukee.
After a few phone calls to some close fishing buddies, Knight contacted Schafermeyer. In order to certify a fish’s size as a state record, it must be inspected and verified by a biologist.
Schafermeyer and Knight met and began the process of measuring the characteristics that would certify this fish as the largest lake trout ever caught in New Hampshire.
“I’m not sure who was more excited,” said Schafermeyer. “I knew the fish stood a very good chance of breaking the record.” The two men placed the laker on a certified scale that measured a maximum weight of 30 pounds and the fish’s weight exceeded that.
“At that point, I knew that Knight had caught a new state record, but I didn’t know by how much,” continued Schafermeyer. The quest for a larger, certified scale was on as the two men drove around sharing the excitement of the situation. Finally, at a package distribution center, a scale with the proper state certification was located that had the capacity to measure a large weight.
When the display finally settled on 37.65 pounds, the two men, who had met only hours earlier, shared a heartfelt handshake and pat on the back. As phone calls and text messages poured in, Schafermeyer finalized the remaining inspection and paperwork.
The fish will be sent to the taxidermist and made into a “lifetime memory,” said Schafermeyer.
“Most state records, when bested, are done so by only a few ounces. Knight’s fish shattered the old record by over 9 pounds.
“This fish is now the largest lake trout caught in all of New England. I’m glad he got it; this couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy,” said Schafermeyer.
After such an impressive specimen is caught biologists are often given the chance to examine the stomach contents as anglers are “often super willing to share that” since taxidermists only need the skin.
Schafermeyer hasn’t yet had the chance to look at Knight’s fish’s stomach. “My guess is that it’s eating hatchery trout,” said Schafermeyer. “In this particular body of water, we stock rainbow trout. My guess is when a fish reaches 37 pounds it’s able to eat 12- to 14-inch hatchery trout with ease.”
A laker of that size isn’t picky about food and will “eat anything that swims” including other lake trout.
Asked how Knight caught the laker, Schafermeyer said Knight used a tip up with live bait but didn’t want to give away more specifics.
Fish and Game defines a tip up as a “fishing device for storing line, designed to be set through the ice and to indicate when something has disturbed the bait attached thereto.”
A typical tip-up has a flag that’s triggered by a fish pulling the bait.
Hatchery trout cannot be used for bait, Schafermeyer said.
“We have a list of certified bait fish that you can use,” said Schafermeyer.
Bringing the laker through the ice took only about 15 minutes, which is “surprisingly” fast. Schafermeyer said that’s rare because it can take about an hour to bring in a 20-pound trout.
Schafermeyer said he knows Knight has caught big trout in the past but is not aware of any previous records.
When the fish comes close to the ice, an angler has to be careful because the ice can cut the leader, which is a length of line that’s less visible than the main line.
“You have to be very cautious when you get a fish that close,” said Schafermeyer.
But Schafermeyer said that Knight is what he would describe as a “trophy hunter” who was was searching specifically for big fish.
“He’s caught big lake trout before and he picked this destination because of the likelihood of catching a big lake trout,” said Schafermeyer.
Ice fishers not specifically looking for such a fish would have had a difficult time catching it, he said.
“His equipment was all set up to catch trophy lake trout, but if it were a dad and a 10-year-old kid who were hoping to catch perch or something they might not have been able to land this fish,” said Schafermeyer.
Lake trout are known for not being as tasty as other trout. The Sun asked Schafermeyer how he would cook them. He breads and deep fries the fish he eats.
“You could do that to any fish, and it tastes fantastic,” said Schafermeyer, adding that big old fish like the lake trout Knigh caught would probably be unhealthy to consume due to the accumulation of mercury from air pollution.