Trent Peery is never one to decline an invitation to go fishing, but he is particularly glad he accepted an offer to join Brian Thatcher for a trip to Scofield Reservoir on Feb. 16.
"It just happened to be a day that I didn't have to work," said Peery, a resident of Santaquin who has fished through the ice at Scofield several times this winter. "We went to a place I have fished quite a bit."
Peery has landed plenty of 18- to 20-inch trout through the ice at Scofield, but less than 30 minutes into this trip he was hooked into a tiger trout a hybrid between a brook and a brown trout nearly as long as his 3-foot rod.
"It was a light take and I just let it play a little bit and then I set the hook," Peery said. "I told my friend I had one and he came over to help. My rod was bending clear into the ice hole. He was really shaking his head a lot. I was sure I was going to lose him with the line rubbing on the ice and the head shaking the fish was doing."
With Thatcher kneeling on the ice ready to assist, Peery fought the fish for about five minutes before the anglers got their first good look at what was on the end of the line.
"I couldn't see the fish, but I could see Brian's face when he saw it, and his eyes got huge," Peery said.
Getting a big fish through an ice hole is always an adventure. It took both men reaching into the 24-inch-deep hole to lift the fish out.
"We just sat there looking at it," Peery said. "We were kind of shocked at how big it was. Brian guessed it was in the high 20s, and I kept thinking that it had to be 30 inches."
The pair snapped some pictures with their cell phone and started sending them off to buddies.
The responses were quick. Most of them wanted stats and wondered if Peery had a state record.
"I had a rough idea of what the record was, but they really got me to thinking I might have a new record fish," he said.
The existing heaviest tiger trout checked in at 29 1/2 inches with a girth of 17 1⁄8 inches and a weight of 10 pounds and 12 ounces.
Even though he realized he probably has a new record with his 32 1/4-inch fish, Peery and Thatcher stayed for another six hours. Every time they thought about leaving, another fish hit. That included the last fish of the day, a 26-inch tiger that Peery turned back to give another angler a chance to break the record he would soon own.
Peery and Thatcher decided to head for the Division of Wildlife Resources (DWR) office in Springville, but they didn't want to be disappointed, so they stopped at Stokes grocery store in Salem.
"I told the guy in the meat department that I wanted to weigh this fish on his scales, and he handed me a plastic bag to bring the fish into the store," Peery said.
The scales showed the fish was 15.1 pounds. The next stop was at the DWR office, where Mike Slater, fisheries supervisor for the central region, measured the fish. But a certified scale is required to provide the weight. Validation of his record fish would have to wait until the next day when Peery returned to the Stokes store and had the same employee re-weigh the fish and send proof.
Verification of the record is now with state fisheries officials in the DWR's Salt Lake office. No issues are expected, but Peery is amazed that his name will soon be listed next to a state record.
"It was a whole lot of luck. How many times out of 10 would a guy be able to land a fish like that through the ice?" he said. "It was just one of those times when it worked."
Anyone considering an attempt to best Peery should consider targeting next February at Scofield. The day before Peery landed the state record, Zane Nielsen, of Pleasant Grove, caught and released a 27-inch tiger trout. That fish is the new catch-and-release record for Utah.
The ways things are going at Scofield, the names Peery and Nielsen might not sit atop the record books for long.