Gavin Boggs of Davenport, Washington, was fishing Lake Roosevelt with a buddy on Feb. 11 when he hooked something heavy in deep water. At first he thought the fish was a big walleye. It turned out to be a state-record lake whitefish.
“I was targeting walleye at a depth of around 75 feet using a four-inch swimbait,” Boggs told the Washington Dept. of Fish and Wildlife. “We did mark a lot of fish on the fish-finder and had caught one walleye before this big fish took my lure.”
Boggs fought the hefty whitefish for a few minutes, still convinced it was another big walleye until the two men finally got it in the net.
“I carefully let the fish do its thing down below the boat and then when it came to the surface and we netted the fish, I was totally surprised,” said Boggs. “I’ve never targeted lake whitefish in Lake Roosevelt. It is my favorite place to fish for smallmouth bass and walleye, and this has changed my mind about fishing for lake whitefish.”
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Boggs called his father, who did a quick online search and learned that the fish could be a new state record. Boggs then stowed his catch in a cooler and drove to Davenport Family Foods, where it was weighed on a certified scale at 7.86 pounds. The fish measured 26 inches long, with a 16-inch girth. That easily topped the previous state record for the species, a 7.5-pound fish that was caught from Cox Lake in 2021.
WDFW certified Boggs’ state-record lake whitefish within a week of when he first submitted the record paperwork. It’s the first state-record fish of 2023, according to the agency.
Whitefish in Washington State
There are two species of whitefish living in Washington State’s waterways. Mountain whitefish are a native species that can be found in rivers and streams on the east side of the Cascade Mountains. They’re common in river systems throughout the West, where they’re often caught by anglers fishing for trout.
Lake whitefish, on the other hand, are species native to the Great Lakes and introduced in Washington. WDFW explains that the species was likely brought West by settlers during the late 1800s. After being introduced to large waterbodies like Idaho’s Lake Pend Oreille and Montana’s Flathead Lake, they made their way into the Columbia River before the river was impounded by a series of large dams.
WDFW biologists hold up a 9.5-pound lake whitefish they caught during a gill netting survey on Lake Roosevelt last fall. courtesy of WDFW
“They quickly adapted to Washington waters and eventually got locked in once the dams were built,” WDFW biologist Danny Garrett explains. “They now flourish in the upper Columbia River and large lakes and reservoirs, allowing anglers easy access to a great fighting fish.”
Lake Roosevelt (officially known as Franklin D. Roosevelt Lake) lies in the Upper Columbia River Basin in north-central Washington. Formed by the construction of Grand Coulee Dam in 1942, the impoundment stretches roughly 150 miles from the dam up into Canada.
As Boggs alluded to, walleye and smallmouth bass are the star angling attractions at Lake Roosevelt. WDFW biologists have known for years, however, that the lake also harbors some truly giant lake whitefish. These fish were the dominant catch during the agency’s 2022 gill netting survey, and last fall they caught a 9.5-pound lake whitefish that dwarfed Boggs’ record-sized catch.
“Hopefully, this record will increase the excitement for lake whitefish at Lake Roosevelt,” Garrett said.
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