Alex Dietz of Bend, Oregon, was fly fishing with an egg pattern on the Deschutes River outside Warm Springs on Dec. 19 when he hooked a 5-pound, 12-ounce, 24-inch long mountain whitefish with a 14-inch girth.
"My fishing buddy Jason Schreiber saw that I had a big fish on and came over to check out what was going on," Dietz said. "We took pictures of it and kind of laughed about it for a while.
I was getting ready to let the fish go when we realized this thing could be a state record."
Dietz is almost exclusively a catch-and-release angler but he kept this fish, bringing it to Newport Avenue Market in Bend for an official weigh-in on an Oregon Department of Agriculture scale as required under the record rules, according to an Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife news release.
ODFW certified the fish as the state record mountain whitefish on Jan. 7, beating the previous record, a 4-pound, 14-ounce mountain whitefish caught at Crane Prairie Reservoir in 1994 by Roger A. Massey.
The mountain whitefish might be a world record as the current record is a 5-pound, 8-ounce whitefish taken by Albert Woo in 1995 from Albert's River near Calgary, Alberta, according to the International Game Fish Association. Dietz is submitting the information to the IFGA to be certified.
Dietz grew up in Bend and has been fishing since he was in high school. He usually targets trout and steelhead and releases just about everything he catches. The record fish was taken to a taxidermist for display at his home.
Beating the record is special because Dec. 19 was the first time he'd been fishing since he and his wife Andrea welcomed their first child, a baby girl, on Nov. 15.
"Dec. 19 was the first time I got the green light from my wife to go fishing, so big thanks to her, too," Dietz said in the release.
Mountain whitefish are a native migratory fish in Oregon and are distributed throughout most of the Western United States and Canada. These fish are typically found in cool mountain streams, but also occur in lakes. Mountain whitefish have a subterminal mouth, which helps them feed on a variety of food items that occur on the bottom of streams such as immature mayflies, stoneflies and caddisflies, which the Deschutes River has in abundance.
"We have known for a long time that the lower Deschutes River has an abundance of mountain whitefish which anglers frequently catch while angling for trout," said Jason Seals, ODFW Deschutes District fish biologist. "However, we never suspected that the Deschutes could have the state and possible world record mountain whitefish, so this was a great surprise."