Jamie Pollard was out ice fishing on Stockbridge Bowl last Saturday with a couple of close friends, his buddy Aaron and his stepfather Billy, along with his blind springer spaniel hunting dog. He was fishing 10 feet under the ice, with Arkansas shiners bait and 8-pound test monofilament leaders.
Around 10 a.m. the Hinsdale resident saw his tip-up flag go up and when he set the hook, he thought ‘Good God,’ and he wondered what was on the other end. At first, he thought it might be a monster pickerel. It took 15 minutes before he got the large fish to swim past the hole. He said that his heart almost stopped when he saw the large brown trout swim by.
“Oh, my God!” he exclaimed. It was another 10 minutes before he got it back near the hole. “We were doing the ‘Keystone Cops,’” said Jamie. “Billy was taking the line off and putting it back onto the reel as the fish came in and out of sight.”
He and his buddies circled the hole about 30 times before he got its head into the hole. “I was going to send it back. I was not going to keep the fish, but when I pulled it out, got it onto the ice and got a look at it, I did a quick search and thought maybe I had a chance at the State record,” Pollard told me.
His measuring tape showed that the fish was 32 inches, while the State record measured 31 inches.
Another reason why he kept it was something that happened to him in Vermont 18 years ago. Then he had caught a 4-plus-pound yellow perch that was 16 inches long. The guy at the bait store was a new hire at 15 years old and didn’t suggest he report it to the state fisheries and wildlife as a possible record-setter. The next year when he went up there the youngster said that he had been waiting to see him again because he was pretty sure Jamie beat the all-time state record for perch in Vermont. It was too late to do anything by then and now he wishes he had followed up. This time he didn’t want to mess it up again.
He had a gaff but didn’t use it because he had full intentions of releasing it and didn’t want to seriously harm it. The fish came out of an 8-inch hole! They got its head out finally, and Aaron got a finger under its gill while Jamie grabbed onto the back of its head/neck, hoisted it out of the hole and onto the ice, saying “Mother of God, look at the size of that thing!”
They had a small thin tape measure and it measured 32 ¼ inches, had a 21 ¼-inch girth and on the portable scale that they had, it was weighed between 17 and 18 pounds. I think he did the right thing by keeping it because the Brown inhaled the hook and it was way down in its belly. Jamie said that after the 25-minute battle, his back was screaming in pain and his bare hands felt like they were frozen.
“That fish had no intentions of getting near the hole,” said Jamie. (I believe the part about frozen hands, for five fishing partners and I were ice fishing not very far from where he was that day. Just a couple of minutes of exposure to the wind and cold and our ungloved hands ached like heck.)
The next day, at the Onota Boat Livery, it weighed in at 15 pounds, 8 ounces, measured 32 ¼ inches and had a 19-plus-inch girth. (The difference possibly due to shrinkage as it was measured a full day after catching.) He had no idea that there were brown trout anywhere in Massachusetts that size. He will submit pictures and data to MassWildlife and perhaps, he will be awarded a gold pin and plaque through the MassWildlife’s Freshwater Sportfishing Awards Program. MassWildlife has recognized anglers who catch exceptional freshwater fish across Massachusetts for some 50 years now. Last year’s winning Adult Catch & Keep Brown Trout has not yet been announced yet, but the winning weight in 2019 was 12 pounds, 2 ounces, caught out of the Ware River in Ware.
So where did this behemoth come from? I asked Andrew Madden, DFW Western District Supervisor and himself a fish biologist, what his opinion was. He said that they stocked broodstock brown trout in the Stockbridge Bowl in 2016, 2017 and 2020. Their broodstock fish come from either the Roger Reed Hatchery in Palmer or the Sandwich Hatchery on Cape Cod.
“These fish typically range in size from 3 to 8 pounds, with sometimes an occasional individual reaching close to 10. The ages can vary, but generally they are 3 or 4 years old at the time of stocking,” he said.
The broodstock are a bonus that they spread throughout our lakes and ponds to provide an opportunity for anglers to catch a lifetime quality fish.
“We can’t know for sure, but I would guess that the Stockbridge brown was probably a broodstock from 2016 or 2017. That would likely put the fish around 6-8 years old. Regardless of when it went in, it is an awesome catch and must have been a serious thrill to see it come through the ice,” Madden noted. “The trout that we stock daily in the spring are numerous and big. Its good to see that our local lakes are hanging in there and have some of these large fish.”
Jamie said that he didn’t bring it to my attention to boast about it. (Someone else forwarded the picture that very evening. News of a big brown trout like that caught in the Berkshires spreads like wildfire.) I’m glad he did contact me as I didn’t know who had caught it. He said he saw a lot of guys at Onota Lake while weighing it in and showed them the fish not for purposes of bragging, but rather to provide a little brightness on a dark day and it caused guys to put a little spring in their steps as they headed out onto the ice. He said he is not much of a trout eater and he always releases them. Someone suggested that he smoke it but instead is going to have it mounted. Who knows, perhaps if he was able to get it officially weighed right away, it might have gone down as a new Massachusetts state record. Perhaps, on Saturday, Feb. 6, 2021, it was.
Incidentally, the Massachusetts record brown trout weighed 19 pounds, 10 ounces, and measured 31 inches long. It was caught out of Wachusett Reservoir by Dana Deblois in 1966.
Jamie and his friends fished until 4 p.m. that day and caught two more trout (Rainbows) and a pickerel. They had quite a memorable day, wouldn’t you say?
Junior Conservation Camp
Designed for teens aged 13–17 who want to try new outdoor activities, improve their current skills, or meet other like-minded peers, the Massachusetts Junior Conservation Camp (MJCC) offers a hands-on curriculum focused on outdoor skills, conservation education, and ethics to girls and boys. Participants will have fun and make friends during the two-week overnight camp. The MJCC will be held at the Moses Scout Reservation in Russell from Aug. 1-13.
Registration is now open at JuniorConservationCamp.org and will continue through May 1. Conservation groups and sporting clubs who want to sponsor a camper may also register to reserve a spot for a deserving teen.
The MJCC offers varied and educational programs. Professionals from environmental agencies provide hands-on experiences and demonstrations on wildlife, fisheries, forest fire control, and forest management. Experienced and enthusiastic outdoorsmen and women offer outdoor skills instruction on fishing, camping, wild foods, archery and firearms safety. Certifications in Hunter Education and Boating Safety are also part of the curriculum. Tuition is $1,000, but the majority of campers receive full scholarships from sporting clubs and conservation organizations across the state. Click onto JuniorConservationCamp.org/sponsors for more information on groups with camp scholarships. For an inside look at camp life, check out the Nov. 1, 2020 issue of the Massachusetts Wildlife magazine.