A slow fishing day at one of Idaho’s blue-ribbon trout destinations quickly turned into the outing of a lifetime for Hailey Thomas. On October 4, the Rigby, Idaho, angler hooked a 36-inch rainbow/cutthroat hybrid—or “cutbow”— that smashed the state’s catch-and-release record.

Thomas and her husband, Shane, were fishing with their two children at Henrys Lake, which is famous for its trophy Yellowstone cutthroat, brook, and cutbow trout. They weren’t catching much at their first spot by mid-afternoon and decided to relocate. The family was raising anchor when Thomas hooked a monster.

“Hailey did a phenomenal job fighting the fish and keeping it out of the abundant weeds, notorious for knocking large trout off the line,” Shane said in a press release. “After a stressful minute or so, I reached out and scooped up the fish. The net I usually use for chasing carp looked so small, as the fish barely fit in it.”

woman holds big trout with son on boat
The fish beat the old record by a whopping 6 inches. Shane Thomas

At 36 inches long with a 21-inch girth, the cutbow is estimated to have weighed between 17 and 20 pounds. It topped the old length record, a 30-inch hybrid caught by Ryan Ivy on the Snake River in 2018, by 6 inches. After measuring the trout and snapping a couple of quick photos, Thomas released the fish.

The 6,000-acre Henrys Lake is located 15 miles west of Yellowstone National Park on the Continental Divide. Native Yellowstone cutthroats make up 55 percent of its trout population. The next most prevalent fish are the rainbow-cutthroat hybrids, which account for about a quarter of the trout population. 

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Idaho Fish and Game operates a small hatchery at the lake that produces both pure Yellowstone cutthroats and cutthroat/rainbow hybrids. Because the hybrids are sterile and can’t reproduce, hatchery workers collect eggs from female Yellowstone cutthroats and mix them with milt from rainbow trout. This year’s cutbow spawn was completed during the first week of March—and 392 female cutthroat trout produced nearly one million fertilized cutbow eggs.