Record-Breaking Bull Trout? Epic Catch & Release at Lake Billy Chinook

Ryan Mejaski with bull trout
Ryan Mejaski of Bend, Ore., holds a bull trout that he caught on April 8, 2023, in Lake Billy Chinook. Photo by Joe Wilhite.

Hey there, fishing fans! Let me tell you about this wild adventure on April 8 when Ryan Mejaski and Joe Wilhite were out on the Deschutes arm of Lake Billy Chinook, trying to catch some kokanee. They weren't having much luck, so they decided to change spots. As soon as they cast into a group of small, jumping kokanee, Ryan's secret lure sank about five feet and then - BAM - a massive strike!

Ryan quickly adjusted his drag to let the fish run, but they had to follow it in their boat. His medium-lightweight rod was bending like crazy, almost snapping in half. After a solid 10 minutes of working with the fish on a 6 lbs. test line, he finally brought it to the surface and netted it.

Turns out, it was a huge bull trout measuring 33.5 inches long with a 26-inch girth! The thing maxed out Wilhite's fishing net scale at 25 pounds. Ryan even mentioned it could've been around 30 pounds. They snapped some pics and then released the beast back into the water. That's when it hit them - this could've been a state or even world record.

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Ryan said, "I'm a little bummed out we didn't keep it so we could get the official record, but it was the right thing to do at the time. We really didn't think about keeping it, we were so excited."

The current state record bull trout is 23 lbs., 2 ounces, and the world record is 32 lbs. They kept fishing that day and caught another massive bull trout, just a bit smaller than the first. Everyone they showed the photos to was amazed by the size of that fish.

Ryan later chatted with Fish Biologist Jerry George from the ODFW Bend office, and they agreed the trout could've been a record breaker but was now free to spawn and grow even bigger. George explained that there's been an increase in bull trout numbers lately, thanks to an abundance of kokanee and clean, cold water from the Metolius River.

While Ryan wishes he'd kept the fish, he's happy to share his story with other anglers. He might even pay for a replica of the fish but joked, "Looking at it on my wall every day might be too painful."

Best bets for weekend fishing

  • April is a great month for Chinook fishing on the lower Rogue.
  • Anglers are catching a few striped bass in the upper sections of tidewater on the Coquille River.
  • Largemouth bass fishing has started to pick up in Tenmile Lakes. With fish transitioning to the shallows, this is a good time of year to catch the biggest bass in the lake.
  • Fishing conditions on the mainstem and North Umpqua are looking good this week, and a few Chinook are being caught.
  • Dozens of waterbodies in the Willamette Zone are being stocked with trout this week, and several more were stocked last week. There’s a lot of fish out there – go catch some.
  • Trout fishing has been good on the Deschutes around Maupin, and trout fishing re-opens on the entire lower Deschutes on Saturday, April 22.
  • Fall River received the first trout stocking of the year and anglers report good fishing.
  • The wood River opens April 22, and fishing should be excellent.

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Source: ODFW

A photo of the bull trout is available here: