Many anglers will look back on 2020 as a good year. Maybe it was the nice weather, mild runoff season, or all the COVID-19 restrictions that drove more anglers outside this year. Whatever the reason, it is obvious that 2020 had a lot of big fish stories.

As manager of Idaho’s State Record Fish Program, I am reviewing my five favorite records from a great year. This is not a complete list - just my personal favorites. You can see the complete lists, or check out more articles on the many impressive records caught this year on the state record blog page. 

2020 saw a flood of new state record fish - mostly under the “catch-and-release” category. The only year with more entries was 2016, but that was the first year that catch-and-release records started, so we expected a lot of new records.

In total, 2020 had 27 new catch-and-release state records, 24 of which were gamefish, and the others nongame species (like carp and pikeminnows). Compare that to 2019 which only saw eight total catch/release records!

No bull, that’s a really big bull trout

Starting us off is Sawyer Livesey of Post Falls, Idaho. Sawyer landed this spectacular 30.5-inch bull trout in April from the Kootenai River. While impressive, it wasn’t meant to last, and his record was broken by Ed O’Hara of Hayden, Idaho with a 31-inch bull trout from Lake Pend Oreille  later in the August.

Is a huge smallie a thing?

Spring 2020 produced a few other notable big fish stories including some big bass and panfish. Dustin Shepherd of Lewiston clinched a catch-and-release record with an impressive 22.75-inch smallmouth bass from Dworshak Reservoir. 

Somewhere over the...

Shortly after in June, American Falls Reservoir produced yet another huge rainbow trout. Brett Jones landed a 31.25-inch monster trout, adding another record to the lake’s list of trophies. 

Here kitty, kitty

Not only was 2020 a good year for big trout, it was a big year for warmwater species too. As the summer progressed, we saw multiple new catch-and-release records for channel catfish, black crappie, and sunfish. However, if I had to pick my favorite warmwater record fish of 2020, it would be the 42-inch flathead catfish caught by Jared Holt of Homedale, Idaho from the Snake River in September.

C’mon, man, that’s a Chinook in disguise

Completing my five favorite big fish stories of 2020 is the giant Yellowstone cutthroat trout caught by Nate Burr, of Rexburg, Idaho. The 31-inch cutthroat trout is such a spectacular example of one of Idaho’s native trout species. Even more remarkable is that Nate’s fish barely passed the equally impressive 30.5-inch catch/release record for Yellowstone cutthroat trout, set only weeks before by Sam Hix! The fact that two huge cutthroat trout would set back-to-back within weeks makes this my favorite record of 2020. 

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