Billings Gazette –
Patrick Kennedy cradled a massive trout, the kind of fish an angler can remember forever.
Every bit of 4 pounds and easily clearing 20 inches long, the ruddy-cheeked spotted wild salmonid had been subdued with electricity and then strategically hoisted with a net from the prized waters in the South Fork of the Snake River. Its next stop, before a dinner plate, was a decidedly tamer environment: the oval-shaped Trail Creek Fishing Pond dug from the base of Teton Pass near Victor.
“This is a nice fish,” said Kennedy, a new regional fisheries biologist for the Idaho Department of Fish and Game. “And it’s an important fish for the guides. If a client caught that fish, they wouldn’t want to bonk it, that’s for sure.
“You can understand the controversy,” he said.
The life history of the trophy trout sealed its fate. Every spring, cutthroat and rainbow trout mingling in the South Fork spawn batches of fry that hybridize. The strain of fish that results — including the one in Kennedy’s hands — is a cross called a “cutbow,” a variation of native and exotic trout that now must go, at least when Idaho Fish and Game fisheries crews get ahold of them.