Winter-months steelhead fishing on the South Fork Clearwater River has been pretty good for the few people who have taken the time to give it a go – and was especially good for one local youngster who put in a full effort on Christmas Day.
That’s when Tucker Young, 11, landed a 37-inch wild steelhead and became the fifth steelhead fisherman of state record since 2016, when Idaho Fish and Game began logging catch-and-release records.
“We went out fishing and we went to three spots,” Young told the Free Press. “The first spot, I hooked one, and I was reeling it in real good, and it broke my line. I sat under a tree and just had our dog sit by me. I was petting her, and my uncle and my dad said they needed to revive me.”
He said he was feeling pretty disappointed after his line broke, and Kaniksu – an 80-pound black lab named after the northern-most forest in the state – a Kootenai word that means black robe – made him feel better.
“So we went to a spot and I caught a pretty good one – probably 26 inches – but it was wild, so we had to let it loose. Then we went to the last place. That’s where I caught my 37-inch. … What I did is casted out a few times and I got a hit. I pulled, but I didn’t hook him. So I casted in the same spot again, and this time I hooked him. My uncle goes, ‘I’ll grab the de-liar’ and my dad will grab the net. Then my dad goes, ‘How about I grab the de-liar?’ And I go, ‘Just grab the net!’”
“We finally got it in and got it measured, but the de-liar only goes to 35 inches,” he explained. “We could only measure it to 35, and we thought because you have to measure it in the water, we thought they wouldn’t count it – the Fish and Game. But they did. The head of Fish and Game in Boise measured it on his computer and said it was 37 inches, which beat the old record by one inch.”
He’s preceded in the book by Spencer Hagen (a 27-incher out of the Salmon River), Thomas McLeod (a 33-incher out of the South Fork Clearwater River), Gary Hardesty (a 34.7-incher out of the North Fork Clearwater River) and Scott Turner (a 36-incher out of the South Fork Clearwater River).
His mom, Rachel Young, said she told her husband, Tucker’s dad, Chris Young, that “Nobody fishes Christmas Day, but if you submit this record, people will know. We live down on the South Fork, so we get to see everybody, and there has been a lot more.”
Tucker’s uncle is Vince Young.
Rachel Young indicated that she hadn’t seen much difference connected to the news that overshadowed fishing in December: neither from the disruption that arose from a threat of lawsuit over the state’s lack of an incidental take permit nor the settlement between that followed.
“Most of the time, there’s not many people fishing this time of year,” she said. “It’s kind of just as it has been.”
Tucker said he caught his record fish on a setup with a bobber and shrimp for bait, and said he’d like to try flyfishing for steelhead some day.
“I’ve fly-fished for some fish,” he said. “And I’ve tried with a Martin Luther…”
“Panther Martin,” Rachel clarified.
“…Panther Martin,” Tucker said, “casting out and reeling back in.”
Next to the fish of record, he said the 26-incher he caught that day was probably the second-biggest fish he’d ever caught. He said he goes out fishing probably 10 times a season, and his mom said he’s occasionally skipped school to go fishing.
“He’s very patient,” his mom said. “He’ll keep fishing, keep fishing.”
He said his favorite thing about fishing is setting the hook.
This one, he’ll never forget. He’s been excited ever since the catch, and finally found out it was a record late last month.
“Every day, my mom and dad would look in the records to see if I got it,” Tucker said.
His friends, he said, were amazed.