Silver lining: New state record brook trout

Richard Beauchamp of Mayfield caught the new state record brook trout, a 6.03-pound fish taken from Silver Lake in Hamilton County on May 15.	Photo providedMayfield, N.Y. — Richard Beauchamp has been fishing backcountry brook trout ponds in the Adirondacks since 1975. So he knows a little about big brookies.

That’s why Beauchamp, holder of the new state record brook trout, is sure he’s caught bigger fish than the 6.03-pound brookie he weighed and certified for the new state standards.

“We never started weighing them until about 10 years ago,” said the Mayfield resident who last month (May 15) caught the new state record brook trout while fishing Silver Lake in southern Hamilton County.

“But I’ve caught a lot of what I know were 5- and 6-pound trout. My biggest was 27 inches, and I caught another 25 and a quarter. Even last year we weighed one that read 6.2 pounds on a scale we carried in.”

This time, however, Beauchamp decided to go through the certification process that established his 6.03-pounder as the new state standard.

“It probably weighed closer to 6 and a half when I caught it,” said the 66-year-old retired drywall contractor, who made the 8-mile plus trek into Silver Lake with friend Alfred Cheney.

Trolling the time-tested Lake Clear Wabbler and worm setup on a rough-water day Beauchamp described as “kind of scary, actually,” the duo tied into a pair of monster brookies at the same time.

“I hooked mine first, then Al hooked one,” Beauchamp said. “We weighed his first and it was 5.88 pounds. So he had the state record for a few seconds, I tell him.”

Beauchamp caught two other brookies that day worth weighing in; one went 5.75 pounds and the other 5.5.

Eventually, the pair hiked out of the backcountry and weighed the eventual state record fish at Hoss’s Country Corner in Long Lake. DEC then certified the fish as the new state record, topping the 5-pound, 14-ouncer caught last year by Bill Altman of Athol in the West Canada Wilderness Area. The next day he drove to the DEC Region 5 office in Ray Brook to turn it over to fisheries staff for testing to confirm it was a brook trout and not a splake, a lake trout-brook trout hybrid.

DEC officials knew right away, however, since brook trout are the only known fish in Silver Lake.

It was the eighth time in the last nine years the state record brook trout re-established, and the first time the 6-pound barrier has been topped.

Beauchamp’s catch comes as no surprise to the backcountry brook trout angling fraternity. He’s known in that circle as a serious pursuer of big backcountry brookies.

“We only fish for big fish,” Beauchamp says. “We walked 500 miles (into and out of the backcountry) last year. Right now we fish about 15 or 20 ponds. I started fishing for backcountry brook trout back in 1975.

His record fish was 22.5 inches long and had a girth of 15 inches. He was using a spinning rod with 8-pound test line, but 6-pound test after the Wabbler.

Typically, DEC officials don’t divulge the exact water from which the brook trout record came out of concern that heavy fishing pressure could decimate the fragile brookie fishery. That’s not likely to happen on Silver Lake, however, since it’s such a long trek into the backcountry.

“I do it sometimes as a day trip,” said Beauchamp, who has a camp in Benson, not far from Silver Lake. “I fish from about 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., then head back out. You’re glad to see the truck, that’s for sure.”

DEC officials say the record catch highlights a comeback of sorts for Silver Lake, which until several years ago was considered too acidic to support a trout population.

In 1969, the lake was determined to be fishless, and in 1976 it had a pH of 5.0 – much too acidic for brook trout to thrive. After water chemistry samples indicated the pH of lake had risen to almost 6.0, DEC began an experimental stocking program for brook trout in 2002. Currently DEC stocks Windfall strain native brook trout in Silver Lake and brook trout are the only fish species known to be present.

“I started fishing it in 2005, and I’ve never caught a fish there less than 17 or 18 inches,” Beauchamp said. “But I’ve been skunked more than once. You don’t catch a lot of fish, but when you do catch one, it’s a good one.”

Beauchamp credited DEC fisheries staff – notably Region 5 fisheries biologist Rich Preall, who monitors the backcountry waters – with creating a quality brook trout fishery in the remote ponds of the Adirondacks.

“Rich Preall does a heck of a job with these ponds,” he said.

Beauchamp left the fish with DEC Region 5 personnel, who plan to have it mounted for their office with a plaque signifying it was caught by Beauchamp.

Beauchamp says the 8-by-10 photo of the big brookie is enough to hang on the wall of his camp.

Prior to the record catch of Beauchamp last month and Altman last year, the state record brook trout was caught by Dan Germain of Forestport (Oneida County) on South Lake. Germain’s fish was a 22-incher that weighed in at 5 pounds, 8 ounces – 3.5 ounces better than the previous mark, a 5-pound, 4.5-ounce fish caught by Utica’s Tom Yacovella on Raquette Lake.

Yacovella’s fish was the first record brookie to top the 5-pound mark.

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