On Friday, the 11th and final day of capturing, Bob Capron reckoned the capture would transcend previous years.
“We’ve broke 4,000 before, but I think this is going to be our record year,” said Capron, chapter conservation chair of East Yellowstone Trout Unlimited.
Last year, the trout count was just under 4,000.
He was right; The group caught 3,495 browns, 1,194 rainbows, 203 cutthroats, one brook trout and 277 white fish, ranging in size from 2 to 24 inches.
On the North Fork Shoshone Irrigation Canal alone, they caught 1,218 trout. “That’s a pretty good day of fishing, huh?” Capron said, laughing.
Still, the going was tough. The temperature was well below freezing Friday morning, and a layer of ice at least 2 inches thick covered the areas near the Garland Canal drop structures where the trapped trout waited.
The guys used shovels and an ax to break the ice. Or they simply stood on the slick stuff, hoping their weight would crack it.
After the ice was broken, they tossed it aside, where it skipped across the gleaming surface like skimming stones.
Rescuing fish is hard work. Wading hip deep and deeper water, amid the floating slabs of ice and tons of tumble weed, complicated the rescuers’ efforts.
To aid capture, they used electro shockers. A 45-pound pack powered a wand that stunned the trout, then the dazed fish were caught with nets.
By mid-morning Friday, they eased 147 browns into the tank to haul to the Shoshone. A total of 971 browns, 46 rainbows, 22 cutthroats and two white fish were caught in the Garland Canal Friday, according to Capron’s fish rescue report.
Hoisting a bucket, volunteer Emily Morrison of Powell slowly poured the fish into the big tank.
“See him with the red spots,” Capron said to Morrison. “That’s a brown.”
With his pickup, Capron towed a trailer containing the tank with another truck bringing up the rear. A dozen or so TU members and volunteers complement the group. It isn’t easy working the icy canals or lugging the fish from the ditch to the tank, but each year Capron’s crew rises to the occasion.
They stop at each drop.
“I’ve done this four years straight,” said Tanner Rosenbaum, 12, of Cody.
Tanner, an avid fly fisherman and a head taller than last year, had to borrow his father’s waders. He went out every day, Capron said.
At the next stop, a huge slate of ice big as a skating rink occupied the center of the canal. It appeared to be frozen solid, but then the eye discerned the desperate trout darting beneath like slivers of silver.
In minutes, volunteers broke the ice and rescued the trout.
Capron thanked all the volunteers who helped this year.