You’re grilling me: Denis Woodcox and his Arrow Lake catch

Castlegar Man Catches the World’s Largest Kokanee…and Eats it

In the recent issue of Kootenay Mountain Culture magazine we wrote about the strange story of Castlegar, British Columbia, angler Denis Woodcox who landed what might have been the world’s largest Kokanee salmon on Lower Arrow Lake. The DNA results just came in and you won’t believe it. Here’s the tale.

The staff at Mountain Culture Group just heard from fish biologist Matt Neufeld of BC’s Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations regarding the DNA test of a fish that was landed on Lower Arrow Lakes. The results confirmed that the fish in question was indeed a Kokanee salmon. Other testing revealed the Kokanee was seven years old and weighed 12.1 pounds (5.4 kg). That’s almost three pounds bigger than the Kokanee caught by Ron Campbell of Pendleton, Oregon, on Wallowa Lake in 2010, which is the official world record according to the International Game Fish Association.

Despite the DNA confirmation, Denis will never be awarded with an official designation because, well, he ate the results. Click the play button below to hear Denis’s response to learning the results of the DNA test.

 

The tale of Denis and the world’s largest Kokanee is indeed a strange one. Below is the article that appeared in the latest issue of Kootenay Mountain Culture magazine. At press time the DNA results had yet to come in but now we can confirm that the massive fish Denis caught was a Kokanee salmon that “tasted beautiful.”

Oncorhynchus nerka – the Kokanee salmon is a landlocked version of a Sockeye that spends its entire life in fresh water, which is why it’s smaller than its saltwater cousin.

On a hot day in August 2015, Castlegar, British Columbia angler Denis Woodcox was boating on Lower Arrow Lake, when he spotted a large fish floating. He cruised over and, because he had forgotten his net, reached in with two hands and grabbed what he thought was a carcass. Suddenly the fish struggled, and it was all he could do to toss it into the boat.

Because of its size, he took it to be a trout and snapped some photos. Then he went home, filleted it, smoked the meat and stored the head, fins and bones in his freezer to discard later. “I thought about the dark meat though,” he says, “and started wondering, ‘was that a Kokanee’?” If so, it was the largest he’d ever seen.

Eventually the remains were brought to provincial government biologists and it was concluded the fish was seven years old and weighed 5.5 kilograms (12.1 pounds), 1.4 kg larger than the official world record Kokanee caught in Oregon. At press time the DNA results hadn’t come in confirming it was a Kokanee, but senior fish biologist Jeff Burrows believes it.

Ron Campbell poses with the official world record Kokanee caught on Lake Wallowa in Oregon.

“It was a Kokanee for sure,” says the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resources Operations employee, “but it was absolutely huge.” He theorizes it could have been a rare triploid, meaning it was sterile, so rather than spawning and dying at four years old, it kept living, eating and getting bigger.

Whatever the fish was, Woodcox says it “tasted beautiful.”

Author / Contributor

Vince Hempsall

Vince Hempsall lives in the beautiful mountain town of Nelson, British Columbia, where he spends his time rock climbing, backcountry skiing and mountain biking (when not working). He is the online editor for Mountain Culture Group and the managing editor of Kootenay Mountain Culture Magazine.


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