Idaho’s Clearwater River has just produced its second state record this month. Steelhead fishing has always been a challenging endeavor, but for those anglers willing to put in the work, there’s always a chance for something magical. On the morning of October 6th, Kyriacos Panayiotou of McCall ventured into the cool waters of the Clearwater River, which is renowned as Idaho’s steelhead mecca.
With a two-handed spey rod in hand, he began his quest, hoping for a steelhead to take the bait. As he swung his fly on a full-floating spey line at around 120 to 130 feet, he patiently waited for a strike. That moment wasn’t far off.
Around 30 degrees into his swing, a magnificent wild steelhead buck surfaced and boldly grabbed the fly. Despite Panayiotou’s efforts with his vintage Hardy Perfect reel, the fish proved to be an unyielding adversary. He recounted the experience, saying, “It’s something that I’ll never forget.”
Seeing the massive steelhead up close, he knew he had something extraordinary on his hands. He carefully measured the fish, which extended a remarkable 41 inches in length. That’s a whole 1.75 inches longer than the previous catch-and-release state record, set by Scott Turner in 2021.
Clearwater Fisheries Manager Joe DuPont, relying on fishery monitoring data, emphasized just how uncommon a fish of this size is. He mentioned, “In a typical year, the number of steelhead in the 40-inch range is less than 1% of the run.”
Although Panayiotou had to release the huge wild steelhead back into the river, he departed with a new Idaho catch-and-release record and a lifelong memory. Remarkably, this is the second state record from the Clearwater River in the same month, with an 11.78-pound Coho Salmon setting a record just a week later.
It’s worth noting that certain species such as wild steelhead, sturgeon, and bull trout cannot be harvested in Idaho. As a result, they weren’t eligible for new state records for many years. However, in 2016, the Idaho Fish and Game initiated the length-based catch-and-release record program, providing opportunities for fish that are released. The program has been exceptionally popular among anglers, generating much excitement surrounding Idaho’s trophy fish.
This remarkable catch by Kyriacos Panayiotou reminds us that with dedication and a bit of luck, anglers can find themselves making history on Idaho’s Clearwater River.