By JIM MANN
The Daily Inter Lake
A Kalispell man sat through freezing winds Sunday to pluck a state-record perch from the ice on Stillwater Lake.
Josh Emmert, 27, was officially recognized as the new state record holder after his fish was examined Monday by Jim Vashro, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks regional fisheries manager.
Vashro confirmed the football-shaped perch weighed in at 2.39 pounds, with a length of 14 3/8 inches and a girth of 12 3/16 inches. The specimen was quite the spectacle for organizers and participants in the Scoreboard Pub's Third Annual Perch Pounder Fishing Derby.
Emmert's catch was easily the leader in the monthlong tournament that comes to a close this Saturday.
Emmert wasn't sure he had a state record when he pulled the fish from the ice.
"I kept on fishing," he said. "I knew it was going to place in the tournament, but I didn't know it was a state record."
That notion eventually came to Emmert, who knew what to do with a potential record: Gather up some official witnesses, preserve the fish and get it to a state-sanctioned scale. Emmert did all of that Sunday afternoon, finally having the fish weighed on a scale at the Super 1 grocery store in Evergreen.
Another ice angler who was fishing with Emmert, Amber Pickering, caught a 1.89-pound perch of nearly the same length.
"Those are both huge perch," Vashro remarked. "The average perch around here is probably 8 to 9 inches long."
Emmert's catch just barely exceeds the previous record - a 2.37-pound perch caught on Ashley Lake by Vernon Schmid in 1988.
"This record stood for a long time," Vashro said.
While it was mostly calm with a high of 22 degrees in the Flathead Valley, it was windy on Stillwater Lake, said Emmert's wife, Alane,
"It was cold and it was windy," she said, noting that the group was on the lake for about five hours.
Alane Emmert said the record fish also will count toward a tournament sponsored by Snappy Sport Senter.
The Scoreboard's Perch Pounder tournament is held through February, with prizes going to the anglers who catch the five biggest perch from Northwest Montana waters. So far there have been about 145 anglers participating, but that number probably will grow to roughly 200 this week (the last week of the tournament), organizer Gene Fincher said.
Fincher said he has organized many tournaments but none have involved a record fish.
Reporter Jim Mann may be reached at 758-4407 or by e-mail at email@example.com