KALISPELL – In 1992, a gallon of gas cost $1.05 and a new car to go with that fuel would set you back $17,000. It’s also about the time the bass Garrett Frost caught in Montana came to be according to Montana Fish, Wildlife & Park’s Biologist Mark Deleray, making it the oldest largemouth bass ever reported in Montana.
The 10-year-old Frost was fishing with his father Tyler and his two brothers in Rose Creek Slough when the young angler — standing at the bow of their boat — hooked a 20-inch, 3.5-pound bass using a plastic worm. After catching the fish (and announcing that it was a 5 pounder to everyone aboard) a small red floy tag was noticed that was numbered 5637. Frost pulled the tag, weighed and released the fish, and got back to fishing with his family.
Jon Cavigli keeps a database for the Montana FWP fisheries and after running the tag number, he discovered the last time the bass came up for a gulp of mountain air was October 3, 1997, when Phil Rivard caught and tagged the fish prior to releasing it back into Fennon Slough.
The fish at the time measured 14.2 inches and weighed 1.5 pounds. By using the age-growth database, Deleray estimates the fish was probably 5 years old when tagged, providing an age estimate of 19 years of age.
Largemouth bass in Montana don’t grow to behemoth sizes like they do in other parts of the country — the state record bucketmouth is 8.8 pounds. Lying at the northern edge of the species’ range, the cool waters in Montana’s lakes and rivers allow for slower growth and longer life.