Ask Zimo: Boise River's brown trout always cause excitement

pzimowsky@idahostatesman.comJune 13, 2013 

Hey Zimo: On recent fishing trips to the Boise River, I have caught several very nice-size brown trout (all larger than 23 inches long) on gold Mepps spinners.

The fishing is just great.

MICHAEL LAMBRECHT, email

Thanks for the tip on fishing.

Although brown trout only make up about 10 percent of the trout population in the Boise River, they make a big impression on anglers.

Anglers get excited about browns, as you said in your note about your recent fishing trips.

The good news is that the Idaho Department of Fish and Game reinstituted its brown trout stocking program in the Boise River about four years ago, and things can only get better.

The agency stocks upward of 30,000 (4- to 5-inch) browns in the river each summer after high flows subside. Fish and Game is hoping to increase that number to 50,000.

The fish come from the agency's Nampa and American Falls hatcheries.

The agency's brown trout program adds diversity in the fishery, said Joe Kozfkay, Fish and Game's southwest region fishery manager.

The fish that are stocked have clipped adipose fins so anglers can tell if they are hatchery fish. A fish that was naturally spawned in the river will have a full adipose fin.

Whether it's a wild or hatchery fish, anglers really like brown trout because they're wily and can be really aggressive. You immediately know you've hooked something different when a brown hits your lure or fly.

Anglers can catch a few rainbow trout in the Boise River, then when they suddenly hook into a brown, it's something special.

I remember when an angler caught a 20-pound, 6 1/2-ounce brown trout in the Boise River near the BSU Friendship Bridge. It was the early 1990s and made big news in fishing circles. The fish was 35 inches long and had a 21-inch girth.

You occasionally hear about big browns being caught in the 10-pound range.

At any rate, it sounds like brown trout are here to stay and will be a part of the traditional Boise River fishing.

Let's look at a little of the history of brown trout in Idaho. According to the book, "Fishes of Idaho," they were first introduced in Idaho in 1892 in Owyhee County.

However, it wasn't until about 1948, that the state had more success in stocking browns.

According to Fish and Game's information on fish stocking, April 1974 was the earliest browns were stocked in the Boise River. The stocking database goes back to 1967.

There was a push to get more brown trout hatching naturally in the Boise River in the 1970s. I remember anglers and biologists teaming up to put egg boxes in Loggers Creek, a tributary of the river.

The boxes protect fish eggs while they are in the stream to allow fish to hatch naturally. The box is kind of like a nursery for fish.

Avid trout angler Andy Brunelle also remembers the boxes.

"I have heard stories about the vibert (egg) boxes in Loggers Creek, and that there was spawning in Loggers Creek and feeder streams in the River Run subdivision in its early years," he said.

The project kind of faded away, but maybe the great-great-grandchildren of those fish are still out there.

"I have personally observed brown trout spawning or redds (nests) in Heron Creek, the outlet of Heron Lake, between it and the Boise River," Brunelle said.

The area is at the western (downstream) end of the Bethine Church Nature Trail. Trout Unlimited and other volunteers fixed up the stream bank and then added nine cubic yards of gravel suitable for fish spawning to the stream in 2009, Brunelle said.

It's good to know that brown trout are here to stay in the Boise River, and that Fish and Game is continuing its stocking program.

It's always a special surprise to hook into a brown trout.

THE BIRDS AND THE BEES

Q: Hey, Zimo, can you tell me why honeybees are drinking from my bird waterer?

CHUCK S., email

A: While it's fun to have a bird bath in the yard and attract lots of birds, people don't realize that the water also attracts other critters.

My bird bath attracts honey bees and that's fine. We need all the honeybees we can get.

However, it also attracts yellow jackets and I've been stung a few times.

So, if you're going to have a bird bath, expect to see other stuff buzzing around besides birds.

I think we've also had deer slurping from the bird bath.

WHAT'S WITH NETTING FISH?

Q: We took a trip to Little Camas Reservoir recently and saw something that we think is illegal.

Two guys had sunk two poles out in the middle of what is left of the water and ran a net between the two poles. They then were taking fish, caught in the net and throwing them into a bucket in their raft and making periodic trips to shore with their catch.

I realize the limits have been lifted at Little Camas, but isn't netting fish illegal?

GARY E., email

A: Although it's kind of a shock to see someone doing that, Fish and Game says it's legal to net fish when a reservoir has been declared a salvage fishery.

I went to the Fish and Game enforcement bureau for the answer.

Anglers are allowed to salvage the fish so that the fish don't go to waste.

It's sad about Little Camas Reservoir being drawn down and the trout fishery set back for another year.

Little Camas could be a prime trout fishing water if it had a minimum reservoir level. I remember those football-shaped trout of the past. But it's an irrigation reservoir and irrigation takes precedence over fish.

Idaho Fish and Game issued a salvage order for the Little Camas Reservoir in May.

That means bag, possession and size limits have been removed through Sept. 30.

The salvage rule says, "fish may be taken by any method except firearms, explosives, chemicals or electric current."

However, anglers who participate in salvage-order fishing must be aware of possession laws that apply in other fisheries where bag limits are in effect.

If they salvage 20 trout in Little Camas and move to another fishery where the possession or size limits differ, they may be cited for violating possession or size limits that apply at the second location.

Pete Zimowsky: 377-6445, Twitter: @Zimosoutdoors

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