Remember back in March, when we kicked off fishing season with the 2016 Species Challenge? I challenged readers — and myself — to catch as many of 25 Idaho species as possible this season. Which, as it turns out, is difficult.
Even for those of us who fish a lot, it’s hard to make enough trips to have a shot at everything from bluegill to steelhead. I’ll admit some of my grandest schemes — a walleye trip to Salmon Falls Creek Reservoir and a Mackinaw trout ice fishing expedition — never came to fruition.
But there’s always next year, right?
Overall, I wound up catching 14 of the species on the list: largemouth and smallmouth bass, rainbow, brown and cutthroat trout, kokanee and Chinook salmon, flathead and channel catfish, perch, crappie, bluegill, whitefish and carp.
I also saw companions land sturgeon, pumpkinseed and pikeminnow (of course, the year I was keeping track is the year I didn’t catch one of those pests). And I saw one tiger muskie and one steelhead, bringing the total number of species I at least witnessed to 19.
So, there’s definitely room for improvement. I have my own boat now, which should help. And I also realize that to further increase my species diversity, I’ll have to sacrifice some trips to places I’ve already figured out and swap them for adventures into the unknown.
I’m looking forward to the challenge.
As for 2016, I’d like to celebrate the moments that made it special in my final column of the year:
Fish of the year: 15-pound Chinook salmon. Any time you land the biggest freshwater catch of your career, it’s been a good day. That fish gave me one of the most intense battles I’ve ever experienced, and it was the only bite I had on my trip to The Dalles, Ore. I was glad I made it count.
Honorable mentions: My first bonefish (man, those things rip) off the coast of Belize; and my first flathead catfish at Brownlee. At 11 pounds, it was “just a small one.”
Fishing trip of the year: Halverson Lake tubing. Competition was fierce in this category, but I had some unbelievable days catching bass from a float tube at Halverson. On the best day of all, my buddy Mark and I must have caught 70 fish in three hours. It was like those bass had never seen a jig before. Bonus points to Mark for kicking his float tube with a torn ACL.
Honorable mentions: My do-it-yourself fishing charter in Belize (OK, that one was probably the best, but I wanted to keep it local); and our six-species day on Caleb’s boat at Crane Falls.
Lure of the year: Zoom Salty Tube. Man, this lure catches fish. My 2016 fish count was easily in the hundreds on this bad boy. Honorable mentions: Zoom Trick Worm, Berkley Pit Bull crankbait, Panther Martin spinner.
So how did you fare in 2016? How many species did you cross off your list? What were your prized catches and most memorable trips? Drop me a line at email@example.com and let me know. I’ll even send a prize to the reader who landed the most species.
Jordan Rodriguez has been fishing Idaho waters since he was a teen. Share your fish stories, adventures, tips and tricks at firstname.lastname@example.org.