The Boise River steelhead have arrived.
In what has become an annual rite of November, Idaho Fish and Game released dozens of hatchery steelhead into the river Thursday. It’s a pretty cool opportunity for local anglers. How many folks get the chance to fish for giant, sea-run rainbow trout in a downtown setting?
Those big fish bring big crowds, as those who fished opening weekend can attest. Some folks call it “combat fishing,” and I have seen occasions where crowded fishing holes result in actual fights. That’s a shame, and it’s also totally preventable.
For me, going fishing is about enjoying the outdoors, having fun and finding the joy in the pursuit of our finned friends. It’s not meant to be a high-stress activity. There are times I take fishing more seriously, like during tournaments or specifically targeted trips. But fishing for steelhead on the Boise River isn’t one of those times. With so many people around, you have to adjust your expectations and mindset to ensure you — and your fellow anglers — have a good time.
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Most fights I’ve seen start for two reasons: people feeling they are being encroached upon, or anglers getting their lines tangled.
The space issue is an easy fix. Under normal conditions, I don’t fish within 50 yards of another group without being invited. During the Boise River steelhead run, that’s not a reasonable expectation. You should go in knowing you’ll be fishing in close quarters. I still try to give people some space, but you’re rarely going to have a hole to yourself. I recommend bringing snacks or extra lures to share and introducing yourself to the people around you. It’s a lot harder to curse someone’s name once you get to know them.
The line-tangling issue can be largely avoided if you give people at least 5-10 yards of space. Another strategy I’d recommend is keeping your line out of the water when someone near you is hooked up. Steelhead are big, powerful fish and they make quick, unpredictable runs. If you had a monster on the end of your line, you certainly wouldn’t want to lose it because of a line tangle. Try to give others the same courtesy.
Over the years, I’ve noticed ice fishermen have a very congenial, tailgate party-like approach to fishing. I think that’s the right attitude to bring to steelheading in the city. The less time we spend tangling with each other, the better our odds of tangling with a 10-pound rainbow torpedo.
Jordan Rodriguez has been fishing Idaho waters since he was a teen. Share your fish stories, adventures, tips and tricks with him at outdoors@ idahostatesman.com.