Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday of the year. I love prepping, roasting and devouring the turkey. I look forward to the Turkey Bowl football games on a crisp fall morning. I love my mom’s pumpkin pie. Heck, I even enjoy rooting for my Detroit Lions, as painful as that can be.
In Idaho, we enjoy a cornucopia of fishing goodness. So, in honor of my favorite holiday, here are the fish I’m thankful for.
Largemouth bass: I’ll never grow tired of chasing bigmouths. Their ferocious appetites, stealthy ambush tactics and head-shaking acrobatics are second to none. Some days, they’ll slam anything that moves. Others, they’ll stare you down with stubborn, lock-jawed defiance. The thrill and challenge of unlocking their secrets never gets old.
Cutthroat trout: Every time I catch a cutty, I’m amazed by their vibrant beauty. Big black spots against a backdrop of crimson red, sunset gold and olive green, accentuated by those dramatic orange throat slashes — it really is a thing of beauty. They’re great fun to catch, too, and finding them usually means finding yourself among the beauty of Idaho’s alpine streams and lakes.
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Bluegill: The little fish that could. Bluegill remind me of that kid on your high school football team who everyone said was too small — until he started wrecking people in practice. Pound for pound, ’gills fight as hard as anything that swims. Their aggressive nature and tendency to hang out in large schools make them great fun to catch. A stringer full of nice ones makes for a Thanksgiving-worthy meal, too.
Chinook salmon: I’m relatively new to salmon fishing, but I think it’s pretty darn cool that these huge, majestic fish return to Idaho streams — some of which are barely as wide as your office — to complete their life cycles and offer one-of-a-kind angling opportunities. Freshwater fishing simply doesn’t get more intense than sight-casting to 20-pound muscle torpedoes in six feet of water — and hanging on for dear life once they hit!
Smallmouth bass: Don’t repeat this too loudly, but the Snake River just might be one of the best smallmouth fisheries anywhere in America. I’m consistently impressed by the size, number and health of the smallies I catch in Southwest Idaho. Their hard-charging attitudes and beautiful tiger-striped patterns have filled many an afternoon with smiling faces and chewed-up thumbs.
Perch: Another fun, colorful and delicious species. I’m always excited to see their striped yellow sides and bright-orange fins, because catching one usually means catching a boatload. Perch are fun to catch through the ice, too, and we have a world-class fishery nearby in Lake Cascade.
Kokanee salmon: Kokanee are a double-whammy of awesomeness. During spring and summer, anglers can troll for the silvery delicacies in the depths of Lucky Peak, Arrowrock and other reservoirs. And the fall spawning run, when thousands of kokanee turn fire engine-red and charge up small streams, is one of the coolest natural phenomena I’ve ever seen.
Happy Thanksgiving, everybody. And tight lines!