Arrowrock yields a bass surprise

The water was so murky that visibility in Arrowrock Reservoir last weekend was about 2 feet.

That stinks for fishing because it's too difficult for fish to spot a flashy Mepps spinner. The lure disappears in brown water.

I had a hankering to fish Arrowrock Reservoir all spring because some anglers were doing pretty darn well up there for trout. Anglers often overlook the reservoir.

Well, my son and I forgot about the blow-out way upstream on the Middle Fork of the Boise River Road, which sent muddy water down into Arrowrock.

Boat anglers, who were trolling with flashers the same day, didn't do well at all. Other boat anglers trolling around the reservoir also got skunked.

So we were just dragging spinners and hoping for the best.

Because the reservoir was so dirty, we decided to head up into some of the coves and fish where small streams were coming in. The water was a little cleaner there.

But nothing. No trout.

Then we trolled up another small cove with a small stream that was almost dry. The Mepps spinner had a good action, and I figured fish could see it.

Bam! My ultra-light spinning rod bent like a willow branch in a hurricane. The fish blasted out of the water, and I knew the hook was set. The fish was bulldogging like crazy.

What the heck?

It blasted out of the water again, and I knew it wasn't a trout. Too dark. Too green.

The fish kept the pressure on but didn't peel out the drag. When I got it to the boat, I saw it was a bass — a really big bass. It saw the boat and peeled line for one more run.

When we netted it, we were totally surprised. It was a really big bass for Arrowrock. It was a couple of pounds, at least.

What the heck is a big smallmouth bass like that doing up in a trout reservoir like Arrowrock?

It's anybody's guess. Anderson Ranch Reservoir, which has a decent smallmouth bass population is upstream from Arrowrock on the South Fork of the Boise River.

The big bass could have been flushed downstream by high flows this spring, according to the fishing pros at the Idaho Department of Fish and Game.

It also could have been flushed down years ago and grown up in Arrowrock.

Lucky Peak Reservoir, downstream from Arrowrock, has a better bass population; it is more conducive to smallmouths than Arrowrock.

Lucky Peak has more bass habitat, especially up in the Mores Creek Arm where there are cliffs and rocky outcroppings that make great hiding places for fish, warmer water, which bass like, and a good food supply, namely the pikeminnow.

The Boise River system also has populations of smallmouths. They were planted in the Boise River in 1892 by Idaho's Fish Commission. That was before statehood.

Bass also were stocked in a private pond in the valley in 1887.

Anyway, I released the smallmouth and wished it good luck in reproducing in Arrowrock.

It was a pleasant surprise on my quest to find some trout.

Drifting the Owyhee

Once anglers got a taste of decent drift-boating flows this spring on the Owyhee River below Owyhee Dam, they want the flows all the time.

And, you can't blame them. It's a super brown-trout, fly fishing river.

"Drift-boating the Owyhee, what a classic," said Idaho Statesman outdoors writer Roger Phillips.

He fished it last weekend in his drift boat and came away, like many anglers, wanting continuous boating flows on the river in Boise's back yard in eastern Oregon.

Southwest Idaho drift-boat anglers are limited to one decent trout river where they can take their boats: That's the South Fork of the Boise below Anderson Ranch Dam. Eastern Idaho has a lot of drift-boat, trout rivers.

The Owyhee has been running at its highest flow in six years this spring because of huge runoff from a lot of snow.

The result: drift-boat anglers have discovered a new heaven.

The Owyhee River was running about 1,500 cubic feet per second last week, which is an ideal flow, Phillips said.

It usually ends up a trickle in the summer because water is diverted for irrigation. You couldn't drag your boat down it.

This got Roger and me wondering why minimum recreational boating flows aren't mandatory on the Owyhee River below Owyhee Dam.

It's a wonderful resource and should get more priority for adequate boating flows.

Once you get a taste of drift boating on the Owyhee, you don't want to lose it.