Boise River survey reveals abundance of wild trout, whitefish

Jordan Rodriguez holds one of the brown trout captured during a fish survey on the Boise River.
Jordan Rodriguez holds one of the brown trout captured during a fish survey on the Boise River. Courtesy of Jordan Rodriguez

How cool would it be if every time you went fishing, you knew exactly what was under the water? The number of fish. How big they are. Where they are. What species. I mean, that would be awesome, right?

By and large, experienced anglers can make a strong guess at where fish are hiding. Reading the water is a valuable fishing skill. Fish finders are another tool for gathering underwater intelligence, and the technology these days is impressive. But no matter how many days you spend on the water, or how many dollars you drop on a finder, you’ll never know exactly what’s going on below the surface.

Unless you cheat, that is.

And this fall, I got an invite to do just that alongside Idaho Fish and Game personnel conducting an electro survey on the Boise River.

The unexpected email came from Regional Fisheries Manager Joe Kozfkay. It read something like: “Hey, Jordan. We are doing an electro survey, and we could use a few netters …”

The rest of the message was inconsequential. I told him to name the time and place.

On the day of the survey, we met at an undisclosed location. Wearing neoprene waders on a crisp but sunny November morning, we ventured in to begin our study.

Joe guided a canoe down the river — it held the live well and equipment used to run three electronic probes. Fish and Game personnel spread out with the probes, while the remaining six of us waited with nets at the ready.

What happened next was controlled chaos at its finest. Joe fired up the machinery, and stunned fish instantly started floating toward the surface. Netters had to be quick and accurate — the electronic current only slows the fish down for a few seconds, and once they escape the range of the probe, they are gone.

“Nice rainbow, right at the boat!” Joe shouted. I lunged and stabbed with the net. Got him!

“Big brown, 10 o’clock!” came another cry. Three netters worked together to corral the beast.

After a half-mile stretch, we banked the equipment and began our data collection. The crew efficiently measured, recorded and tagged each fish before releasing them upstream.

Then it was rinse and repeat. We did four runs total, tagging dozens of fish each time. The fish of the day was a 24-inch brown trout, and there were lots of nice, wild rainbows in the mix as well.

A few observations:

▪ The river is thriving: I was amazed at the quality and quantity of fish, particularly the wild rainbows. It’s a very healthy fishery.

▪ Diversity is better than anticipated: Based on my fishing experience, I would have guessed Boise River rainbows outnumbered browns and whitefish 50-to-1. During the survey, it was more like 10-to-1 on rainbows-to-browns and 1-to-1 on rainbows-to-whitefish. There were lots of browns and tons of whitefish. We were only tagging trout, but it was cool to see the variety. We even caught a few sculpins.

▪ I’ll be back: I’ve never fished that stretch of river before, but I’ll definitely be back to chase those big browns. And if Fish and Game ever needs an extra net hand again, put me in, coach.

Tight lines!

Jordan Rodriguez has been fishing Idaho waters since he was a teen. Share your fish stories, adventures, tips and tricks at

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