Local teen chases national championship; the detail that will help you ID bull trout

Gavin Brown, 14, will compete with adults for the national championship of kayak fishing.
Gavin Brown, 14, will compete with adults for the national championship of kayak fishing. Courtesy of Gavin Brown

It’s time for another Fish Rap reader mailbag. I always enjoy hearing from readers, and I’ve had some fun inquiries of late. If you have questions or stories to share, send them my way. On to the mailbag:


After my recent column about differentiating between bull trout and brook trout at Warm Lake, I heard from reader Rick Wilkinson. Rick is an expert on the topic — he’s a biologist at Idaho Power, and one of his ongoing projects involves monitoring bull trout populations using radio tagging. In areas where bull and brook trout overlap and hybridize, it can be difficult to tell them apart. The key identifier is the dorsal fin — if it has dark spots and markings, that usually means it’s a hybrid. Pure bull trout will have a plain dorsal fin. After examining my photos, Rick concurred with my guess that I had caught one pure bull trout and one hybrid. As a bonus, he gave me a nifty laminated chart that he and his colleagues use to identify fish in the field. Thanks, Rick!


Reader Gordon Simpson recently sent me an awesome treat — an original copy of the book “Fishes of Idaho,” which was penned by his father, James Simpson. This in-depth field guide provides detailed descriptions of every fish species in Idaho as of 1982. There are countless fun facts to learn within the book’s 238 pages. Here’s one: Idaho is home to eight species of sculpin. Three of those species are endemic to very small geographic areas, including the Bear Lake sculpin, which is only found in its namesake lake. According to Gordon, James Simpson also was instrumental in developing Idaho’s alpine lake fisheries and hatchery systems. Needless to say, Gordon had a fun childhood filled with fishing adventures. Thanks for the book, Gordon!


After my recent “Five Idaho Anglers You Should Know About” article, I learned of another who belongs on the list — 14-year-old reader Gavin Brown, who competes amongst adults in the Kayak Fishing Idaho (KFI) Bass Fishing League. Despite his youth, Gavin finished third at the state championship and qualified for the 2018 KBF National Championships, which are set for next weekend in Paris, Tenn. (you can follow his progress by following @glboutdoors on Instagram). It is the largest kayak fishing event in the world, and Gavin will compete for a grand prize of $100,000. Good luck, Gavin! Idaho deserves a strong showing, and if you’re driving all the way to Tennessee, you might as well win the whole thing.


My friend Bill Clark, director of The College of Idaho’s Orma J. Smith Museum of Natural History in Caldwell, wrote to alert me of the forthcoming publication of “Fishes of Idaho: A Natural History Survey.” The book, written by John Sigler and Donald Zaroban, promises to be an excellent field guide. I have a copy of Zaroban’s 2013 edition, and it’s definitely a keeper. The book also brings this mailbag full circle. Zaroban’s co-author on the 2013 edition was the late Richard Wallace — the same man who co-wrote the aforementioned 1982 edition of “Fishes of Idaho” with James Simpson.

It’s a small world after all. Thanks for the mail, and tight lines!

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