If you could catch only one fish species, which would it be?

Fishing columnist Jordan Rodriguez does have a favorite. What fish would you pick?
Fishing columnist Jordan Rodriguez does have a favorite. What fish would you pick? Courtesy

It’s a question countless anglers have entertained during a long drive to the lake, or on one of those lazy afternoons when the bite is slow:

“If you could only catch one species of fish for the rest of your life, which would it be?”

It’s a query I have wrestled with many times. Almost always, I come back to the same answer. But for argument’s sake, I thought it would be fun to approach it from multiple angles. We all fish for different reasons, and many of those motives could directly influence our “One Fish” answer. For instance:

For the Frying Pan: If I only fished to eat what I caught, I’d have to go with the Chinook salmon. Nothing beats a fresh-caught Chinook fillet on the dinner table — even friends who “don’t like fish” can’t resist. Chinook can be tough to catch, and the seasons are limited. On the flip side, one big salmon will feed the family and fill the freezer. A runner-up choice would be the smaller, landlocked Kokanee salmon, which is equally tasty and can be caught in good numbers throughout the year.

Beauty Pageant: Doesn’t fishing for looks seem a little shallow? Fishy puns aside, if beauty is what you’re seeking, it’s hard to beat the cutthroat trout. Idaho’s state fish never disappoints with its golden, speckled sides tinted with dramatic greens, pinks and reds. A cotton-white mouth accented by the trademark orange throat slash completes the ensemble. Cutties caught in high alpine streams and lakes are especially handsome — and they are usually accompanied by postcard-worthy scenery.

Big and Bad: If sheer size is your only consideration, it would be hard not to go with the mighty sturgeon. We Idahoans are lucky to live amongst these prehistoric beasts of the Snake River, and tussling with one is exhilarating and exhausting, all at once.

Worth their Salt: I’ve only done a little fishing in the ocean, but including it brings the “One Fish” conversation to a whole new level. Limiting it to species I have caught, I would go with the mahi-mahi, which possesses an impressive combination of size, line-peeling power, luminous coloration, acrobatic fighting ability and excellent, flaky flesh. Amongst fish I haven’t yet caught, it would be a close race between two warm water giants: the tarpon and the goliath grouper.

And the Winner Is… As tough as this question is to answer, I always come back to my first finned love: the largemouth bass. I have a special place in my heart for these ambush predators, who will try to eat anything they can fit in their oversized mouths. As a result, you can fish for them with countless lures and methods, each of which has its challenges and rewards. If wrestling a big bass out of the weeds, surviving its aerial head shakes and planting a kiss on its emerald-green forehead was the only kind of fishing I could do, it would keep me coming back for the rest of my days.

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.