Fishing

Accident cost angler an arm but not his sport. ‘I have to learn to do it all over again.’

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You can purchase a hunting or fishing license online from Idaho Department of Fish and Game. Here's how to do it.

I’m starting this week’s report with some bittersweet news from the Treasure Valley fishing community. Talented fly fisherman Wesley Atkinson and his wife, Regan, were recently involved in a UTV accident. The vehicle rolled and pinned both Wes’ and Regan’s arms underneath it — Wes was able to lift the vehicle and free his wife, but his right arm had to be amputated above the elbow.

I can’t imagine what it would be like to lose an arm. But I visited Wes in the hospital and was blown away by his positive outlook.

“I’m still going to fish,” he told me excitedly. “I’m going to hunt, I’m going to ski, and I’m going to enjoy life. I have to learn how to do it all over again, but I’m looking forward to the challenge.”

I have no doubt Wes will be back on the water before long. He is too good an angler and, frankly, too much of a badass to bet against him. His hospital room is already decorated with fishing artwork he drew lefthanded — and it’s better than anything I could draw with my dominant hand.

The Atkinsons have a Facebook Fundraising page set up to help with Wes’ medical expenses. It’s called Wesley’s Road to Recovery. You also can follow his journey on Instagram at @DownAHandMountainMan.

It’s tough to see a fellow angler in pain, but we’re in your corner, Wes! Those South Fork trout won’t be safe for long.

Wes Atkinson.jpg
Avid fisherman Wesley Atkinson isn’t letting the loss of his right arm dampen his love for the sport — and the local fishing community is rallying around him as he begins his road to recovery. Courtesy of Jordan Rodriguez

Lake Cascade (Mixed Bag)

I’m hearing good things from Cascade. Trout anglers are catching some really nice fish with bait from shore or trolling with pop gear and Rapalas. Rainbows over 20 inches are not uncommon at Cascade, and there are occasional Kokanee, too. Perch fishing hasn’t been red hot yet, but there are always jumbos lurking. Fishing with bait-tipped jigs around weed beds or trolling with small crankbaits are the top perch methods. The water also should be warm enough to activate Cascade’s underrated bass population. Twisty-tailed grubs, tube jigs and perch-colored crankbaits are the way to go.

Getting there: Take Highway 55 north to Cascade. Popular access points include Blue Heron, Crown Point, Sugarloaf and Poison Creek.

Little Payette Lake (Tiger Muskie)

As detailed in my latest fishing column, tiger muskie season is on at Little Payette near McCall. These huge, toothy predators are one of the toughest fish you can tangle with in our region — at a healthy 36 inches, the specimen we brought aboard my boat wasn’t even big enough to keep. Muskies are wily ambush hunters who use Little Payette’s abundant wood and grass cover to hide from their prey. Large spinners and topwater lures are the best baits, but getting one or two bites is considered a good day. Luckily, smallmouth bass enjoy similar habitats, and there are some big ones at Little Payette. Rapalas, topwater plugs and plastics are good choices for bass. It’s best to stay muskie-ready by fishing with a steel leader.

Getting there: Take Highway 55 north to McCall and follow Lick Creek Road east to the boat launch.

Crane Falls Lake (Mixed Bag)

I recently stopped by this old favorite and quickly put 10 largemouth bass in the boat before windy weather intervened. Spinnerbaits and plastic worms were the ticket, as the bass have spawned and are looking to feed. Remember, Crane Falls has trophy rules on bass. If you’re looking for something to keep, the lake also has stocked rainbow trout, perch, crappie and bluegill. It looked like the bluegill were still on their nests, but everything else should be post-spawn and on the hunt. Trout hang out in the deeper, clearer water and can be targeted with flies, spinners, spoons or trolling gear. Perch and crappie are often found in the transition areas between deep water and the weedy shallows. Target them with small crankbaits or panfish jigs tipped with worms.

Getting there: Take I-84 and Highway 51 southeast toward Bruneau, then turn right on Crane Falls Road.

Come Learn All About that Bass!

I’m teaching a new bass fishing class July 22, and I still have a few seats left. “All About that Bass” will give students a deep dive into best lures, locations and strategies for catching largemouth and smallmouth bass in Idaho. Sign up on my website, www.tightlines208.com. I hope to see you there!

Jordan Rodriguez has been fishing Idaho waters since he was a teen. Share your fish stories, adventures, tips and tricks with him at tightlinesboise@gmail.com or visit www.tightlines208.com.

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