Fishing

Hagerman hatchery provides fishing adventure

I’ve fished at a lot of cool places throughout Idaho, and I’m always extra excited when I get to check out a new fishing hole.

Add the Hagerman Fish Hatchery to the list.

I’ve heard a lot about Hagerman over the years, but I’d never fished there before last week. I was driving to Boise from eastern Idaho, so I jumped at the chance to make a quick pit stop and catch some fish.

From I-84, the hatchery is a quick 15-minute jaunt. The drive time from Boise is only about 90 minutes, so it’s well within range for a quick day trip.

When you first arrive, things might feel a little overwhelming. There are lots of different ponds to choose from, and signs lead to both the State Fish Hatchery and the National Fish Hatchery. I recommend heading to the state hatchery, which has a detailed map and regulations posted. Many of the ponds opened March 1, but there are others that don’t open until July.

The state hatchery map is located next to the “show pond,” a concrete raceway that has large rainbow trout, Palomino (banana) rainbow trout, sturgeon and tiger muskies on display. It was cool to stop and watch them for a few minutes — especially the giant sturgeon and the stealthy, crocodile-like muskies.

Once you have your bearings, it’s time to fish. The Oster Lakes are popular with trout fishermen, and the main hatchery lake near the show pond also had lots of fishing traffic on a Friday afternoon. But it’s a good-sized lake, so I found an open stretch of bank and started fishing.

There are definitely a lot of trout in the area — you can see them swimming around. The Palominos, with their yellowish-white complexions, are particularly easy to spot. I caught a handful of pan-sized trout, and I kept a couple of 14-inchers for the frying pan.

Most of the fish I saw were in the 10-to-14-inch range, but I did spot some big trout, too, including one monster that had to be pushing 10 pounds.

The pleasant surprise of the trip came when I noticed a group of darker, deeper-bodied fish patrolling the shoreline. Were those bass? They were bass. I quickly tied on my favorite soft plastic lure and caught three nice largemouth. They were fat, healthy fish with a lot more fight than I would have expected this early in the year.

I’m a catch-and-release guy when it comes to bass — especially before the spawn — so I tossed them back. But it felt great to put my first bucketmouth of 2016 on the board.

All in all, I wound up landing eight fish in two hours. I got my bass fix, brought home some trout fillets and thoroughly enjoyed checking out a new area. And there’s plenty more exploring to do, so I’ll definitely make another trip to Hagerman before too long.

If you want to plan your own Hagerman adventure, pack a variety of tackle. In addition to trout and bass, the ponds have bluegill, carp and even sturgeon.

The variety and size of fish are a draw for more experienced anglers, while the abundance of trout, comfortable picnic areas and sightseeing opportunities make it an ideal place for kids and families.

But don’t take my word for it — the hatchery is just an hour-and-a-half drive away, so take an afternoon off work, pack a lunch and head east.

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.com.

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