Fishing

Anglers, it’s time to start your engines! (Fish Rap, April 20)

We Idaho fishermen are a lucky bunch.

I’ve spoken to anglers from other states who are dumbfounded to learn that “fishing season” in the Gem State pretty much equates to “always.” Apart from steelhead, salmon and a handful of rivers and lakes, Idaho waters are open for business year-round, leaving us free to pursue our favorite pastime 365 (or 366) days per year.

Well, at least those who are retired or independently wealthy. And single.

I am none of those, but I certainly appreciate the freedom to fish all year long. Each season brings new challenges and opportunities, and I don’t take it for granted that we don’t have to wait for an arbitrary date to start fishing.

I do, however, circle one day on my annual fishing calendar — April 15. That’s the day Lake Lowell opens for motorized boats. For largemouth enthusiasts like me, it might as well be Christmas.

Lowell is an outstanding bass fishery that, for some reason, has a somewhat underwhelming reputation.

“Lowell is a cesspool,” some anglers say. “I heard it used to be a chemical dump site.”

“Too many carp,” echoes another common refrain. “You can’t even catch bass there anymore.”

Part of me wants to grab these folks by the face, Billy Madison-style, and shake them into reality. But then, I think better of it.

“You’re right, Lowell is gross,” I say, struggling to keep a straight face. “You wouldn’t like it.”

So, I suppose I’m letting the secret out of the bag now, but I’m guessing any bass angler worth his or her salt already knows the truth. When it comes to bass fishing in Southwest Idaho, it doesn’t get much better than Lake Lowell.

Part of what makes Lowell a good fishery is the smart set of rules Idaho Fish and Game has in place. In addition to the boating rules, bass are catch-and-release through July 1, which protects the spawn and ensures a healthy population. Even after July 1, all fish between 12 and 16 inches must be released, and the daily limit is two fish per angler.

And, ironically, the lake’s reputation as “polluted” leads many anglers to practice catch-and-release all season. That’s just fine by me.

I’ve never kept a bass out of Lowell, although I did keep and eat a catfish once. For the record, it was tasty, and I didn’t die.

The combination of regulations, plentiful prey options and warm, shallow water with lots of aquatic cover makes Lowell a bass haven. When the fishing is good, you can boat 20 or more bucketmouths in an evening.

When it’s “slow,” you’ll still usually catch a handful. And Lowell bass are great fighters. Huge whoppers are rare, but fish in the 2-to-3-pound class are plentiful, and that’s big enough to give your drag a nice workout.

By the time this column prints, many of you will already have made your maiden voyage to Lowell. The water is high, but the fish are biting, the birds are nesting and it’s a great place to spend an evening on the water.

And if you don’t have a boat, don’t let that stop you. I’ve seen folks catch plenty of fish from the shore, or by fishing shallow, no-wake coves from a float tube.

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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