I can’t believe it’s already June. Fishing season, just like it always does, is blazing by before you can say “Fish On.”
If you recall at the end of March, we published the Species Challenge in our 2016 Fishing Guide. The idea was to catch as many of 25 Gem State fish species as possible this season.
So, as the year hits its halfway point, it’s time for a check-in.
One of the motivations behind the Species Challenge was to get people out fishing for species they hadn’t caught before. And for me, that thinking paid immediate dividends.
My first fish of 2016 was my first flathead catfish. It weighed just under 12 pounds and put up a good fight, going so far as to tangle my line with that of another angler on the boat. Luckily, we were able to keep him on the hook.
After the flathead, I checked a few of the usual suspects off my list. Crappie and smallmouth bass at Brownlee Reservoir. Rainbow trout and largemouth bass at the Hagerman Fish Hatchery. More largemouth at Lake Lowell and Crane Falls. More smallmouth, some big carp and a bluegill out of the Snake River.
The biggest surprise of all came when I bagged some tilapia out of the Snake. I knew they were in there, but I didn’t think to include them on the Species Challenge list. But they were fun to catch and delicious to eat.
It’s crazy to think that 25 species doesn’t even cover everything swimming in Idaho waters.
Like I wrote about last week, a big ole channel catfish did me the favor of gulping down my soft plastic bass lure at Lowell, so that puts me at eight Species Challenge fish for the season — nine if you count the tilapia.
So where do we go from here? This month, I plan on getting my troll on for kokanee salmon. Chinook and steelhead season are still ahead, too.
I figure I’ll catch cutthroat — and hopefully brook trout — at an alpine lake this summer. A trip to the Owyhee should yield a brown trout. And there’s a pretty good chance I’ll bump into perch, pumpkinseed, pikeminnow, whitefish and bullhead somewhere along the way.
Those catches would double my current total. Breaking 20 will require a little luck — and probably some special trips.
Walleye, pike and tiger muskie will be some of the toughest species to find. But I’d like to check out Salmon Falls Creek Reservoir for walleye, and I’ve got some intel on a potential muskie spot that also holds some monster smallmouth.
Sturgeon will require some planning, but I’ve got a few ideas to make that happen. That would leave arctic grayling and mackinaw trout on the list. I know places I can find both. It will just be a matter of squeezing those trips in before year’s end.
I’d love to hear how your Species Challenge quest is coming. I’ll be really impressed if anyone can get all 25 this year. The season is still young, but if you’re at or near double-figure species already, then you have a shot.
Jordan Rodriguez has been fishing Idaho waters since he was a teen. Share your fish stories, adventures, tips and tricks at outdoors @idahostatesman.com.