Every Friday, we’ll post fishing writer Jordan Rodriguez’s weekly report in the Playing Outdoors blog. His column appears three Tuesdays per month.
C.J. Strike Reservoir (Mixed Bag)
While water conditions aren’t ideal, C.J. Strike has remained relatively productive this spring, especially compared to many of our blown-out rivers and reservoirs. Trout fishing has been the best bet so far, with anglers catching fish from the bank or a boat using worms, marshmallows, Power Bait, Rapalas, spinners and trolling gear. I was there with some friends two weeks ago, and we managed a healthy stringer of 14-to-16-inch rainbows for the frying pan. Since then, it seems action has picked up a little for bass, crappie and perch. It’s still pretty slow, but anglers are finding a few schools of panfish in relatively deep water, and bass will grab a slow-moving jig or crankbait. Fish on the east (dam) side of the lake for trout, focus on the narrows for panfish and work points and rocky structure for bass.
Getting there: Head east on I-84 to Mountain Home and drive south through Bruneau or Grandview.
Local Ponds (Mixed Bag)
Relatively speaking, ponds haven’t been as adversely affected by the high water conditions as rivers, streams and reservoirs. With that being said, I fished a pond for a couple of hours after work this week, and the water was high (docks were not accessible without wading knee-deep) and pretty murky. But the fish were showing signs of life, and I wound up catching my first largemouth bass of the season, plus a handful of bluegill and pumpkinseed sunfish. For those warm-water species, fishing around the edges with small jigs, crankbaits, soft plastics or live worms is the way to go. Trout are more active in cold water, so you can fish for those as you normally would with flies, spinners or bait. Power Bait seems to work particularly well on the hatchery trout stocked in ponds. Bring a variety of tackle so you can adjust to whatever is biting.
Getting there: Fish and Game stocks ponds throughout Boise, Meridian, Nampa, Eagle, Middleton and Caldwell.
Brownlee Reservoir (Catfish)
Updating my report from a couple of weeks ago, Idaho Power has drawn down Brownlee significantly to prepare for the spring runoff. The boat launches haven’t been accessible, but that hasn’t stopped anglers from giving it a go on foot. I’ve actually seen some pretty impressive channel catfish reports, especially around Steck Park. Catfish rely heavily upon scent and feel when they feed, so muddy water isn’t as much of an issue for them as it would be for other species. Try using worms, cut bait, shrimp or chicken livers. A couple of disclaimers: 1. It looks like a mess down there. Boots, waders and coveralls are recommended, as you’ll likely need to stomp through some mud to get to fishable water. 2. Things can change in a hurry, so if you go, try to get the most recent intelligence possible to avoid a wasted trip.
Getting there: Access Brownlee via Weiser on the Idaho side or Huntington on the Oregon side.
Lure of the Week: Plastic Lizard
Every time I go fishing with someone new and they see a bag of soft plastic lizards in my tackle box, I get the same reaction: “Do those really catch fish?” Well, the answer is yes! Lizards and other “creature baits” are highly effective bass lures, and they are one of my go-to setups on stubborn fish. Bass are more predacious and aggressive than people realize, and a swimming lizard or salamander makes for an easy target. I even caught a big crappie on a lizard once! Lizards are easily made weedless, allowing you to slither them over, under and through heavy vegetation. They seem to work particularly well during spawning season, when bass view them as a threat to their nests. Zoom is my favorite brand of soft plastics, but there are dozens to choose from. I like to fish mostly natural colors with a simple weedless hook setup. You can also fish them “Texas” or “Carolina” rigged, among other popular methods. They typically sell for $3-$5 per package.
Jordan Rodriguez has been fishing Idaho waters since he was a teen. Share your fish stories, adventures, tips and tricks at outdoors @idahostatesman.com.