Idaho's Trophy Waters
Idaho's new 2000-2001 fishing regulations include a number of "trophy fish
waters." That is, creel limits (fish size and number) have been restricted
on numerous lakes and streams to produce bigger fish there. In some cases
gear restrictions like flies-only, barbless hooks, etc. have also been set
to increase released-fish survival. Devoted lunker chasers are delighted
with all this. Those who just want to fill a frying pan are mostly
indifferent and maybe a trifle annoyed. Who wants to beat the water all
day, they argue, just to catch one or two outsized trout or bass?
by Richard North
Overlooked in this "lunker vs. number" debate is that "wall-hangers" are
just a small part of the new design. The big impact in restricting fish
kill is that average fish size will increase substantially. You may or may
not catch a 20" rainbow or cutthroat on these waters, but you'll almost
certainly land and release lots of fine trout in the 14" to 18" slot rather
than 10" hatchery dinks! On average, fishing the state's trophy waters will
simply be more fun.
Besides having some surprising stream stretches on our state's list of blue
ribbon trout rivers, the Idaho Fish and Game Department is also encouraging
"quality" fishing for bass and even panfish. In north Idaho's Hayden Lake,
for example, creeled crappie must be 10" in length, and only 15 specks may
be kept daily. This restriction partly reflects slow crappie growth rates
this far north. Still, I like the idea of a small string of "slab" specks
over a large string of runts.
Various Panhandle bass waters (e.g. Anderson, Hayden, Kelso, Granite,
Robinson, Chase, Little Round Lakes) are now catch-and-release for part of
the year, while others have bass size-limits and/or shortened seasons.
Several true trophy bass waters have also been created across the state -
only two fish may be kept with none under 20" (none under 16" at Glendale
Reservoir in the southeast region)! Check the Fishing Season and Rules Book
for lunker largemouth waters in your area.
Another novel twist in trophy fish waters is the addition of several alpine
lakes in the McCall area to our blue ribbon list. In Blackwell, Crystal,
Long, Louis, Brush, and Lake Rock Lakes you may keep only two trout, with
none under 20". Gear is restricted to flies and artificial lures with one
barbless hook. These hike-in lakes are fairly easy to reach, so they're
hammered pretty hard. It's hoped the restrictions will continue to bring
back their famous 20" trout. (With roughly 2,000 alpine lakes scattered
around Idaho's gorgeous outback, I don't think the meat fishermen can get
too annoyed at some being restricted.)
Cutthroat trout around the state receive special attention in the regs.
Cutts are our state fish. Since this species is so notoriously gullible,
they are easily fished down to residual runt populations. In the Salmon
Region, you may now include only two cutts in your general trout limit in
some waters, and in several waters there is a no-harvest restriction on
cutthroat. Often your cutts cannot be under 16" in the Upper Snake Region.
This will continue to produce some beautiful fish and fantastic fishing!
In Blackfoot Reservoir and most of Bear Lake (Southeast Region) cutt regs
are even more restrictive. Only hatchery cutts may be kept (fish with a fin
missing, as evidenced by a healed scar). And, in several waters, no
cutthroat can be kept under 16", plus there are no-harvest areas in the
Southeast Region. The goal is to bring back those 6 to 8-pound cutthroats
once famous in the Blackfoot drainage.
Treasure Valley anglers long complained about not having quality trout
stream angling found elsewhere in Idaho. But now, we have sections of the
Boise producing lunkers with restrictions in some areas of "none under 14".
Idaho's reputation as a trophy-trout state might be true, but fortunately
we also still have hundreds of miles of lightly-restricted catch-and-keep
streams and many dozens of fish-packed reservoirs for the frying pan crowd.
Idaho Fishing Regulations
South Fork of the Snake River Cutthroats
Trout Unlimited - Ted Trueblood Chapter
Idaho Trout by Region
Fishing Around McCall, Idaho
An Idaho trout and steelhead Fishing Guide: The Guide Shop
Cutthroat: Idaho's State Fish
Henrys Fork River Journal by Larry Tullis
Fishing Idaho: An Angler's Guide by Joe Evancho
Fly Fisher's Guide to Idaho by Ken Retallic, Rocky Barker, R. D. Dye (Illustrator)
Montana, Idaho, Wyoming Top 45 Fishing Waters edited by Ed Mitchell and Michael Robertson