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Henrys Lake gillnetting looks like a promising opener

Living the Wild Life

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Bill Schiess,

“I think the fishing will be better this year than it was last season,” said Jenn Vincent, manager of the Henrys Lake Hatchery, last Monday as she was working with fish caught in the nets earlier that morning. “That is based on the improved fishing last fall and the success of the ice fishermen last season.”

As ice left just after the first of May, the Idaho Department of Fish and Game began their annual gillnetting program where they have collected population, size, sex and genetics from captured fish. Traditionally the department has set out nets in the same six spots with a goal of 50 net-nights, but this year that has been expanded to 100 net-nights.

Half of those net-nights will be from the traditional six spots with the other half from random spots Vincent has previously chosen by gridding the lake.

“The traditional spots are away from the shore and they do not give a true picture of the fish population of the lake,” said Vincent. “We are finding that the random-placed nets are catching more fish than the traditional spots. On May 12 we had one of the nets placed near the shore captured 73 trout, the most of any net so far. We are averaging more fish per net than we did last spring.”

Monday’s nets were not so successful:

  • Net #1 (traditional spot) – two cutthroats, no brook trout, no chubs.
  • Net #2 (traditional spot) – one cutthroat, one brook trout, no chubs.
  • Net #3 (traditional spot by the Cliffs) – 11 cutthroats, 2 brook trout, 41 chubs.
  • Net #4 (traditional spot) – no fish caught.
  • Net #5 (traditional spot) – three cutthroats, no brook trout, no chubs.
  • Net #6 (traditional spot) – six cutthroats, three hybrids, one brook trout, 62 chubs.
  • Net #7 (random set near Duck Creek) – 12 cutthroats, 12 hybrids, 9 brook trout, 44 chubs.
  • Net #8 (random set near Howard Creek) – no fish caught.

True; this is only eight samples of 100, but on Tuesday “we had two heavy nets and the rest were light,” according to Vincent, much like Monday.

For the first two to three weeks after ice-out, most of the fish work the shallow warmer water before they scatter throughout the lake. By opening day on May 25, most of the fish should have moved away from shore and they historically stage at water depth from 12 to 14 feet deep.

In this year’s nets there is a good mix of sizes with some very large hybrids and cutthroats with one brook trout tipping the scales at 5.88 pounds. There have been more one-year olds in this year’s nets than in the past.

“This year the spawning run was excellent with healthy fish and eggs,” said Vincent. “We had 4,888 adult trout run into the hatchery where we spawned 1604 females and 1253 males that produced around three million high quality eggs.”

Most of these eggs has been shipped to the Mackay Hatchery where they will be raised during the summer. Of those eggs about 1.2 million cutthroats and 250,000 young hybrids will be planted back into the lake next fall. There will also be an additional 150,000 brook trout fingerlings stocked in the lake.

Many fishermen are hoping that Vincent’s predictions are spot on as the May 25 opening day is next Saturday. The past two year’s opening weekends have not been very good at the famed trophy lake.