Pelicans were gathered at Henrys Lake last week, which means fishing season is about to begin
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Hundreds of pelicans stacked at the mouths of the streams running into Henrys Lake can only be there for one reason – easy food. The spawning fish fighting through the shallows to get to the stream are easy pickings. On May 12, the mouth of Timber Creek on the north side of the famed lake had 137 of the fish-swallowing big birds looking for brunch. Some of the fish had not become a meal as there were fish in the creek that had made it past the fishing army.
The ice-out on Henrys happened on May 5, allowing the Idaho Department of Fish and Game to do their annual gillnetting to count and age the fish before the season opens on May 29.
“Our job right now is to put out the nets every evening and to pick them up the next morning,” Lauren Carter, a fish technician, stated as she tried to untangle a large brook trout from a net. “Our goal is to have a total of 100 net/nights so that we can get a feel for what is happening on the lake.”
Jenn Vincent, the local Regional Fish Biologist, who leads the gillnetting and spawning operations on Henrys Lake, reported that the first 50 nets (the traditional number nets/night) showed that 18% of the fish caught were Yellowstone cutthroats while 10% were hybrids, 2.5% were brook trout and 69% were chubs.
“This is about the same level as we had last year,” said Vincent. “The chubs are a schooling fish so unless you are in a school of chubs, you won’t catch them.”
When I observed the operation of aging, measuring and weighing the trout, the nets containing the most chubs were the nets near the Cliffs on the south side of the lake. Some of the largest trout also came from those same nets.
“I am going to predict that the fishing is going to be good, very good this season,” Vincent said. “The majority of the trout we saw in the spawning run and gillnetting were 3-year-old Cutts and we also saw hybrids between 25- to 28-inches long weighing up to 10 pounds. We are right on our management goal.”
Fishermen had an outstanding year on Henrys Lake in both numbers and size caught. All indications for the upcoming season points to an even better year. The age classes of two and three-year-olds are abundant with some very big hybrids and brook trout up to 21 inches.
Usually when the ice leaves almost a month before the opening day, most of the fish will move away from the shallows. But this year the water has remained cold and the fish are still near the shore. The Cliff area is always a very popular area on the opening weekend for the bait fishermen using sucker meat, minnows and nightcrawlers. Trollers using a variety of lures including pop gear, Panther Martins and spoons have always had good luck in the early part of the season before the weeds grow too high.
For the early-season fly fishermen, dark leeches like the Electric Black and Purple Showgirls, along with the Halloween flies have always produced well. Trolling large flies whether from a boat, float tubes or pontoon devices has been an effective way to catch Henrys’ Lake fish.
Just a few reminders about Henrys Lake — storms can turn the lake from a calm glassy smooth surface into a raging inferno within a few minutes. Also, the limit is still two fish per day and “in possession.” Once you have kept your two fish, you have to quit fishing.
Good Luck and be safe. Henrys Lake is one of Idaho’s gems and it should be used and enjoyed.