It took several years after the idea was first pitched, but I finally made it to Idaho to visit my friend Matt Miller. Matt writes for The Nature Conservancy, and is quite good at it. You can find his articles on a wide range of nature, science, and conservation topics at:
Matt lives in the Boise River watershed, which has a number of interesting native species that I've not fished for. The diversity isn't great, but that's part of its charm. On our first day Matt took me to a tributary of the Boise River a short drive into the mountains.
Chiselmouth (Acrocheilus alutaceus) - new hook & line species #549
Largescale Sucker (Catostomus macrocheilus) - new hook & line species #550
I tried a few different lures for northern pikeminnow, but there were no takers. We moved locations again to a stretch of the creek with more boulders.
Smallmouth Bass (Micropterus dolomieu)
And of course the chiselmouths would not leave it alone either. Several of them were definitely over a pound!
I spotted a school of smaller minnows, so I got out my Tenkara rod, which still had a fly on it from our golden trout adventure in the Eastern Sierras. I dropped the fly in the school and gave it a few twitches. One of the "larger" fish grabbed it, and I laughed when I saw that it was a tiny pikeminnow.
Northern Pikeminnow (Ptychocheilus oregonensis) - new hook & line species #551
Columbia Sculpin (Cottus hubbsi) - new hook & line species #552
The Columbia sculpin in this part of the state used to be lumped together with mottled sculpin, but it looks like now it's considered a distinct species. However, the recent literature says that more work is needed, so this one may get changed to something else in the future.
Our destination for the next day was many hours to the east and very remote, so we decided to head out that way and grab a motel. Along the way we stopped at the Snake River below one of its reservoir spillways. Our friends Steve and Martini had caught Utah chubs here a few years back, so we were hoping for an easy lifer.
Yellow Perch (Perca flavescens)
The sun was starting to disappear over the hills, and we were beginning to get worried. We lucked out though, because all of the sudden the chubs showed up in force. We went from not being able to catch a single one to getting them on every cast. Either a big school moved into the area, or they were there the whole time and had just started to feed.
Utah Chub (Gila atraria) - new hook & line species #553
This was Matt's first lifer of the day, which made both of us quite happy. I'm always glad when whoever I'm fishing with can get something new as well.
We watched a few of the locals catch juvenile white sturgeon, but we didn't try to target them since we only had our microfishing gear. It was funny watching people lay down on their bellies on the dock with their arms outstretched to keep the sturgeon in the water while they unhooked them. Even if the fish is only a foot long, you have to keep it in the water per the regulations.
We had some surprisingly good Mexican for dinner and then headed to our motel. Five new species in the first day was a lot more than I was expecting! I fell asleep dreaming about the tropical fish I'd see in the hot springs the next morning.