Dec 17, 2010

Running with the bulls

     I'm not quite sure why but bull trout are one of my all time favorite fish. They get big, they are mean, and they pretty much eat what they want; all qualities I can relate to...
     I've caught maybe half a dozen bull trout in my life, only one of which was on purpose when I was actually trying to catch one. The rest have just been pleasant surprises usually while fishing for cutthroat.
     December 17 2010 found my buddy Cordell and I once again aimlessly wandering the rivers of northern Idaho in search of something willing to bite our hooks as has become our habit. Our quarry of the day was steelhead so we headed to the North Fork of the Clearwater River below Dworshak Dam. Directly below the dam is a concrete wall probably about 40 or 50 feet high running parallel to the river. If you stand on this wall you can cast right up into the tailrace of the the dam, which is a pretty good spot to find fish stacked. I had been there but never tried fishing from the wall, but that day we decided to give it a try. We joined the four or five other guys who were fishing there that day. We saw a couple of fish caught, which was interesting because since the fisherman is so high off of the water he has to maneuver his fish over to within reach of a small concrete platform that his net man has to descend a few flights of stairs to reach. So basically it's a two person task to land a fish there, not necessarily harder than normal, just different and certainly interesting.
     Cordell hooked up on what looked to be a nice steelhead. He was using a light action rod which made the fight pretty fun, but the fish spit the hook before we could seal the deal. I on the other hand still hadn't even had a nibble all day. I started messing around and letting my bobber float way downstream, partly because I thought it might help catch a fish, and partly because it was kind of fun and I was bored. I finally got a bite way down near the end of my drift probably 100 yards away. I set the hook and began battling what I assumed to be a steelhead. Somehow though it just didn't feel right and it wasn't fighting as hard as a normal steelhead would (except maybe on Thanksgiving day; see this post). I talked Cordell into making the trip down the steps to the platform to net it for me. When it finally got within sight I could see it was a really thick fish but I still couldn't tell what kind it was from my high vantage point. When he netted it he finally gave me a diagnosis. It was a big football-shaped bull trout!
     The first bull trout I ever caught was 25 inches long (click here for details). I don't think this one was quite that long, but it was almost certainly heavier and way fatter. I've never seen a bull trout shaped like this one was. He must live below the dam eating salmon and steelhead eggs and munching on the kokanee that get washed through the dam turbines. Whatever the reason though, he was definitely not in danger of starving to death.
"Footbull trout"

Note the base of the wall we were fishing from in the background.
I wonder why they're called "bull trout" if they don't have horns.

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