May 16, 2013

2013 Field Season Part 1 - Lewiston

     I am fortunate enough to have a job that I really love. As a part of that job I conduct research on one of my all-time favorite species - the steelhead. This research includes a yearly field season, where we head out into the woods every day for about three months, catch steelhead, then tag them.  For your sake that's all I'll say about my project. Trust me you don't want me to get started on all the little specifics and tidbits that we've learned over the last few years; you'd be asleep in no time! If you really want to hear more, see this post for more explanation, or this post for pictures from last year's field season.
Potlatch River steelhead trout
This steelhead from the Potlatch River was uncommonly friendly, letting me walk right up and take pictures.

     This year my field season was different in that I had to be away from home the entire time since I currently live in Washington and I needed to be in Idaho to tag my fish. I visited my home five or six times for a couple days each time, but by and large, I lived in a hotel near Lewiston Idaho for April and May, and in June I lived in a cabin in the woods near the Lochsa River.  I won't get into how bad it sucked being away from my wife and kids for so long, not because it didn't suck - it did, but because that's another story entirely. This is supposed to be a happy story about fishing, so that's what you'll get. Suffice it to say that in my opinion my wife earned her sainthood over the last few months by holding things together without me, and I'm pretty impressed that she didn't run away with the UPS man while I was gone!
     Before this story can go any farther, I need to introduce you to my good friend Brenda. My company hired her last year to help me tag our fish, and we were fortunate enough to have her help again this year. I couldn't have asked for a better co-worker or friend to work with. She's very proffesional and knowledgeable and all that stuff, but more importantly she's just as big of a fishing wacko as I am (and that's saying something)! Brenda is a little shy about having her picture taken, but she said I could post this picture of her since she was incognito:
Moss beard!
Brenda got jealous of my having a beard, so we fashioned one for her out of some moss!
Moss ghost!
We checked on the discarded beard several days after the previous photo was taken and it seemed to have taken on a life of its own!
     We worked long days and long weeks, but we were still left with the evenings free, so rather than sit in our hotel rooms bored, we did what any self-respecting fisheries biologists would do - we fished! To make it more interesting we decided to make a wager on who could catch the most species during our field season. Here are some of my more interesting entries:
Juvenile northern pikeminnow
No species hunting contest between two fish nuts would be complete without some really tiny entries. A species is a species, and this tiny pikeminow is no exception.

Redside shiner
Here's a redside shiner, even though this particular one doesn't have red sides...
Speckled Dace
And a trophy speckled dace!

     Of course we couldn't JUST fish for micro-fishies! We had to do a little dino-hunting, being so close to Hell's Canyon and all.
Fish on!
First Sturgeon of 2013 on the line!
Snake River Sturgeon
I swear he felt bigger than that... Not that I'm complaining about a spunky 4.5 footer!
Juvenile white sturgeon
This 28 inch mini-dino is my smallest one ever*. That may not sound like something to brag about to you, but little ones mixed in with the bigger ones means that there will be sturgeon there for many years to come! Maybe I'll come back in 50 or 60 years when this fish is a 7 or 8 footer!
     Having grown up near Lewiston, I was fishing my home waters, so I could pick and choose which species I wanted to catch, or so I thought. I set my targets on a species (or a family of species rather) that I had caught but not consistently - the catfish. I plied a few promising looking catfish holes with large and tempting pieces of chicken liver, hoping to pull up something big and whiskery. The anticipation grew to a head as I got my first solid bite and I set the hook into a fish! When I got it in however, I chocked up a species for the contest, but not the one I was shooting for!
Yellow Perch
This big jumbo chicken-liver-eating perch is a nice fish, but it was not the 15 lb channel cat I was hoping for...
     I even managed to catch a new species - the yellow bullhead, species #88! But I just couldn't dial in on the channel cats.
Yellow Bullhead
Species #88! A cheerful yellow bullhead. I like it when they smile for the picture!
     By about mid May, just before we packed up and followed the steelhead farther upriver, I gave up on catfish and went on one last crappie fishing trip near Lewiston. I used a little 1/16 oz crappie jig and a bobber, so I of course hooked a channel catfish! I had been doing it wrong all along! Lesson learned - if you want to catch perch use chicken liver, and to catch channel cats use crappie jigs!
Catfish closeup
A confused kitty!
      By the time we were done tagging at our sites near Lewiston, I had accumulated 16 species and Brenda was at 13. HOWEVER, just to prove her point, she caught a fish that neither of us could identify - not an easy thing to do in the Snake River! She eventually figured out that it was a juvenile banded killifish. If you're wondering, no I didn't catch one, thank you very much! I'm not bitter about it though. Can we just change the subject please??
     For the sake of brevity, I didn't include pictures of all my entries from the Lewiston area (your welcome...). I also caught: chinook and coho salmon (both smolts), bluegill, black crappie, smallmouth bass, pumpkinseed, carp, chiselmouth, and rainbow trout. 
    Keep scrolling down (or if your scrolling finger is really lazy, click here) to hear the conclusion of our contest after we moved camp up to the Lochsa River at the end of May. 

 * The little sturgeon in the picture above is the smallest one that I've caught with a hook and line, but check out these little beauties that we're raising in our lab!

1 comment:

  1. Love it! A trip where you can catch both sturgeon and micros sounds awesome.