When Orofino-based fishing guide Travis Wendt had a day off from his busy schedule last Tuesday, he decided to load up his dogs and go fishing. He towed his boat to Dworshak Reservoir, hoping to relax and “[catch] on the hustle and bustle of life,” as he put it in a recent Facebook post. He certainly wasn’t on a mission to set a new state catch-and-release record for smallmouth bass, but that’s precisely what happened that afternoon. .
Using a Ned rig, Wendt hooked and landed a small 23.5-inch mouth. He knew right away that the fish was long enough to break the state catch-and-release record of 22.75 inches, but his scale read 7 pounds and 11 ounces, which was not not enough to break the certified weight record of 9.72 pounds. (Idaho maintains separate state records for fish released aliveusing length as the determining factor, and for fish that are killed and weighed using a certified scale.) So he took lots of measurements, took a few photos, and revived the big bronze back before letting her go.
The local guide told the Lewiston Grandstand that the large female had her tail torn and was probably about to spawn. He also said that while he is happy to have the current record, he expects it to be broken soon enough.
“Hopefully someone beats me. It’ll be cool. It’s always fun to see those big fish come out of there,” he told the Tribune. “It could be beaten tomorrow,” a- he added, “It wouldn’t surprise me if he was beaten very soon, in the year to come.”
And if the past is any indication, it’s almost guaranteed that the next small state record will come from the same lake, which is fed by the North Fork of the Clearwater River. The last two catch and release records for smallmouth came from the Dworshak Reservoir, according to the IDFG. The previous catch-and-release record was only caught there two years earlier, in 2020, by fisherman Dustin Shepard. The three heaviest bronze backs landed in Idaho in the past 40 years have also come directly from Dworshak, including the current certified weight record of 9.72 pounds set by Dan Steigers in 2006.
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State agency biologists say the kokanee, a species of landlocked sockeye salmon, is the key to Dworshak’s smallmouth trophy population. “In years when kokanee are plentiful – and generally smaller as a result – they provide the sufficient food needed to grow a small mouth to a large size,” according to a IDFG press release.
A report released by the agency in March showed that the reservoir was teeming with young kokanee last year, and with that information in mind, IDFG fisheries biologist Eli Felts predicted that Dworshak’s young would grow rapidly. Consequently.
“Small mouth grows very fast when fed abundant kokanee,” Felts wrote on March 28. ”