Although the 1993 season at Henry's Lake produced
some very large trout, and lots of very happy
fishermen, the big story that summer was the
discovery of Utah chubs in the lake. Angler's
reaction to the news was predictable. Doomsday
prophets warned the lake would quickly follow the
lead of neighboring Island Park Reservoir, and
soon be an eradication project for Fish and Game.
While the Department is taking the problem seriously,
they didn't run scared. In an article printed in the
fall 1993 Henry's Lake Foundation newsletter, Mark
Gamblin, Regional Fishery Manager of the Upper Snake
Region (Idaho Falls area), chronicles the chub
infestation at the big trophy trout lake by telling
Foundation members that Fish and Game is aware of the
problem, and will respond to it- but for anglers not
to get too nervous...yet.
"I want to keep in perspective the facts that we know",
Gamblin wrote, "and respond to some of the misconceptions
that have surfaced in the press since the news broke."
Gamblin reported in the newsletter that in their
first three gill net sets, chubs made up about
50-percent of the catch (roughly 45 chubs). The
Department then made two more sets of three nets
each around the lake and were able to catch only
one additional chub.
The chubs captured included several age groups
which indicates the fish have been in the lake
for several years. Some anglers have reported
catching chubs as early as ten years earlier.
While Utah chub populations achieve problem numbers
very quickly in most lakes and reservoirs, Henry's
Lake might be an exception. With the large numbers
of predatory trout in the lake, keeping chub numbers
within manageable limits might not be just a fantasy.
"Whatever the true status of the Henry's Lake Utah chub,"
Gamblin wrote in 1993, "they are here to stay, and at
present fishing continues to meet expectations of
Henry's Lake anglers."
The above report was written some years ago, when
the fishing at Henry's Lake was beginning to
deteriorate. Although the Idaho Department of
Fish and Game refused to blame the lake's chub
population for the problems, neither could they
completely absolve the little trash fish.
The fishing during the past three years has been,
to quote several of my friends who have cabins on
the lake, a "complete disaster." I've talked
with groups of fly fishermen who averaged 5 or 6
days at the Big H this summer, and in two or three
cases, caught absolutely no fish. One friend who
was there right in the middle of what should have
been the best fishing of the summer (the time of
the damsel hatch), told me he and his three
companions were the only anglers on the lake one
Wow! I remember camping at Henry's Lake during the
same time frame in 1995, counting hundreds of both
fly fishermen and trollers.
OK. Now we can all agree there is a problem at
the big eastern Idaho lake. Is it a shortage of
fish? Has the chemistry of the water changed?
Has the food base been compromised because of
the low water levels of the past three years?
In a word. . .Nobody knows. From what I've heard
from Fish and Game, there are plenty of fish. Some
of my friends with fish finders tell me they saw
plenty of fish on their fruitless 2003 trips. They
tended to agree with Fish and Game that the fish
were just lying down on the bottom in the warmer
water, not feeding.
My research indicates trout metabolism slows down
under these conditions. Maybe that's all there is
to it. Maybe after two or three winters of heavy
snow pack, with water levels back to normal, the
fishing also will get back to normal.
But what's going to happen if we have two or three
more years of drought? Will we reach a point where
the fish might all die off? And indeed . . .would
that be a bad thing? It would be a good way to get
rid of the chub population without the huge expense
of an eradication program.
From what my contacts have told me, Fish and Game
is making heavy plants of cutthroat, rainbow/cutthroat
hybrids, and brook trout. They are preparing for
better water conditions in the short run, with one
eye on the snow pack of the coming winter.
I've fished Henry's Lake off and on for 50 years.
I've had good years . . .and I've had bad years.
I haven't fished the lake since the summer of 95'.
That was a great season. I arrived at the lake on
about July 20th and fished it until the end of
September. Legendary Big H guide Bill Scheiss told
me that summer that it was one of his best seasons ever.
I was hoping to fish the lake this season, but
other commitments prevented me from making the
trip. I probably won't put the lake back on my
itinerary until we see more water in the area;
or until fishing reports from the lake are more
positive. ~ Marv
Marv Taylor's books, Float-Tubing The West,
The Successful Angler's Journal,
More Fragments of the Puzzle, (Volume I) and More
Fragments of the Puzzle, (Volume II) are all available from
Marv. You can reach Marv by email at
email@example.com or by phone: 208-322-5760.