How To Fish Stillwaters

November 3rd, 2003

Stillwaters, lakes, ponds and reservoirs are the most underutilized fisheries in the North America. Why? Because the average fly fisher doesn't know how to fish them, or where to start. Stay tuned, you too can master stillwaters! ~ LadyFisher

The Chubs In Henry's Lake

By Marv Taylor, Garden City, ID

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 morning.

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

About 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 or by phone: 208-322-5760.

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