Southwest Idaho’s 7,500-acre C.J. Strike Reservoir is better known for quality smallmouth, catfish and crappie fishing. But fishing couple Greg and Angie Poulsen of Eagle Mountain, Utah made a trip to C.J. Strike Reservoir to try for North America’s largest freshwater fish – the white sturgeon.
On Aug. 5 Greg hooked, battled and beat a giant of a sturgeon from the big reservoir on the Snake River. It was big enough to claim Idaho’s white sturgeon record. Greg’s fish was measured and released, as only catch-and-release sturgeon fishing is allowed in Idaho.
Greg’s fish betters the 119.5-inch sturgeon that angler Rusty Peterson caught from the Snake River in 2019.
According to Martin Koenig, Idaho’s Natural Resource Program Coordinator, the Snake River around C.J. Strike Reservoir has good numbers of sturgeon, but fish over 10 feet are exceedingly rare, and usually only seen in the Hells Canyon area of the Snake.
“Out of hundreds of fish collected during surveys from the Snake River around C.J. Strike Reservoir, only a handful of sturgeon in this class have been seen,” states Koenig. “Biologists from Idaho Power captured a 131.5-inch behemoth in 1993, as well as a 119-inch fish in 2015.
“Downstream in Hells Canyon, where biologists have handled more than 4,000 sturgeon during surveys over the last 30 years, only 10 fish have ever exceeded the 10-foot mark. They do exist, but these are very rare and special fish.”
Koenig notes that fishing for Idaho’s white sturgeon is allowed only on a catch-and-release basis, and they may not be removed from the water while handling. He says sturgeon around C.J. Strike Reservoir can take 10-15 years to reach sexual maturity, while those in Hells Canyon take even longer.
“The slow growth, long lifespans and infrequent reproduction means these river giants are very susceptible to overfishing, meaning populations can take decades to rebuild,” Koenig notes.
Idaho’s Fish and Game Commission (IFGC) explains that sturgeon populations have significantly declined from historic levels as a result of overharvest, hydroelectric dams, pollution and other issues. Idaho sturgeon fishing has been catch-and-release only since 1971.
Idaho Power (utility company) and IFGC have ongoing conservation programs trying to improve sturgeon populations throughout the Snake River, to improve fish numbers, habitat and hopefully improving angling for this remarkable freshwater giant.
C.J. Strike Reservoir also gave up another state record fish this year. On July 26 angler Paul Newman landed a blue catfish measuring 42.5 inches long and weighing 37 pounds.