Idaho Record Continues String of Giant Smallies from Dworshak Reservoir

By Martin Koenig, IDFG

It was a typical cold, December day in central Idaho with rain down low and snow in the mountains. While many anglers might have been thinking about ice-fishing, winter steelhead or even putting a fresh coat of wax on their skis and hitting the slopes, Joey Walton had other plans: big smallmouth bass. Knowing he had to make the long run across the reservoir, he set out early in search of a trophy.

Having looked for a record fish for months, and already catching several smallmouths this season just shy of the current record, he knew he was in for a challenge. On that cold Dec. 13, his hard work finally paid off when Walton finally connected with the fish he had been looking for. After using a measuring board to verify an accurate length and getting some quick photos, Joey released the 23.75-inch giant smallmouth back into the frigid waters of Dworshak Reservoir and took home a new catch-and-release state record. He weighed the fish with digital scales on the boat and it weighed 9.1 pounds.

This year (2022) might be remembered as one of the best for Dworshak Reservoir. Dworshak is a large western Idaho reservoir that has produced a string of impressive smallmouth bass recently. Biologists have learned that big bass in the lake have a cyclical pattern related to fluctuating numbers of kokanee salmon in the reservoir.

Biologists have learned that big bass in Dworshak have a cyclical pattern related to the fluctuating numbers of kokanee in the reservoir. In years when kokanee are abundant—and usually smaller as a result—they provide the ample food needed to grow supersized smallmouth. Over the last two years, biologists have seen an abundance of kokanee. If conditions remain consistent, there could be another record coming.

But don’t get your hopes up, as the 9.72-pound weight record (also 23.75-inches long) of Dan Steigers’s fish from 2006, and this latest catch-and-release record will require a truly exceptional fish to be broken.

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