Idaho reservoir produces lots of big trout, but it’s no gimme

(Roger Phillips/Idaho Statesman/MCT)
Brent Gould of Meridian, ID casts for trout at Magic Reservoir in Camas, ID...
Story by Roger Phillips
The Idaho Statesman
June 24, 2011
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ON MAGIC RESERVOIR, Idaho — Magic Reservoir doesn’t get the attention of some of the warm-water fish factories of southern Idaho, but don’t overlook it.

It’s quietly becoming a place that produces plentiful and trophy-sized trout.

One angler pulled a 14-pound rainbow from the reservoir this spring, and there are lots rainbows and browns swimming around that will have you reaching for your tape measure or scales.

Not to sound like an infomercial, but wait, it gets better.

Magic traditionally fishes best during high-water years, and right now it’s brimming with water with more to come out of the mountains.

That’s likely to keep the reservoir full and cool longer, which could easily push that prime fishing season when there’s cool water near the surface into midsummer.

Brent Gould of Meridian has traveled throughout Idaho and the neighboring states to fly fish lakes and reservoirs.

He said Magic is a rare reservoir because it has deep water that gives fish a safe place winter over, but still lots of shallow flats to feed and grow.

“It’s all about food, and they have a smorgasbord of food to eat in the shallow water.”

But the reservoir has its challenges. For one thing, it’s big (about 14,000 acres), so locating fish can be a challenge. The reservoir can be windy, which can limit your fishing time.

It also seems to go inexplicably go through dead periods when fishing is tough, but on the flipside, when it turns on, there are few reservoirs in Southwest Idaho that can produce as many large and lively rainbows and brown trout.

Last year, Idaho Fish and Game stocked 628,000 fingerling trout, and another 17,000 catchable size.

The fingerlings are the key to the reservoir’s success. They learn to forage off the reservoir’s natural food and quickly grow into large, hard-fighting trout.

Don Chapman, owner of West Magic Resort, said trout average about 15 inches in the spring with lots of fish over 20 inches. And they will grow throughout the summer so that average size will creep up.

Magic is another rarity among large reservoirs that fishes well for all types of anglers.

The shallow flats are a popular place for fly anglers in float tubes and pontoon boats, and although it’s a big reservoir, there are bays, islands, lagoons and other semi-protected areas so an angler isn’t constantly exposed to big water.

Bank anglers can simply cast a worm and marshmallow or the famous “Magic Sandwich” and stand a good chance to catch some nice fish.

That sandwich is a piece of worm, marshmallow and corn on a size 18 gold treble hook.

Chapman swears by it, and says there’s a reason behind the specific recipe. The small hook will settle into the weeds where fish cruise and also bend if it snags and slip free instead of snapping your line.

The reservoir is also popular among trollers, and a gold-colored Rapala has long been a favorite for the reservoir because it mimics a perch.

Pop gear and other trolling rigs are also popular, and some anglers use lead-core line or downriggers to get deep.

The cool, wet spring is paying off for anglers. Trout fishing has been fair to good during spring and will likely to continue being good into midsummer as the big snowpack keeps water temperature cool.

The big influx of water also floods the edges of the reservoir, which sparks aquatic insects that fish seek and makes the fish accessible to anglers.

While most fly anglers will want to strip streamers and nymphs with a sinking line, be on the lookout for fish rising to insect hatches.

Magic has a reputation for wind, so it’s usually good to plan your fishing for mornings and evenings to avoid those afternoon gusts.

But Gould points out there are other options for anglers nearby, such as Big Wood River or Silver Creek if it’s too windy to get out on the reservoir.

Part of the reason for Magic’s large trout is its abundant perch population. The reservoir is a favorite for ice anglers, and those perch also bite during summer, but they’re not a gimme.

Chapman said the location of perch and what they will bite on changes from season to season, so it takes some effort to get them.

He also said there are smallmouth bass, with the largest in the 3- to 4-pound range.

(c) 2011, The Idaho Statesman (Boise, Idaho).

Visit The Idaho Statesman online at http://www.idahostatesman.com.

Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

Roger Phillips

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