Press Release

Fish composition survey of Lake Lowell indicates a stable fishery with quality bluegill and bass opportunity

Tiger muskies, walleye absent in survey

Fisheries biologists in the Southwest Region recently completed a comprehensive survey of the Lake Lowell fishery, the first such survey since 2006.

“With a comprehensive fish community survey like this, we are interested in determining if the relative abundance of each species in Lake Lowell has changed over time,” said Regional Fisheries Biologist Phil Branigan. “Having this information allows us to evaluate our management strategies and, if needed, develop new management recommendations that will ultimately make fishing better for Lake Lowell anglers.”

Biologists are currently working to process the data from the survey. A detailed, final report with analysis of the results should be available to the public within the next few months. If you’re curious what the report will look like (or if you are just a fish wonk who likes geeking out on this sort of thing), you can see the final report from the 2006 Lake Lowell fish community survey here, on Pages 35-42.

While it will be a little while before the fish nerds — we obviously mean that affectionately — get to see that final report, there are a ton of preliminary tidbits (and photos) gleaned from the survey, about which almost any angler would be interested. Check out the photos below and read more about the survey and what Fish and Game biologists observed in the field.

“There was no shortage of quality bass represented in our survey, and we observed fish that were in good body condition for their size – they were plump."

About the survey

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Biologists sampled Lake Lowell using three different methods to obtain a representative sample of the fishery’s species composition: Gill nets (top), fish traps (middle), and night electrofishing.

Lake Lowell is a relatively diverse fishery, and certain sampling methods are more effective for different species.

Gamefish snippets

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Let’s start with the largemouth, because that’s what many anglers associate with Lake Lowell. Of the fish sampled during this year’s survey, average length was just over 14 inches and average weight was just shy of 1.5 pounds. The biggest largemouth sampled was north of 17 inches and 2 pounds.

Largemouth accounted for 15 percent of all fish sampled, which is pretty consistent with what biologists have observed in the past.

“There was no shortage of quality bass represented in our survey, and we observed fish that were in good body condition for their size – they were plump,” Branigan added.

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Continuing on the gamefish trend, biologists also sampled some impressive bluegill. The average size of bluegill sampled was nearly 8.5 inches and 0.63 pounds. The largest was over 10.25 inches and 1.23 pounds.

Bluegill accounted for 15 percent of all fish sampled, which was also consistent with the 2006 survey.

Non-game species and the “big picture”

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Jumping to the non-game fish: Largescale suckers and common carp continue to dominate Lake Lowell, constituting 18 percent and 20 percent of the total catch, respectively. Those numbers are nearly identical to those calculated in the 2006 survey.

"This is a glass-half-empty, glass-half-full situation for anglers," Branigan said. "On the one hand, things have remained relatively stable since our last survey, and Lake Lowell continues to produce quality fishing for bass and bluegill, despite the abundance of non-game species. On the other hand, the community structure is pretty locked in, and it will be difficult to increase populations of bass and bluegill without first significantly reducing the non-game fish population -- particularly carp." 

Snapshots of diversity

With bass, bluegill, largescale sucker and common carp comprising 68 percent of all fish caught during the survey, you might be wondering about the remaining 32 percent. It’s in that balance that you begin to see the diversity of species that call Lake Lowell home. 

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This will not come as a surprise to anyone who follows the Idaho catch-and-release record book, but Lake Lowell supports a solid channel catfish fishery – one that has historically been underutilized. The current catch-and-release record channel catfish, coming in at 33 inches, was caught in Lake Lowell in 2020. The largest channel cat sampled during this year’s survey (pictured above) wasn’t far off that record at 29.3 inches and weighing 9.3 pounds. The average length of catfish sampled was over 19 inches and average weight was about 3.7 pounds.

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Biologists hauled in a small number of these odd-looking fish while they were night electroshocking. This non-native species, known as a pond loach or oriental weatherfish, have been introduced to Southern Idaho and are known to be present in the Boise River system.

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In addition to bluegill, other panfish represented in the catch during this year’s surveys were crappie and yellow perch – although their abundance was relatively low.

Tiger muskies absent in survey

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Over the last couple years, anglers have been eagerly calling the Southwest Region for a report on the status of the tiger muskie fishery at Lake Lowell. Unfortunately, no tiger muskie were sampled in the 2022 survey, despite Fish and Game stocking between 1,000-2,000 individuals each year since 2019.  Biologists said that it is unclear why tiger muskie were not encountered, but relatively low stocking densities might explain their absence in the survey.

"Given the absence of these fish in our survey, we are really interested in hearing from anglers who catch tiger muskie in Lake Lowell," Branigan said. "If you happen to catch one, please make note of its total length and give us a call at the Southwest Region Office."

Ditto for walleye

Fortunately in this case, no walleye were sampled during the 2022 survey, despite a few reports of anglers encountering them at Lake Lowell.

Fish and Game provides walleye in a few, carefully selected reservoirs that are in closed systems so the fish can’t migrate into other waters, and where walleye are suitable for those bodies of water.

Lake Lowell is not one of those reservoirs. Fisheries managers have concerns that an established walleye population could negatively impact Lake Lowell’s established and popular panfish and largemouth bass fisheries, potentially interfering with what appear to be relatively stable populations.

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Idaho Department of Fish and Game/Phil Branigan