Idaho Fish and Game’s Hagerman Wildlife Management Area opened for fishing on March 1, and it provides lots of early season opportunities to catch rainbow trout and the Hagerman area's famed "banana trout."
Idaho Fish and Game's Hagerman Wildlife Management Area just south of the City of Hagerman on U.S. 30 is Idaho’s first Wildlife Management Area. It has about a dozen ponds and lakes, and amenities there include bathrooms, picnic tables, a handicap accessible dock, a fish-viewing pond, and more. Hagerman has long been a favorite destination for early season anglers thanks to its mild climate, good amenities, and ample fishing opportunity.
During spring, it’s common to see groups of friends and families fishing, relaxing, and enjoying the scenery at this picturesque location, where springs spill out of canyon walls into the Snake River. It's often a festive atmosphere -- a celebration of the earliest hints of warm, sunny weather -- and this year was no exception, according to Lee Garwood, a Fish and Game conservation officer for the Magic Valley Region.
“Despite the fishing being a little slow on the Saturday of opening weekend, according to about 50 people I checked in with, everyone was having a good time,” said Garwood. “It was obviously spring fever. There were people out everywhere on the river.”
Among the people at Hagerman during the opener were Viola Allphin and Patty Bryant, both of Jerome, who hiked around the ponds and picked up trash while their husbands fished at one of the Oster Lakes on the WMA.
Kyle Letterle, of Boise, spent most of that first Saturday fly fishing Oster Lake #1 with a friend.
Prior to the opener, Fish and Game stocked about 5,200 catchable trout in the various ponds on the WMA. While it was easy to spot fish in the crystal-clear Oster Lakes — particularly the yellow variant of rainbow trout for which Hagerman WMA is famous — catching them was a different story during the opening weekend, according to Letterle.
“It was tough getting them to bite,” Letterle said. “We saw maybe three to four caught per hour around that pond.”
That’s likely to change: As the weather continues to warm in southern Idaho, the fishing action will, too — and there will be plenty of trout to catch throughout the rest of the spring (including some big ones).
Joe Chapman, Fish and Game’s Hagerman Hatchery manager, said he and his team will continue stocking about 880 rainbow trout each into Riley Pond and Oster Lake 1 weekly throughout March. They will also continue to stock Oster 2, 3 and 4 with between 350 and 450 catchable trout once a month throughout the spring.
In addition to the catchable sized trout that are part of Fish and Game’s regular stocking, a commercial trout grower in the Hagerman Valley donated some larger trout, which Fish and Game stocked in the WMA ponds a week after the opener on Friday, March 8.
“We were fortunate to receive some large (3 pounds on average) broodstock rainbow trout from Clear Springs Foods that were stocked into Riley Pond, Oster 1, Oster 2, and Oster 3,” said Chapman, adding that some of those donated trout were stocked in other Magic Valley waters, including Dierkes Lake and Filer Ponds.
In addition to the trout fishing, warmwater species — including bass and bluegill of various age classes — can be found everywhere on the Hagerman WMA, except for Anderson 1, said Joe Thiessen, Regional Fisheries Biologist for the Magic Valley Region. The populations have re-established themselves well since they were restocked in 2016, after Fish and Game biologists removed carp from the ponds
According to Thiessen, Riley Pond is producing decently sized bluegill and has good numbers of the fish to be caught, and Hagerman West Pond is home to bass and bullhead catfish that are near or larger than current state records.
“Last fall, we sampled good numbers of largemouth bass ranging from 16 to 23 inches, and 23.5 inches is the state record,” Thiessen said. “There are very healthy numbers of enormous bullhead catfish ranging from 10 to 16 inches which would break the current catch and release state record.”