CLEARWATER COUNTY, Idaho — While many Idaho anglers may have spent the recent cold December days ice fishing or looking for winter steelhead, Joey Walton was chasing a record for smallmouth bass.
Walton had come close to the record several times earlier in the season, before setting out for Dworshak Reservoir the morning of Dec. 13. The Idaho Department of Fish and Game reports that's the day his search was over.
Walton caught a giant smallmouth bass nearly two feet long. After using a measuring board to verify the length -- 23.75 inches -- he released the fish back into the lake and went home with a new catch-and-release state record.
The year 2022 may be remembered as one of the best for Dworshak Reservoir, according to Martin Koenig, IDFG natural resource program coordinator. Koenig wrote in a news release that the reservoir has "produced a string of impressive smallmouth bass."
The previous record was set just seven months earlier, in May 2022, when Travis Wendt of Lewiston caught and released a 23.5-inch bass.
Walton's 23.75-inch bass is equal in length to the overall record-holder, a 23.75-inch, 9.72-pounder that Dan Steigers caught in 2006. Weight is not recorded for catch-and-release records.
If conditions on Dworshak remain consistent, Koenig writes, another record could come soon.
According to Idaho Fish and Game, 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 food needed to grow supersize smallmouth. Fisheries biologist Eli Felts started noticing the abundant small Kokanee in the last two years.
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