Mention the possibility of going fishing at C.J. Strike
Reservoir to any of Idaho's multi-species anglers and
their head may explode. Too many possibilities and often
just too little time!
Should you cast small jigs in the tulies for crappie
and bluegill, or retrieve a crayfish pattern crankbait
near submerged boulders waiting for a smallmouth bass to
pounce? Or would a largemouth bass engulf a topwater plug
underneath some overhanging brush? And that's just in the
shallows. Moving offshore... Could you go toe-to-fin with
a gnarly, old channel catfish or might you find a hungry
school of yellow perch and catch them with some night
crawlers fished near the bottom? And don't forget the
behemoth white sturgeon that use the reservoir like a
smorgasbord. The options are limitless!
Now before somebody has a heart attack, let's slow
down, catch our breath, and talk about just one aspect of
this popular fishing destination, the rainbow trout.
C.J. Strike Dam, built in the early 1950s, impounds
both the Snake and Bruneau Rivers. Although rainbow trout
and native redband trout spawn in the headwaters and
tributaries of these river drainages, nearly all rainbow
trout found within the reservoir are produced in one of
two Idaho Department of Fish and Game's trout hatcheries
located in Nampa and Hagerman. Fish and Game has
consistently stocked C.J. Strike since shortly after the
reservoir was impounded.
C.J. Strike Reservoir offers a unique set of
circumstances that influence the success of rainbow trout
stocking and the fishery. On the positive side, the water
levels at C.J. Strike fluctuate very little, so even in
drought years the reservoir is full. Also on the positive
side, the reservoir is highly productive, especially the
Bruneau Arm. Abundant forage such as zooplankton, midge
larvae, and other aquatic insects create an ideal forage
base. Stocked rainbow trout gorge themselves on this
abundance and are able to grow rapidly. Rainbow trout
stocked as three- to four-inch fingerlings in April will
reach 14- to 15-inches by November of the same year, a
growth rate that is quite remarkable compared to other
systems in Idaho.
On the other hand, life isn't always so pleasant for CJ
rainbows. The abundant bass, catfish, and pikeminnow don't
hesitate to take advantage of the naivety of recently
stocked fingerlings, and forage on them heavily,
especially during the first week after stocking. Predatory
fish with big enough mouths even chomp down on some of the
eight to ten-inch catchable rainbows. Don't forget the
fish-eating birds too. It can be a tough world for a newly
planted hatchery trout. In high water years, rainbow trout
may get free rides either through the turbines or over the
spillway. Although the survivors create a popular winter
and spring fishery in the tailwater, these fish suffer
higher than average mortality rates and are permanently
lost from the reservoir population. To top it off, during
low water years, water temperatures and oxygen levels in
the reservoir may approach lethal levels for trout.
So why bother? Well, simply put, under the right
conditions fishing can be phenomenal. It turns out that
the rapid growth rates can make up for the poor survival.
And Fish and Game is continually adjusting stocking
strategies to maximize the number of survivors. A recent
evaluation conducted by Fish and Game personnel revealed
that by simply changing the location where fish are
stocked and the time at which fish are stocked, survival
rates can be improved and thus more fish are available for
Based on this evaluation, Fish and Game has established
a set of stocking guidelines for CJ Strike. For example,
studies determined that when catchable rainbows were
stocked at the Cottonwood boat ramp, anglers harvested
four times the number of fish compared to stocking fish in
the Snake River Arm. Therefore, all catchable rainbow
trout are now stocked at this location and allowed to
disperse throughout the reservoir on their own.
Additionally, the study learned that when Snake River
flows exceed 15,000 cubic feet per second, excessive
numbers of trout are washed over the dam. Knowing this,
Fish and Game now delays hatchery trout releases until
river flows drop below this level.
Using these stocking criteria, IDFG has stocked about
25,000 catchable and 200,000 fingerling rainbow trout into
C.J. Strike Reservoir annually. If surplus fish are
available, these numbers can fluctuate. For instance,
during the early 1990s, six times as many catchables and
about two and a half times more fingerlings were stocked
annually. These fish eventually created what anglers refer
to as CJ Strike's "glory days" during the mid 1990s. Since
then, stocking levels have returned to normal levels, yet
catch rates remain great. And the future looks even
As part of the CJ Strike relicensing agreement, Idaho
Power - as a term of mitigation - will take over stocking
of C.J. Strike Reservoir and will be required to stock an
equal number of fingerlings (200,000) and about two a half
times more catchables (65,000) than have been stocked by
Fish and Game in the past. This will be great for rainbow
trout anglers in southern Idaho. Not only will stocking
levels in C.J. Strike increase, but by banking the 25,000
catchables and 200,000 fingerlings that Fish and Game
formerly stocked, fisheries personnel will be able to
either stock more rainbow trout into other Idaho waters or
further increase stocking rates in C.J. Strike.
So, what are you waiting for? Get a license, rig up a
rod, head for C.J. Strike Reservoir, and give its fast
growing and plentiful rainbow trout a try!
How to Get to C.J. Strike
At Mountain Home, follow the signs to the Mountain Home Airbase. To
access the Bruneau Arm, turn south at the Bruneau turnoff (State Highway
51) and continue 14.3 miles to the Loverage Bridge access (located where
the highway cross the Snake River Arm of C.J. Strike Res.). To reach
Cove Arm launch, continue 3.5 miles and turn north at the Cove Arm,
Crane Falls sign. Follow the signs, down the hill and to the north for
6.5 miles (caution: the last 1.5 miles is extremely rough gravel road).
To access Bruneau Arm and C.J. Strike Dam, continue through Bruneau
and watch for signs for C.J. Strike Wildlife Management Area (4.1 miles
past Bruneau on Highway 78), Bruneau Narrows (7.5 miles), Cottonwood
Campground (5.7 miles), BLM Cove Campground (8.8 miles), Black Sands
Resort (10.2 miles), and C.J. Strike Dam (11.8 miles). Take the road
below the dam to access the launch below the dam and Airbase Docks (13.0
miles from Bruneau).
C.J. Strike Dam can also be reached from Mountain Home by taking
State highway 67 via Grandview, or gravel road cut-off to Strike Dam
road (21.2 miles from Mountain Home).
- Full Service facilities can be found at Black Sands Resort on the
Main Reservoir, and the Cottonwood Campground on the Bruneau Arm.
- Limited camping and parking is available at the Air Base Docks,
Cove Campground on the main reservoir and the launch below the dam.
- Boat access only is found at Crane Falls, Loverage Bridge.
- Fishing access is possible at the C.J. Strike Wildlife Management