IDAHO FALLS — Chris Tatsumi added an extra split shot weight on his fishing line, adjusted the nightcrawler on the hook and cast it back into the swirling water just below the falls in downtown Idaho Falls.
He was only steps away from the Broadway Bridge.
For people who have lived here for decades, the falls and its rocks are fun friends you can count on who never seem to change much. For newcomers, like Tatsumi, passing through on vacation and seeing the river and its passage for the first time, it was meeting a vibrant new personality.
“I was here two nights ago and people were pulling out a lot of fish, one after another, but that was in the evening,” Tatsumi said. He was there about lunchtime on Tuesday and the action was dead.
Fishing happens here every day surrounded by busy traffic noise, parents pushing strollers along the greenbelt path, puffing joggers and quiet bench sitters staring at the water.
Downtown fishing brings with it hopes of catching big trout or even bigger sturgeon.
Billy Rooster Frävel of Idaho Falls makes a habit of fishing downtown during the week and out of town on weekends.
“During the week I fish here in town two or three times a week,” Frävel said. “I’m at 465 fish in the net so far this year. I keep a count and just write a number on the calendar. I went Sunday, and I got 17 which landed me at 465.”
A glass-half-full sort of guy, Frävel said a recent house fire landed his family in a downtown hotel for a couple of weeks until more permanent arraignments could be made. His new address put him next door to the river.
“I’ve been catching huge fish right in front of the Candlewood Suites right here in town right off the Pancheri Bridge,” he said. “I’ve never fished there, and it turns out there is quite a bit of fish there.”
Frävel’s most recent prize was a 7-pound brown trout caught next to the bridge.
“There’s some honkers in there,” said James Brower, regional communications manager for Idaho Department of Fish and Game about the downtown fishery. “It really is kind of neat to have that so close to town. It can definitely stand more pressure than it gets.”
Brower said, although the fish are in there, they’re not always easy to catch.
“It’s not quite as easy to fish a river as it is to fish a pond,” he said. “The big trick for fishing on the river for me is finding those seams, where the water transitions. That’s where fish are feeding. Eddies and places where the water pools are spots where the fish go to find rest. They’ll be holding in there.”
Brower said expect to find browns, cutthroats, rainbows and sturgeon in the downtown river.
“I’m no expert by any means,” said Kara Johnson, a pre-nursing student and a mother of three in Idaho Falls. “I would say the dam by the dog park and (the river) near Monroc (a concrete contractor) are my favorite spots.”
Johnson said she likes the convenience of downtown fishing. It’s close and wheelchair accessible for her young son who has cerebral palsy.
“It makes me feel good being outside, hearing the water, feeling the weather,” she said. “It’s adrenaline pumping knowing that your next bite could be a trophy fish. ... I can take my family and we can have one person fly fishing, another bait fishing with and without bobbers, and I can do my personal favorite: lure fishing, all for the price of gas to get there and a couple bucks for worms.”
Some of the monster-sized fish in the downtown section of the Snake River are sturgeon. Since 2007, Fish and Game has been planting a couple of hundred 2- to 4-foot juvenile sturgeon each year at different points from Gem Lake on the south to the dog park on the north. Over the years, some of the sturgeon have put on some size. Frävel posted a photo of himself catching a big boy on Facebook.
“That (sturgeon) was just short of 5 feet long, it was 56 or 57 inches,” Frävel said talking about the photo. “And that was right along the greenbelt here in town.”
Frävel said fishing for him is therapeutic.
“It’s kind of a recovery thing for me,” he said. “I’ve been clean and sober for over 10 years now, and it’s a productive way for me to spend my time.
“Fishing is an incredible thing. Things you learn fishing, you can use throughout your life. Patience and diligence and pride in your work, stuff like that.”
Of course some people just like the beauty of the Snake River running through town.
“This is a beautiful place,” said Tatsumi, who was visiting from Phoenix, and catching nothing. “I can see why people want to live here.”