Payette River (trout)
The more I fish the Payette, the more I come to appreciate it as an underrated, high-quality trout fishery. A recent trip yielded more than a dozen healthy, wild rainbows, with multiple fish over 18 inches. Fall is a great time to fish the Payette if you can brave the cold. The fast-moving river is known more for rafting during the summer months, but it’s running low and slow right now, with lots of quality holes to fish. Try drifting bait or flies through the deep blue-green pools. Spinners like Rooster Tails and Panther Martins will work, too. Be sure to bundle up.
Getting there: Fish between Horseshoe Bend and Cascade. There are lots of places to stop and hike down to the water along Highway 55.
Boise River (steelhead, trout)
More than 150 hatchery steelhead went into the Boise River last Thursday, with more expected Thursday. Fish are stocked around Glenwood Bridge, Broadway Bridge, Park Center Bridge and Barber Park. Grab your favorite steelhead tackle and head on down to join the party. Jigs, plugs, roe, streamers and bobber setups will work, similar to steelhead fishing methods on the Salmon, Snake or Clearwater Rivers. You don’t need barbless hooks to fish for steelhead in the Boise — all the fish are hatchery fish and may be kept. The limit is three fish per day and nine in possession. You do need a valid license and a salmon/steelhead permit, which costs $12.50. Go check it out and be ready for anything — I once caught a beautiful 18-inch brown trout near Americana Bridge during a steelhead stocking.
Getting there: Trout and steelhead are stocked between Barber Park and the Glenwood Bridge.
Snake River (mixed bag)
Catfish and smallmouth bass continue to be active even as temperatures drop. It’s been a great fall season for warmwater fish. Catfish are hitting on the usual baits, including worms, chicken livers, cutbait and store-bought or homemade stink baits. Bass will take jigs, soft plastics, live worms, streamers, flukes and pretty much anything that resembles a crayfish. If fish aren’t biting on your normal presentation, try slowing down your retrieve. Bass metabolisms slow in colder water, so you may have to fish lures slower than usual to elicit a strike.
Getting there: Fish between C.J. Strike and Brownlee Reservoir. Popular access points include Swan Falls Dam, Celebration Park, Marsing and Steck Park.
Local ponds (trout)
With all the attention on the Boise River steelhead run, it might be a good weekend to hit some local ponds if you’re looking for a calmer setting. Idaho Fish and Game has stocked thousands of catchable-size rainbows as well as some larger adult fish in ponds throughout the Treasure Valley, including Boise, Meridian, Nampa, Caldwell, Middleton and Emmett. Some ponds also have bass, bluegill and catfish that might be enticed to bite on a warmer day. Take a handful of lures along with some worms, marshmallows and a lawn chair.
Getting there: Ponds are available from Boise to Middleton and everywhere in between. Check the Idaho Fish and Game website to see where fish are stocked.