Salmon, Snake and Clearwater Rivers (Steelhead)
Fall steelhead season is in full swing! After a slow start, fish counts picked up enough for Fish & Game to open a limited harvest on hatchery fish with a clipped adipose fin. Anglers may keep two fish per day, although all fish longer than 28 inches must be released on the Clearwater River, its tributaries and the Snake River downstream of Couse Creek. I went steelhead fishing on the Salmon River for the first time last weekend, and our group landed 19 fish over a two-and-a-half-day stretch — stellar catch rates for steelhead. All of our fish were “A-run” steelhead in the 24-to-28-inch range. Numbers are down for larger “B-run” fish that have spent more than one year in the ocean (hence the 28-inch restriction on the Snake and Clearwater). We caught our fish back trolling with side planers and plugs. Depending on the water conditions where you fish, floating a jig-and-bobber rig or drift fishing with streamers, yarn and roe might work best. Remember to buy a steelhead permit ($12.50) and de-barb your hooks.
Getting there: Visit the Idaho Fish & Game website for a complete list of fish counts, seasons and rules and the latest fishing reports.
South Fork Boise River (Trout)
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If you’re looking to catch big trout on the fly, the South Fork is the place to be. Flows are ideal for fishing, and anglers are catching big rainbows along with the occasional bull trout. Caddis hatches have been the ticket, especially on warm afternoons and evenings. Baetis, PMDs and crane flies are also possibilities. If the bugs aren’t hatching and the fish are feeding subsurface, try throwing prince nymphs, copper johns, pheasant tails or chunky streamers. Traditional anglers also can fish the South Fork with spinners, spoons and Rapalas — just be sure to replace trebles with single, barbless hooks. Bait is prohibited. While the South Fork is primarily treated as a catch-and-release fishery, there is a two-trout limit through Nov. 30 — none under 20 inches.
Getting there: Fish between Anderson Ranch Dam and Arrowrock Reservoir.
Snake River (Mixed Bag)
Fall fishing has been going strong for a variety of species on the Snake River. From smallmouth bass to catfish and sturgeon, anglers are enjoying success all along the river, including the reservoirs. For bass, drift soft plastics, tube jigs, streamers or bait through current near rocky structure. If the moss isn’t bad, you can also fish with crankbaits, spinnerbaits and jerk baits. When choosing your lures, try to mimic the color patterns of smallmouths’ favorite food — crayfish. Channel and flathead catfish are still biting as well. Worms, cut bait, chicken livers and shrimp are usually the best options, but catfish occasionally will chase down a spinnerbait, crankbait or jig. I’m also seeing some big sturgeon getting caught on the Snake. Sturgeon usually dwell in deep water below dams (Swan Falls and C.J. Strike, to name a couple) and they will take pickled herring, squid, hatchery trout and other cut bait. Make sure to follow the special tackle and handling restrictions if you plan to catch a sturgeon.
Getting there: Fish between C.J. Strike Reservoir near Bruneau and Brownlee Reservoir on the Idaho-Oregon border.
Local Ponds (Mixed Bag)
With the shorter days, it can be difficult to make long fishing trips. Local ponds offer a quick and easy angling opportunity, and they can be very productive waters. It is still warm enough for bass and panfish to be active, and I have seen a couple monster largemouth come out of small ponds in recent weeks. Soft plastics, spinnerbaits and crankbaits are good options. Many ponds also have freshly stocked trout, which will be loving the cooler water. Spinners, flies and bait are good options for trout. Some ponds are mossed over this time of year, but look for openings near inlet and outlet streams. If it’s too weedy to fish a lure cleanly, stationary fishing with a worm and marshmallow or power bait might do the trick.
Getting there: Fish & Game stocks ponds throughout Boise, Meridian, Nampa, Eagle, Middleton and Caldwell.
Jordan Rodriguez has been fishing Idaho waters since he was a teen. Share your fish stories, adventures, tips and tricks at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Come ice fishing with me
Winter is coming, and I’m teaching an ice fishing class this fall through The College of Idaho’s Community Learning program in Caldwell. Join me Nov. 14 and 16 for “Ice Fishing 101,” which focuses on the gear, tackle and knowledge you’ll need to catch fish through the ice this winter. The course costs $59, which includes four hours of classroom instruction and activities (6-8 p.m. Nov. 14 and 16 in the Marty Holly Athletics Center) and a Saturday ice fishing trip at a date TBD. Every participant receives a tackle goodie bag, plus chances to win awesome prizes. Register online at www.cofifun.com. For more info, call (208) 459-5188 or email email@example.com.