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Chinook season in Idaho about to hit full stride. Here's the scouting report

Saving salmon: Why these remarkable fish matter to the Northwest

For hundreds of thousands of years, wild ocean salmon have been coming to the Pacific Northwest. Now, their existence is under threat, along with the communities they support.
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For hundreds of thousands of years, wild ocean salmon have been coming to the Pacific Northwest. Now, their existence is under threat, along with the communities they support.

Salmon, Snake, Clearwater and Lochsa Rivers (Chinook)

Chinook Salmon season is about to arrive in full force. Anglers have already been fishing stretches of the Salmon, Snake and Clearwater rivers with moderate success — the best catch rates have come on the mainstem Clearwater, North Fork Clearwater and Lower Salmon River. Seasons on the Upper Salmon, South Fork Salmon and Lochsa rivers are scheduled to open June 23, with fishing open seven days a week. Harvests are expected to be limited, so the seasons will likely end pretty fast once the fish arrive in serious numbers. Chinook can be caught on a variety of baits and lures. Roe balls, tuna balls, plugs, and brightly jigs, yarn and streamers are a good place to start. Trolling plugs, plunking lures and bottom-bouncing baits are go-to methods, depending on where you fish. The rules and limits vary from place to place and year to year — I recommend visiting the Idaho Fish & Game website before you head out.

Getting there: Visit the Idaho Fish and Game website for a complete list of locations, salmon counts, special seasons and rules, and the latest harvest reports.

This enormous 4-year-old spring chinook, about 36 inches long and weighing 10 to 12 pounds each, elicited gasps from passersby as Idaho Fish and Game employees scooped the fish from their truck and slipped them into the Boise River. The fish were

Ben Ross Reservoir (bass, crappie)

Treasure Valley anglers looking to try something new might consider an adventure north to Ben Ross Reservoir near Council. I made the two-hour journey last week and enjoyed a great trip — the reservoir is full, and we had good luck catching largemouth bass on soft plastics and crankbaits. I also picked up a handful of small crappie on panfish jigs. Ben Ross is treated mostly as a catch-and-release fishery, with limited harvest rules in place to protect bass. The strategy seems to be paying off, as most of the fish we caught were healthy adults in the two-pound class. Ben Ross is also home to bluegill and rainbow trout. There is one boat launch, a restroom and limited camping access.

Getting there: Take I-84 west and Highway 95 north past Cambridge. Turn right on Indian Valley Road and follow it to the reservoir.

Lake Cascade (perch, trout)

We are hitting prime conditions for multispecies fishing on Lake Cascade. It’s cool enough for the trout to be active near the surface, yet warm enough for the smallmouth bass to be stirring. And, of course, there are jumbo perch to chase. Most trout anglers are trolling spinners and wedding rings or bait fishing with worms, corn and marshmallows. Bass are starting to take jigs, soft plastics and slow-moving crankbaits. Perch are schooling off points or near weed beds — target them using small jigs tipped with worms on a slip bobber rig. Some anglers also target larger fish by trolling perch-colored Rapalas.

Getting there: Take Idaho 55 north to Cascade. For the latest fishing reports, call Tackle Tom’s at 208-382-4367.

Hagerman Valley (Mixed Bag)

It’s a great time of year to explore the many fishing options available in the Hagerman Valley. The Snake River (bass, trout, catfish, sturgeon), Bell Rapids (trout, bass), Billingsley Creek (trout) and the hatchery lakes (trout, bass) are fun places to try, and all can be found within 20 minutes of Hagerman. If you want to camp and make a weekend of it, I recommend trying one of the local hot springs — Banbury, Miracle and 1,000 Springs are good options. Pack a variety of tackle so you’re prepared to catch multiple species. Spinners, plastics, panfish jigs, flies, worms and Power Bait are good to have in your arsenal.

Getting there: Take I-84 east, take Exit 141 and follow Highway 30 to Hagerman.

Paul Jewell of Beaverton, Ore. lands a wild spring Chinook on the Sandy River near Portland as the annual salmon fishing season begins on the fish that leave the Pacific and swim 900 miles to central Idaho.

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