Want to catch big trout? The Boise River’s south fork is where you want to be

The South Fork of the Boise River is a great place to chase big rainbow trout on a fly rod.
The South Fork of the Boise River is a great place to chase big rainbow trout on a fly rod. Photo courtesy of Jay Panchal.

I’ll start this week’s fishing report with an important announcement: Idaho Fish & Game is seeking input on rule changes and fisheries management, giving anglers a chance to make our voices heard.

Anglers are encouraged to participate in the review process for new fishing regulations and management plans drafted earlier this year. To make your public comment before the commission votes at its November meeting, visit the IDFG website or email

Now, here’s a look at where the fish are biting.

Tight lines!

South Fork Boise River (Trout)

If you want to catch big trout, the South Fork Boise River is the place to be. The river is known for producing giant rainbow and bull trout along with good numbers of whitefish and occasional Kokanee salmon. Regulations call for single, barbless hooks on artificial lures only, so the South Fork is popular with the fly crowd. Caddis, pink and hopper imitations have been the best options on the surface of late. Subsurface flies like streamers, leeches and nymphs are usually a good bet, too. Spin anglers can also hunt South Fork monsters with spinners, Rapalas and swim bait — just make sure to remove the barbs from your hooks. The trout limit is two — none under 20 inches — until Nov. 30.

Getting there: Fish along the national forest wilderness between Anderson Ranch Dam and Neal Bridge.

Lake Lowell (Bass, Catfish)

Motorized boat season closes Sept. 30, but there’s still good fishing to be had at Lake Lowell south of Nampa. A quick morning trip with my buddy Caleb recently produced more than 15 bass, including a nice 3.5 pounder and a half-dozen fish over two pounds. We were in a boat, but most of our fish were caught within casting distance of shore using plastic worms, jigs and crankbaits. As the water level drops, look to fish the remaining submerged weed line or rocky cover. Lowell also has a healthy population of catfish, which will gobble live worms, shrimp, cut bait, chicken livers or crankbaits.

Getting there: Head south from Nampa or Caldwell. The boat launches close Sept. 30, but there is plentiful shore absence, especially along the dams.

Anderson Ranch Reservoir (Kokanee)

Many anglers stop fishing for Kokanee after the early fall spawning run, but plenty of silver-phase salmon remain in reservoirs like Anderson Ranch. I’ve seen some nice hauls over the past couple weeks, with anglers also catching landlocked Chinook salmon, rainbow trout and smallmouth bass. Trolling with pop gear and small lures tipped with corn is the ticket for Kokanee and Chinook, which tend to hang out a little shallower as the water cools. If trolling isn’t your gig, look for bass and trout congregating around rocky points as the water levels drop.

Getting there: Head east on Interstate 84, take exit 95 and follow U.S. 20 northeast to Anderson Ranch Dam Road or forest road 61 to Curlew boat launch.

Don’t get left in the cold

My upcoming Ice Fishing 101 class is nearly sold out, but we still have a few spots left. The course will be held Nov. 13 and 15 on The College of Idaho campus in Caldwell. Students will receive hands-on instruction, insider tips, a tackle goodie bag and more! The class also includes an ice fishing trip (date TBA by weather).

To register, go to C of I’s marketplace website or call (208) 459-5166. You can also email me for more info.