Every Tuesday, we’ll post fishing writer Jordan Rodriguez’s weekly report in the Playing Outdoors blog. His column will appear three Wednesdays per month.
Mores Creek (Kokanee)
The kokanee salmon have begun their bright-red spawning run which, for my money, is one of Idaho’s coolest natural phenomena. Over the next month, hundreds of the silvery fish will turn bright red (with a green head) and charge upstream through Mores Creek and other tributaries of Lucky Peak, Arrowrock, Anderson Ranch and other kokanee-inhabited reservoirs. It is a colorful and inspiring journey as the fish return to the streams where they were born to spawn and eventually die. It also presents a cool opportunity for anglers to sight-fish for fire engine-red salmon in small streams. Be warned — kokanee are notoriously stubborn once they turn red. They will occasionally eat salmon eggs or an egg pattern fly, and they’ll also strike flashy spoons and streamers out of aggression. But be prepared to work hard for the fish you do catch. Kokanee are spectacular fighters if you catch them toward the front end of their run, and they make for great photos. But resist the urge to snag or net fish (it’s illegal) and release at least most of what you catch. The meat isn’t great eating (the fish are dying after all), and the fish are so determined to finish out their life cycle, it seems a shame to cut it short.
Getting there: Explore any small tributary that feeds into a kokanee reservoir. Mores Creek and Grimes Creek are the closest options to Boise — both are located up Highway 21 past Lucky Peak Reservoir.
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Snake River (Bass, Catfish)
The water is low and the fishing is steady on the Snake River. The bass haven’t quite hit their annual fall feeding binge to pack on calories before the winter, but it’s coming. In the meantime, you can pick up plenty of fish on tube jigs, crankbaits, grubs, soft plastics and flies. When the weeds are bad, it’s sometimes easiest to drift fish with a leech pattern, plastic worm or live night crawler. Look for channels, riffles and deep holes behind boulders and other cover. Channel catfish are another common catch on the Snake — on one recent trip, a 31-inch monster pounced on my line and put up one heck of a fight on light bass tackle. Catfish will hit worms and bass lures. To target them specifically, fish with cut bait, chicken livers or catfish doughs and stink baits.
Getting there: Fish between C.J. Strike and Brownlee Reservoirs. The water is low, so watch your motors if you’re boating. There’s also plenty of shore access.
Alpine Lakes (Trout)
Last call for high mountain fishing! The temperatures are dropping fast, so if you haven’t ventured into the mountains yet, now is the time. Hungry rainbow, cutthroat and brook trout are still actively feeding — just be sure to bring warm clothes, especially if you are camping overnight. Small spinners, bait or fly patterns ranging from hoppers and ants to small dry flies and bead-head nymphs will usually do the trick. Small watercraft such as float tubes and rafts greatly increase your fishing options in mountain lakes. The days are still borderline warm enough to stay comfortable in a float tube, but waders will help if you are averse to the cold.
Getting there: There are dozens of alpine lakes available around Cascade, McCall and Stanley. Get your hands on a trail map and do some exploring!
Snake, Salmon and Clearwater Rivers (Chinook salmon, steelhead)
Fall season for steelhead and chinook opened Sept. 1, and it looks like we are in for a good year. The Chinook forecast is for nearly 40,000 fish to return to Idaho, and fish counts at Lower Granite Dam and Bonneville Dam are outpacing the five-year average. Chinook fishing is available on the Snake, Clearwater and a short section of the Lower Salmon rivers. Roe balls, tuna balls, flashy spoons, streamers and brightly colored yarn are some of the baits and lures of choice. Steelhead fishing, which is open on the Snake, Salmon and Lower Clearwater, should be better than last year, according to fish counts. Numbers are below the five-year average, but there’s a higher percentage of big fish that spent two years in the ocean, according to an Idaho Fish and Game press release. Plugs, roe, brightly colored jigs and many of the same techniques anglers use for salmon will catch steelhead, too. A steelhead/salmon permit and barbless hooks are required to fish for both species.
Getting there: Visit the Idaho Fish & Game website for a complete list of salmon and steelhead fish counts, season information, rules and the latest harvest reports.
Jordan Rodriguez has been fishing Idaho waters since he was a teen. Share your fish stories, adventures, tips and tricks at outdoors @idahostatesman.com.