Outdoors Blog

Want catfish? Hit Brownlee Reservoir (fishing report, Oct. 10)

Flathead catfish.
Flathead catfish. Special to the Idaho Statesman

Every Monday, we’ll post fishing writer Jordan Rodriguez’s weekly report in the Playing Outdoors blog. His column appears three Tuesdays per month.

Brownlee Reservoir (Catfish)

The catfish are continuing to bite throughout the Snake River system, and I’ve seen nice catches coming out of Brownlee, in particular. Both flathead and channel cats are plentiful in the reservoir, and with the water levels down, there’s plenty of bank access this time of year. Bait is the best way to tempt a catfish. Cut bait, worms, chicken livers, shrimp and prepared catfish baits all seem to work well. I’ve even heard of anglers using pieces of hotdog or soap. Flatheads — which can grow to unbelievable sizes — are pickier than channel cats. They seem to prefer cut bait, particularly crappie or perch. Catfish also might hit a crankbait or spinnerbait. Fish deep channels and pools of water along rocky shorelines, with your bait near the bottom. A slip sinker setup can help your hook-set ratio, because fish won’t feel the weight of your sinker when they take the bait. There are still boat launches available, and if the catfish aren’t cooperating, try throwing bass tackle for smallmouth or look for schools of crappie or perch.

Getting there: Take I-84 west and access the lake through Weiser on the Idaho side or Huntington on the Oregon side.

South Fork Boise River (Trout)

The South Fork has dropped to winter flows, creating easy access for anglers on foot. The fishing has been good, too, with wild rainbows rising to slurp PMDs, caddis and BWOs late in the afternoon and gobbling hoppers, stonefly nymphs and streamer patterns pretty much any time of day. If the fish are picky, try presenting a hopper or dry fly with a small bead-head nymph trailing underneath to double your chances. Remember: bait isn’t allowed on the South Fork, and only one barbless hook is allowed per lure or fly. Spinners and spoons in silver, black, red, green or rainbow trout pattern will catch fish; just make sure to modify them to a single, barbless hook. The trout limit is two, none under 20 inches — the South Fork is more of a catch-and-release fishery, but it’s hard to beat for big, hard-fighting rainbows and gorgeous fall scenery.

Getting there: Fish between Arrowrock Reservoir and Anderson Ranch Reservoir.

Snake River (Bass)

Fall bass fishing has remained steady on the Snake River, despite higher-than-usual flows for this time of year. Smallmouth continue to aggressively feed on crayfish and smaller fish, and they will readily whack crankbaits, jigs, soft plastics, spinners, swimbaits and more. Fish deep pools, eddies and riffles, or try casting horizontally along rocky shorelines — you’ll be surprised how many fish hang out within just a few feet of the bank. Orange, brown and dark-green colors tend to work best. Fly patterns including leeches, woolly buggars and streamers also will catch smallmouths, as will live worms. Anglers also are catching channel catfish, panfish and a few trout on some stretches of the Snake. Fishing is good from a boat or the bank, but be warned — if you fish on foot, you’ll likely need to wade a little to get to the best spots.

Getting there: Fish between C.J. Strike and Brownlee Reservoirs.   

Snake, Salmon and Clearwater Rivers (Chinook salmon, Steelhead)

No major breakthroughs to report, although reported catch rates improved slightly for both species last week. According to the Fish and Game website, Chinook anglers are putting in nearly 130 hours per fish kept. Actual catch rates are better than that, with unclipped native salmon — which must be released — still outnumbering hatchery keepers by a 3-to-1 margin. On the steelhead side of things, a handful of fish have been caught in the Clearwater and Snake. As of this writing, not much was happening on the Salmon, but things change quickly. Keep your angling friends on speed dial and have your gear ready to roll for when bigger numbers of fish start showing up. Brightly colored hair jigs, streamers, yarn, plugs, spoons, roe and tuna balls are good lure and bait options for both species.

Getting there: Visit the Idaho Fish and 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.