Every Friday, we’ll post fishing writer Jordan Rodriguez’s weekly report in the Playing Outdoors blog. His column appears three Tuesdays per month.
Salmon River (Steelhead)
I’m hearing good things about spring steelhead fishing, and catch rates on the Salmon River are ranging between 6 and 15 hours per fish on the most popular stretches of river, according to the latest harvest reports. Folks are catching fish in Riggins, and the fishing is picking up near Stanley, too. It appears the roads into Stanley are finally clear, and the Forest Service has officially reopened the nearby Mormon Bend and Salmon River campgrounds to accommodate steelhead anglers ($5 per night, restrooms are available but no water or trash collection). Like most rivers, the Salmon is running high and cloudy. Anglers seem to be having the most luck slow-bouncing yarn, jigs, roe and streamers. Be patient with the fish, and with your fellow anglers — it’s sure to be crowded in most of the popular fishing holes.
Getting there: Visit the Idaho Fish and Game website for a complete list of steelhead counts, special seasons and rules, and the latest harvest reports.
C.J. Strike Reservoir (Mixed Bag)
Trout fishing remains steady at Strike, and warm water species are starting to show signs of life. For trout, anglers are trolling with pop gear, spinners and Rapalas, or drifting worms and marshmallows from shore. For crappie and perch, try fishing in the Narrows (from a boat) or find coves that measure 20 to 40 feet deep (from the bank). Small jigs are the ticket, especially tipped with worms for perch or crappie nibbles for crappie. Bass fishing should pick up once the water temperatures get into the 50s. For now, fish slowly around rocky points and outcroppings or pitch soft plastics deep into submerged cover, but be prepared to put in some work.
Getting there: Take I-84 east to Mountain Home and head south through Bruneau or Grandview.
Hagerman Ponds (Trout)
Pond fishing is one of the best (see: only) options right now. If you want a change of scenery from the Treasure Valley pond scene, head east to Hagerman. The waters near the state and national fish hatcheries are generously stocked with rainbow trout, including the highly sought-after “banana” albino variety. The Hagerman ponds also seem to have more of the huge, brood stock fish swimming around. Spinners, spoons, Rapalas, worms, marshmallows, Power Bait and flies are all viable options. Some of the ponds also have bass, bluegill and even sturgeon, so bring a variety of tackle and be ready for whatever comes along.
Getting there: Head east on I-84, take Exit 147, head south and follow the signs to the hatchery.
C. Ben Ross Reservoir (Mixed Bag)
Disclaimer: I don’t have any first-hand reports from Ben Ross. But based on what I know about the reservoir, I think it might be a good bet for some early-season success. Ben Ross is home to rainbow trout, crappie, bluegill and largemouth bass. I’ve had good success catching bass on soft plastics and spinnerbaits in years past, and I’ve also seen anglers specifically target trout and crappie with bait and panfish jigs. The reservoir is sure to be full, but you should be able to get a boat launched. For bass, fish submerged cover around the edges, and be aware of the two-fish limit (none between 12 and 16 inches). Trout and panfish tend to hang out near the rocky dam, where they are within range of shore. If you want to check out water temperatures on a similar lake a little closer to home, check out Mann Creek Reservoir (which, by the way, is scheduled to be stocked with 2,400 trout next week).
Getting there: Take I-84 or Idaho 52 west to Highway 95. Follow 95 north past Weiser, Midvale and Cambridge, then turn right on West Indian Valley Road (brown signs are posted for C. Ben Ross Reservoir).
LURE OF THE WEEK
Swimbait: This week’s lure is a versatile fish catcher. Swimbaits work for any species that feeds on smaller fish, which includes virtually every sought-after gamefish in Idaho. There are two keys to having success with swimbaits. First, you want the right size and color patterns for the species you are targeting. The two pictured lures mimic a bluegill and a perch — two popular forage species for bass, trout and walleye. If you are targeting panfish, size your lures down to something minnow-sized. Or for larger species like tiger muskie, Mackinaw trout or big largemouth bass, jumbo-sized trout or kokanee swimbaits will do the trick. Secondly, you want to give your lure a realistic presentation. Some styles are meant to be slowly jigged back to the bank or boat. Others with jointed or soft plastic bodies will “swim” as you reel them in. Experiment with different lures and retrieves until you find a winning combination. Soft plastic varieties like the Storm brand lures pictured come in multipacks for just a few bucks. Some of the nicer, jointed versions can be pretty pricey — but many trophy hunters swear by them.
Jordan Rodriguez has been fishing Idaho waters since he was a teen. Share your fish stories, adventures, tips and tricks at outdoors @idahostatesman.com.