Outdoors Blog

Crane Falls, Horsethief offer good options for Memorial Day (fishing report, May 26)

Pictured is a largemouth bass from Crane Falls, where fishing has been hot for bass, trout and panfish.
Pictured is a largemouth bass from Crane Falls, where fishing has been hot for bass, trout and panfish. Courtesy of Jordan Rodriguez

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

Crane Falls Lake (Mixed Bag)

Small lake fishing continues to produce thanks to high water levels and rising temperatures. A friend and I hit Crane Falls last weekend, and we put a dozen bass in the boat, including an 18-inch beauty. We had the most success flipping plastics around submerged weed beds, and we also picked up a couple fish on spinnerbaits and crankbaits. Bluegill, perch and pumpkinseed also joined our party — small crankbaits, jigs or live worms are the best bets for panfish. There were a few boats trolling for trout, and they were enjoying decent catch rates as well. Remember: Crane Falls is electric trolling motors only, and there are trophy regulations in place on bass (two fish, none under 20 inches). Nearby Cove Arm and C.J. Strike are options if you want to fire up the outboard motor.

Getting there: Take I-84 east to Mountain Home and then follow Highway 78 south toward Bruneau. Signs point the way to a winding dirt road down to Crane Falls.

Snake River (Chinook Salmon)

Salmon anglers got some bad news this week when Fish & Game closed spring fishing on the Salmon and Clearwater rivers due to low fish counts. All sections of those rivers closed on May 24, leaving the Snake River between Dug Bar and Hells Canyon Dam as the only fishable stretch. Fish & Game commissioners have postponed a decision on whether to open a summer Chinook season on the Clearwater, Upper Salmon and South Fork Salmon rivers. It doesn’t look very promising right now, but stay tuned — and keep your fingers crossed.

Getting there: Chinook fishing is only allowed on the Snake River between Dug Bar and Hells Canyon Dam. A salmon/steelhead permit is required.

Horsethief Reservoir (Trout)

I’m hearing good things from Horsethief. Camping is available, the boat launches are available, and the trout fishing has been solid. It looks like Fish & Game’s restocking efforts — which began last spring after the lake was drained in late 2015 — have been successful, with anglers reporting nice trout up to 17 inches long. Spinners, flies, worms, marshmallows, Power Bait and trolling with pop gear or Rapalas are all productive methods for catching fish. If you make a weekend of it and want some more variety, Warm Lake and Lake Cascade are within shouting distance. Check in at Tackle Tom’s in Cascade for the latest local intelligence.

A note about camping: Horsethief’s 85 campsites on the west side of the reservoir opened in mid-May. However, the 32 sites located on the east side — known as Horsethief Creek — are closed for hazard-tree removal and construction. Camping at Horsethief operates on a first-come, first-served basis. All sites are primitive (no electricity or drinking water).

Getting there: Take Highway 55 north to Cascade and turn right on Warm Lake Road. The turnoff to Horsetheif is about eight miles in.

Owyhee Reservoir (Mixed Bag)

If you’ve been thinking about making a trip across state lines to try Owyhee Reservoir, now is the time. The lake is as full as it has been in a decade, and fishing has been outstanding for crappie, bass and more. Crappie are always a big draw, and there have been some 100-fish days reported. Brightly colored panfish jigs fished in coves and near rocky outcroppings are the ticket. The bass bite has also been strong, with fish taking spinnerbaits, jigs and soft plastics around submerged cover. Both largemouth and smallmouth are available. Owyhee also is known for big catfish and rainbow trout, so be ready for anything! Make sure you grab your Oregon season or day license.

Getting there: Head west through Marsing and cross over the Oregon border. Popular access points include the Owyhee Dam and Leslie Gulch.

Jordan Rodriguez has been fishing Idaho waters since he was a teen. Share your fish stories, adventures, tips and tricks at outdoors@idahostatesman.com.