Outdoors Blog

Fly-fish the Owyhee, watch kokanee spawn at Lucky Peak (fishing report, Aug. 25)

Big brown trout are biting on the Owyhee River in eastern Oregon.
Big brown trout are biting on the Owyhee River in eastern Oregon.

Owyhee River (Trout)

Fly-fishing has been good to excellent on the Owyhee of late. My go-to Owyhee source reported great catch rates and size on his most recent trip, including a couple of the river’s trademark 20-inch browns. One of his best catches came on a size 20 PMD. Catching big fish on a tiny fly is a thrill! PMDs and hopper patterns carry the afternoons, with midges taking over around dusk. Big streamer and mouse patterns also might draw an aggression strike from a hungry brown. With the spawning season around the corner, adult fish will be looking to load up on calories over the next few weeks. Get out there and take advantage! Don’t forget your Oregon license, or the river’s catch-and-release policy on browns.

Getting there: Fish downstream from Adrian, Ore.

Hagerman Ponds (Mixed Bag)

Hagerman is a great destination if you are looking to stock up on trout for the frying pan. The hatchery area is loaded with small lakes, which in turn are loaded with rainbow trout — including the albino “banana” variety — as well as bass, bluegill and even a few sturgeon. Spinners, spoons, Rapalas are good lure choices. Fly anglers typically throw terrestrials, streamers or dry flies and nymphs to match the hatch. And the bait crowd can get in on the action with worms, corn, marshmallows or grasshoppers. Hatchery trout seem to have a particular affinity for colorful Power Bait. If you go, make sure you pay attention to the signs — rules vary from pond to pond. It can get crowded and mossy this time of year, so bringing a float tube or kayak is a good idea. The nearby Snake River also offers solid fishing for trout, bass, catfish and sturgeon.

Getting there: Head east on I-84, take Exit 147, head south and follow the signs to the hatchery.

Grimes Creek (Kokanee)

In one of my favorite late-summer rituals, the Kokanee salmon in Lucky Peak Lake have begun their firetruck-red spawning run. Hundreds of fish will make their way up Grimes Creek and Mores Creek to spawn and die, and it’s a sight to behold. I view the run as more of a sightseeing opportunity than a hardcore fishing trip. The fish aren’t feeding anymore, but they will occasionally strike brightly colored spoons, streamers, yarn or salmon eggs out of aggression. Red phase Kokanee are fun to catch and even better to look at. Their meat, on the other hand, goes south as their bodies begin to break down. I recommend taking a quick photo and tossing the fish back in to complete their life cycle. Avoid snagging the fish (it’s illegal) and don’t ignore the trout fishing — they’ll often follow the kokanee and eat the eggs.

Getting there: Follow Highway 21 north past Lucky Peak Lake. Both Grimes Creek and Mores Creek have fishable shore access.

Snake River (Bass, Catfish)

The action has been steady for smallmouth bass and channel catfish on the Snake. Flows are low, so there are lots of cool channels and pockets to fish, even on foot. On a recent evening trip, my friend Tim and I had a friendly competition — flies versus spinning gear. He threw streamers, poppers and small caddis imitations, while I rocked top-water plugs and soft plastic grubs. We both wound up with more than 30 bass landed, though most were on the small side. No matter what your preferred style is, you have a great chance at getting into some fish right now. I’m also seeing good catfish action in certain stretches — the closer you fish to Brownlee Reservoir, the better. Worms, cut bait, chicken livers and crankbaits are the go-to presentations for big, hard-fighting catfish.

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

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