Bobber ‘n Jig Steelhead Fishing on the Clearwater River
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.
Salmon and Clearwater Rivers (Steelhead)
Spring steelhead fishing has been dynamite for the last week or two, particularly on the Salmon River. Anglers are catching fish from Riggins all the way to Stanley, and I had three firsthand reports from good friends of mine who caught their limits (and released plenty of fish, too) over the weekend. Overall, nearly 500 fish were reported caught on the March 21-27 harvest report, and conditions and catch rates have been very good. One thing to keep in mind on the Salmon: The stretch from Lake Creek Bridge to Long Tom Creek (3/4 mile upstream from the Middle Fork Salmon River) is closed to fishing after March 31. Both spin and fly-fishermen have been having success using roe, plugs, brightly colored jigs and yarn, streamer patterns and more. Get out there while the fishing is hot!
Getting there: Check the Idaho Fish & Game website for an updated list of steelhead seasons, rules and locations. The latest catch rates are posted every week, too.
Brownlee Reservoir (Mixed Bag)
Fishing has been good at Brownlee since mid-February, with crappie and catfish being the main culprits thus far. Most of the crappie are in the 10-inch range, and they are gobbling small jigs in a variety of colors. Crappie are great eating, but like I always say, try to limit yourself to a reasonable number. A single angler can easily land more than 100 fish in an afternoon, but if we toss back what we don’t need, those will turn into nice 12-inch slabs by next spring! Catfish have been hitting, too, with anglers catching both channel cats and flatheads up and down the reservoir, particularly through the Steck Park stretch. Worms, cut bait, whole dead minnows and crankbaits will catch fish. The bass bite is starting to pick up, too, and with warm weather on the horizon this weekend, the fish should start hitting crankbaits, jerk baits and spinnerbaits in addition to the jigs and soft plastics that most fishermen prefer early in the season.
Getting there: Brownlee sits about two hours northwest of Boise on the Idaho-Oregon border. Weiser on the Idaho side and Huntington on the Oregon side are the closest towns to the popular access points. You must have an Oregon license to fish from the west bank; if you’re in a boat, a license from either state will work.
Lucky Peak Reservoir (Kokanee Salmon)
Many anglers aren’t thinking about kokanee yet, but I’ve seen some nice limits of silvers coming out of Lucky Peak already. Try trolling with wedding rings and other pop gear tipped with shoepeg corn, salmon eggs or mealworms. Early in the season when the water is cooler, the fish tend to be shallower. Setting your downriggers between 10 and 15 feet is a good place to start, but if the fish aren’t biting, don’t be afraid to go shallower. Bank fishermen even have a shot at kokanee when they are close to the surface, and trout fishing from the bank has been good at both Lucky Peak and Arrowrock. Spinners, Power Bait or the worm and marshmallow combination are the best bets for trout.
Getting there: From Boise, take Warm Springs Avenue or Idaho 21 northeast to Lucky Peak.
C.J. Strike Reservoir (Mixed Bag)
I’ve included C.J. Strike pretty much every week for the past month, but the fishing has been too good to ignore. Anglers are catching some really nice perch along with stringers of bluegill and crappie, and the bass and trout are biting, too. Throw small jigs tipped with worms or cut bait for panfish. The Narrows and the Cottonwood stretch seem to be the best bets for those species. Trout can be caught either by trolling with spinners or pop gear or by fishing with spinners, flies and bait near the dam. Fish & Game recently stocked 50,000 rainbows in the reservoir, so there are plenty of fish available. Bass are waking up, too, and C.J. Strike has both the largemouth and smallmouth variety. Largemouth will hang out tight to submerged weeds and other cover, while smallmouth prefer rocky habitats. Crankbaits, spinnerbaits, soft plastics, jigs, leeches, streamers and live worms are among the wide variety of lures and baits that will work for bass — and the biggest fish of the year often are caught in late March and early April.
Getting there: Take I-84 east to Mountain Home and head south.