Chinook Salmon return to Idaho’s Sawtooth Hatchery
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.
Bruneau Dunes (Bass, Bluegill)
The ponds around Bruneau Dunes State Park offer fun fishing for largemouth bass and bluegill, and this is a great time of year to chase them. Fish around the shoreline either on foot or from a float tube, raft or canoe. Only electric motors are allowed. Largemouth bass will take spinnerbaits, soft plastics, flies and top-water lures. Panfish jigs, small flies, live worms or crickets work best for bluegill. Trophy rules are in place on largemouth — the limit is two, none under 20 inches, which essentially makes it a catch-and-release bass fishery. But bluegill are good eating if you can find some big ones, and I’ve heard rumors of channel catfish lurking in the depths, too. If the fishing is slow, explore the sand dunes, check out the visitor’s center or try your luck at nearby Crane Falls Lake or C.J. Strike.
Getting there: Take I-84 east toward Mountain Home, take Exit 90, follow Highway 51 south and follow the brown access signs to Bruneau Dunes State Park.
Lake Cascade (Perch)
I’m hearing some great reports on good-sized perch at Cascade, and anglers are picking up a few smallmouth bass and rainbow trout, too. Boat anglers are having the best luck on perch, and while no one wants to share their secret honey holes, the areas around Sugarloaf Island, Blue Heron, Crown Point and the city boat launch are good places to try. Worms, cut bait, panfish jigs and small crankbaits are the go-to perch lures. Soft plastics, jigs and crankbaits will catch smallmouth, while trout will hit trolling rigs, spinners, Rapalas and the tried-and-true worm and marshmallow combo. The weather has been hit-or-miss, but on good days, it’s hard to beat the scenery or the fishing at Cascade.
Getting there: Take Idaho 55 north to Cascade. Crown Point and Sugarloaf Island are popular access points.
C.J. Strike Reservoir (Mixed Bag)
Anglers are continuing to have a killer spring at C.J. Strike. The bass bite is on, and action is good on trout, crappie, perch and bluegill, too. The panfish seem to go in cycles, but you can pretty much count on at least one species biting on live bait or small panfish jigs. Bass are hitting crankbaits, jigs and soft plastics. Crayfish patterns work best on smallmouth, which are the dominant bass species. But there are some largemouth bass, too, so don’t hesitate to throw plastic worms or spinnerbaits into bassy-looking weed beds or shoreline structure. Spinners, flies and bait will catch trout, which are stocked pretty regularly. If you take a variety of tackle and adjust your approach once you figure out what’s biting, you’re almost guaranteed to catch good numbers of fish.
Getting there: Take I-84 east to Mountain Home and head south.
Snake, Salmon and Clearwater Rivers (Chinook Salmon)
Salmon season opened April 23, and while it’s been slow going so far, the fish are starting to show up. The best results so far have been in the Clearwater drainage, where anglers are averaging about 20 hours per fish. There are fish in Hells Canyon, and I’ve even heard a few are being spotted in Riggins. So get your permits and prepare your salmon tackle — over the next few weeks, chinook season should hit full tilt!
Getting there: Visit the Idaho Fish and Game website for a complete list of salmon counts, special seasons and 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.