Idaho's Clearwater Region Fishing Report May 1, 2012

This report highlights a few of the best places to fish, what anglers are using and what they are catching. The information is compiled from regional Fish and Game fishery managers, local tackle shops and anglers.

The spring steelhead season is winding down.  While the season in most of the state is closed, a few anglers are still trying their luck on the Snake and Little Salmon rivers.  Depending on flows, anglers drifting baited jigs, corkies, and bobbers should have the rivers to themselves through the end of the season, May 15 on the Little Salmon and May 31 on the Snake.

Spring is prime time for fishing area lakes and reservoirs.  Winchester, Waha, and Mann lakes were stocked in April with catchable rainbow trout.  Most other area lakes and reservoirs will be stocked before the Memorial Day weekend.  Winchester can also provide good yellow perch, bluegill and crappie fishing, while Spring Valley and Moose Creek reservoirs are good spots for trout or bluegill.  Mann Lake near Lewiston can provide some great trout, crappie, and bass fishing, while Elk Creek Reservoir is known for good rainbow and brook trout fishing.  

For information on easy to reach spots geared toward families, pick up a Family Fishing Water Guide at the Lewiston Fish and Game regional office or visit the Family Fishing Waters section.

As the weather warms, more boat anglers are trying their luck for kokanee and smallmouth bass on Dworshak Reservoir. Recent reports have the kokanee sizes ranging from 8 inches to almost 10 ½ inches in length.  Boat anglers trolling slowly with weighted line or 1-3 ounce weights with standard kokanee gear and hooks baited with maggots or corn are reporting fair catches, especially in the Reeds Creek area and near the forebay of the dam. 

If you’re a smallmouth bass angler, concentrate this time of year on the lower end of the reservoir.  Smallmouth tend to get active when water temperatures reach 50°F.  Earlier last week, the surface temperature above Dent Bridge was around 45°F, while the surface temperature near the forebay was around 55°F.  Rainbow and cutthroat trout fishing should also be picking up with the onset of warmer weather, especially at mouths of tributary streams.

Remember the water levels in Dworshak are usually down as far as 80 feet in the early spring but rise to nearly full pool by June.  In addition, from December 1 through Friday before Memorial Day weekend, the reservoir above Grandad Bridge is barbless hooks only and no bait allowed except for maggots.

High flows and debris make fishing area rivers and streams very tough this time of year.   Some smallmouth bass and channel catfish have been taken in the Snake River, mostly in the Lewiston area.  Look for this fishery to pick up as the weather warms water temperatures to the mid 50’s.  Curly tailed grubs fished in 10 to 12 feet of water near rocky structure are the mainstay for smallmouths.  Catfish in the 4-8-pound range are commonly caught on bait such as nightcrawlers, stink-bait and power-bait. 

Fishing for sturgeon will also pick up as the water warms and spring flows muddy the water.  Sturgeon anglers should practice low-impact techniques that include pinching hook barbs down, using circle-hooks instead of J-hooks and never remove sturgeon from the water.  All sturgeon caught in Idaho must be released immediately.
Interested in helping others discover the joys of fishing? Bring your family and friends to an Idaho Fish and Game’s Take Me Fishing Trailer event. It’s free and open to everyone. Equipment, bait and instruction provided. Participants do not need a fishing license during the event. Just show up and have some fun.  These events are located in easy to reach areas, have good access to the water and restroom facilities.

All events run 9:00 a.m. to noon:

    Sunday, May 6, Kiwanis Park, Lewiston
    Saturday, May 12, Robinson Pond, Kamiah
    Sunday, May 13, Moose Creek Reservoir, Bovill
    Saturday, May 19, Kiwanis Park, Lewiston
    Sunday, May 20, Spring Valley Reservoir, Troy
    Saturday, May 26, Hordemann Pond, Moscow
    Sunday, May 27, Mann Lake, Lewiston

To learn more about the trailer, visit the trailer schedule page.

First the bad news:  while the Chinook salmon season opened April 22 on the Clearwater, Snake, Salmon, and Little Salmon rivers, only 26 adult Chinook had crossed Lower Granite dam by April 29.

Now for the good news:  They are starting to pour over Bonneville Dam on their way to Idaho.  Based on predicted counts, if they keep coming like they are, fishing should get real good in around three weeks in the Lewiston area, and about five weeks in the Riggins area depending on flows.  If flows maintain above 40,000 cubic feet per second in the Salmon River, it could take considerably longer for these fish to get to the Riggins area.

A major goal of Idaho fishery managers is to maximize salmon fishing opportunity.   However, a variety of biological and regulatory factors make managing seasons a complicated process.  To be responsive to the changing fishery, the Department may implement inseason changes to the seasons and limits.  Salmon anglers are encouraged to stay informed of season changes and be flexible in their fishing plans.  For updated information, consult a license vendor, an IDFG office, the Salmon Fishing hotline:  855-287-2702.

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