By Steve Stuebner
Spring fishing is starting to heat up in Idaho after a long winter that brought plenty of snow and freshwater to Idaho’s rivers and reservoirs.
Idaho outfitters are fishing for Chinook salmon on Lake Coeur d’Alene, steelhead on the Salmon River near Salmon, cutthroat, rainbow and brown trout on the South Fork Snake River near Idaho Falls, and rainbows and browns on the Boise River and Owyhee River in Southwest Idaho.
Don Houk with Lake Charters in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, is taking guests to catch chinook salmon right now, and in April and May, he’ll be fishing for northern pike, small-mouth bass and kokanee.
Chinook salmon fishing is best in the winter and spring months, Houk says. “When they’re on, they’re fun!”
The Chinook are big — daily bag limits are 2 fish over 20 inches. “When you hook one, they’ll peel off a lot of line,” he says. “We target them in the top 20 feet of water from the surface.”
Get some friends together to go fishing on beautiful Lake Coeur d’Alene! Lake Charters charges $440 for 1-4 anglers for a half day, and $675 for 1-4 anglers for a full day. Contract Lake Charters at (208) 667-3474.
Steelhead fishing is starting to heat up in the Salmon area as the ocean-going rainbow trout move upstream to hatcheries and spawning areas. Riggins-area outfitters stopped fishing for steelhead in mid-March. The run is smaller this year for a variety of reasons. But anglers are catching fish as the water temperature warmed up above 40 degrees in the last couple of weeks.
Idaho Fish and Game reports showed that anglers were spending an average of 15 hours per steelhead caught downstream from North Fork, but only 6 hours per fish caught between North Fork and Salmon, and 13 hours per fish caught between Salmon and the Pahsimeroi River.
Outfitters takes guests fishing in drift boats with a padded seat, a portable heater and hot drinks, making it as comfortable as possible for a spring steelhead trip on the Salmon River.
Good fishing conditions depend on local weather. When the weather is clear and the water is clear, the fishing is good. When it’s raining and the river gets muddy, it’s not as good.
“Last week, we had a guests who landed six fish in one day, and another group that landed four,” said Kathy Cranney of Rawhide Outfitters in Salmon. “Today, it’s raining and the river is muddy. It’s kind of hit and miss depending on the weather and the day.”
Spring steelhead trips range in price from $400-$430 for two people, including lunch and drinks on the boat.
In Eastern Idaho, home to some of the finest fly fishing in the world, outfitters are taking guests spring fishing on the South Fork of the Snake River, where they are fishing for native cutthroat trout, rainbow trout, cut-bows and brown trout.
Will Cumberland, manager of Westbank Anglers, said most people book full-day trips so they can maximize their fishing experience. “Our guides really like spring fishing, and they’re itching to get out on the river all the time,” he said.
The South Fork is running about 7,000 cubic feet per second right now, which is a good flow for being able to access the side channels and river oxbows where some of the big fish may be hiding, he said. Anglers are fly fishing below the surface with nymphs and streamers most of the time. Occasionally, the weather may warm up enough for a dry fly hatch.
“If you hit it on the right day with nice weather, it’s great fishing,” Cumberland said.
To reach Westbank Anglers in Jackson Hole, Wyo., call 800-922-3474.
In the Boise area, Three Rivers Ranch Outfitters takes anglers walk-and-wade fly fishing on the Boise River and Owyhee River below Owyhee Dam. “This winter has been pretty mild, so the fishing has been really good,” says Mike Raymondi, a guide for Three Rivers Ranch in Eagle. “We’ve been fishing more in town than usual, and we’re finding lots of really nice, big fish — a couple of big browns and some nice rainbows.”
Some of the fat browns have measured 25-28 inches in length, he said.
Fishing on the Owyhee River has been productive as well. They’re catching rainbow trout and brown trout on the Boise and Owyhee rivers. The guides help guests select the best flies to catch fish — typically nymphs and streamers at this time of year, fishing below the surface.
“Our guides work hard to find those big fish for our guests,” Raymondi says.
To go on a guided fishing trip with Three Rivers Ranch on the Boise River, it costs $275 for a half day, and $400 for a full day of fishing for two anglers. On the Owyhee River, it costs $445 for two anglers. Contact Three Rivers Ranch in Eagle at 208-939-6065.