Catch and release steelhead fishing opens on the Clearwater July 1, and opens August 1 everywhere else. Anglers who want to keep a fish have to wait until August 1, when the Clearwater River below the Memorial Bridge at Lewiston opens for harvest. The rest of the Clearwater remains catch and release until October 15. Harvest season on the Snake and Salmon Rivers open September 1.
Before you go, take a look at the steelhead regulations and especially remember the “Big Three”:
* Pinch your barbs down on all hooks you use.
* Immediately release any steelhead you catch with an unclipped adipose fin.
* Immediately validate your steelhead permit upon retaining a legal steelhead.
Steelhead anglers are also reminded to know the difference between a salmon and a steelhead. There can be a lot of fall chinook salmon and some coho salmon in the Snake and lower Clearwater Rivers in the late summer and fall. Both species of salmon are closed to harvest and must be released immediately. Both coho and chinook salmon have black mouths, while steelhead have white mouths. Coho can be differentiated from chinook by the gumline. Coho have a white gumline, while the chinook's gumline is black. Some of these protected salmon may have a clipped adipose fin so it is critical that anglers be able to identify their catch. Remember, "If the mouth is black, put it back!"
Summer can provide some fine fishing at our lowland lakes in the region. They all provide great fishing opportunities for stocked rainbow trout, and most also have good populations of warmwater fish, such as largemouth bass, crappie, sunfish and yellow perch. Algae and aquatic plants can build up at some of these lakes in the summer, so prepare for some messy fishing. Try small bobbers with light line to keep your bait clear of the bottom. Below is a list of regional waters and some the fish you might expect to encounter at each:
* Deer Creek Reservoir - Near Pierce, Idaho. Family Fishing Water. It is the state's newest fishing water. Excellent populations of stocked rainbow and cutthroat trout. The reservoir will be open all year to fishing, but because of wildlife related road restrictions, the access road will be open to motorized vehicles May 20-September 30 annually. Outside of those dates, anglers and other lake users will need to make a hike of about half a mile to reach the lake.
* Elk Creek Reservoir - Near Elk River, Idaho. Good populations of largemouth and smallmouth bass, bluegill, brook trout, and stocked rainbow trout. Boats are restricted to electric motors only.
* Fenn Pond - Near Fenn Ranger Station on the lower Selway River. Family Fishing Water. Stocked with rainbow trout in the spring.
* Mann Lake - Near Lewiston, Idaho. Mann Lake is an irrigation reservoir and is usually drawn down in the late summer, but it is at full pool in the spring and early summer. Good populations of largemouth bass, black crappie, bluegill, channel catfish, and stocked rainbow trout. Boats are restricted to electric motors only.
* Moose Creek Reservoir - Near Bovill, Idaho. Family Fishing Water. Good populations of largemouth bass, bluegill, and stocked rainbow trout. Boats are restricted to electric motors only.
* Soldier's Meadow Reservoir - 20 miles south of Lewiston. Soldier's Meadow is an irrigation reservoir and is usually drawn down in late summer. Good populations of black crappie and stocked rainbow trout.
* Spring Valley Reservoir - Near Troy, Idaho. Family Fishing Water. Good populations of largemouth bass, bluegill, and stocked rainbow trout. Boats are restricted to electric motors only.
* Tolo Lake - Near Grangeville, Idaho. It is a fairly turbid natural lake but has been stocked with white crappie, largemouth bass, bluegill, and channel catfish.
* Waha Lake - South of Lewiston, Idaho. Waha is a natural lake and has fair populations of smallmouth bass and stocked rainbow trout.
* Winchester Lake - Near Winchester, Idaho. Family Fishing Water. It has excellent populations of largemouth bass, bluegill, black crappie, yellow perch, channel catfish, and stocked rainbow trout. Visitors to Winchester Lake will notice numerous floating structures on the lake. These are part of an experimental project to improve water quality and fishing by oxygenating the deeper portions of the lake. Boats are restricted to electric motors only.
As mentioned earlier, federal water managers usually begin drawing down Dworshak Reservoir in mid- July to generate power and to use the cool water releases to help young salmon migrate to the ocean. In recent years, the reservoir has been drawn down as much as 80 feet by mid-September. Boat ramps at Canyon Creek and Grandad usually become unusable during late summer, but ramps at Bruce's Eddy, Dent, and Dworshak State Park are still useable. The drawdown can also make access to remote campsites more difficult.
Kokanee fishing can still be good through mid-August, when most of the larger spawners start to head up the North Fork. Look for the best summer kokanee fishing to be in the upper part of the reservoir. Our latest kokanee population surveys have shown very large numbers of fish this spring, including an all-time record number of yearling fish. When kokanee numbers are this high, competition for food becomes intense which results in poor fish growth. As a result, fish sizes are very small this year, with most of the catch in the 7 to 9 inch range. However, limits of 25 kokanee should be common.
One benefit of all the small kokanee however, is that smallmouth bass are growing very well, and fishing should continue to be outstanding for them this summer. Rainbow and cutthroat trout can be caught this time of year in the reservoir, with better catches coming from the upper portions of the lake.
The reservoir above Grandad Bridge opened to fishing on the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend, and stays open until November 30. The trout limit in this part of the reservoir is 6 per day, but only 2 of those can be cutthroat. Anglers may also incidentally catch a bull trout in Dworshak Reservoir and are reminded that they are closed to harvest. The IDFG fishing regulation pamphlet has a good fish identification key on page 18.