September brings some spectacular fly fishing to the Clearwater region of Idaho. Anglers on Kelly Creek, the Lochsa, Selway and North Fork Clearwater rivers do well as the water cools and fish become more active. Fishing pressure is light and good fall hatches contribute to quality fishing. The larger trout tend to head out of the smaller tributaries and into the main rivers this time of year, so anglers looking for big fish should focus their efforts in the big water. Attractor patterns will all work. If dry flies are ignored, go wet with size 16-18 Hares Ears, Princes and Pheasant Tails.
Fishing has been good on the North Fork Coeur d’Alene. No need to get there early as the cool mornings make the trout lethargic. Small dry flies fished on long 6x leaders have been productive. October caddis are making an appearance. This is also a good time to be on the St. Joe. The Clark Fork gets little pressure these days, but fishing is good.
Salmon and steelhead
Steelhead counts over Lower Granite the last week combined with dropping flows have led to an increase in catch rates on the Snake and Lower Clearwater rivers. Back-trolling metallic-type plugs such as Hot Shots and Mag Warts is effective, as is jig and bobber fishing and lighted plugs after dark, mostly in the confluence area. Last week, anglers averaged 14 hours per fish caught in the lower Snake River and 36 hours per fish caught in the Clearwater River below the Memorial Bridge. Warm water temperatures in the Snake are keeping steelhead out, but there were fewer to begin with compared to previous years. The steelhead run typically peaks this coming week.
The fall chinook run up the Snake River appears to be on pace to meet the preseason prediction of more than 18,000 at Lower Granite and anglers are doing well. No chinook harvest was recorded on the lower Clearwater River last week where the water is still warm and clear, but friends fishing the confluence at midweek said trollers did well early. There wasn’t much action after 10 a.m., they said.
Most of the chinook effort on the White Salmon River is outside the mouth where anglers are catching some fall fish.
At Drano Lake, an estimated 1,050 adult fall chinook and 298 jacks were harvested (1.1 chinook per boat) last week. All areas are reporting strong catches, especially for this early in the fishery. The first in-season run forecast for the Hanford Reach estimates the 2012 adult return at 84,000 fish.
Anglers are beginning to catch chinook in the Yakima River. An estimated 211 angler trips for the week resulted in 50 adult fall chinook harvested and 12 adult chinook released. Harvest was evenly split between the river below Horn Rapids Dam and below the Prosser diversion.
Williams Lake leads the list of area put-and-take waters for trout fishing. Anglers fishing with Power Bait in 20-35 feet of water are casting out and reeling back slowly for lots of bites.
Sprague Lake is excellent for large trout for the few anglers trying it. It is not necessary to be on the water early as the fish seem to bite better during the heat of the day. Nightcrawlers and marshmallow sandwiches catch more Sprague trout than anything.
Potholes Reservoir continues to kick out rainbow trout running 3 pounds and up. Troll Needlefish or joint Rapalas in perch color in front of the state park. The fish have spread out in the water column since last week.
Kokanee are biting “like mad all over the north end” of Lake Coeur d’Alene, according to a report from Fins and Feathers. Troll deep – 35-40 feet down. Coeur d’Alene chinook are also deep, but fishing has been slow. Loon Lake kokes are losing their luster but still bite for trollers.
Big perch and a few crappie are biting at Downs Lake. Anglers report a lot of fish more than 10 inches. Waitts, Jump-Off Joe and Diamond are also good for perch, and Deer and Loon lakes are producing for anglers fishing just above the weeds in 25 feet of water. Coffeepot Lake in Lincoln County closes at the end of September, but the perch bite there has been good for the few anglers trying it. Coffeepot is a selective-gear lake, so leave the worms at home and go with a small curlytail jig for perch and crappie.
Crappie are moving about in huge schools, and if you find one, fishing is lights-out. Newman has been good, and so has Silver and Lake Spokane. Lake Spokane has also been booting out some large bass – both largemouth and smallmouth.
Largemouth anglers are going way back in the sand dunes at Potholes Reservoir for fish. The bite has been steady, but nothing really large has been reported recently.
Idaho lakes are fishing well. The Chain Lakes are good for pike and bass and Hayden, Hauser, Cocolalla and Fernan have been booting out these species as well as crappie and perch.
The 2011-12 razor clam season ended May 7, with a total of 2.5 million clams harvested in 195,000 digger trips, the lowest harvest and effort in the last 12 years. Nevertheless, WDFW’s 2012 stock assessment shows strong increases in the number of harvestable size clams on all ocean beaches except Kalaloch, and a great season is expected. Ocean beaches generally begin to open to clam harvest in October.
The Washington quail season opens Oct. 1. Success is expected to be good. Grouse numbers in Washington and Idaho appear to be down. Mourning doves have been scarce in traditional spots in the Columbia Basin. Generally, the Basin population builds as the season progresses, but they are scarce so far.
BACKCOUNTRY -- Here's the source of most of the area's smoke woes -- the fires in the Glacier Peak Wilderness. Here's a shot I made today as I hiked south ...