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Fish survey: good news for Dworshak kokanee, bass anglers

FISHING — Fishing for kokanee and bass at Dworshak Reservoir is excellent, as confirmed by this fishing report received late Friday from Joe Duont, Idaho Fish and Game Department regional fisheries manager:

Dworshak Reservoir Kokanee Report (6/13/14)

In late April we completed our spring trawl survey, and the time for an update on the kokanee fishery is overdue.  The ‘catchable’ size kokanee we caught in the trawl averaged 9 ¼ inches long, which is about a half inch shorter than the same time last year.  However, there are a lot more fish out there this year.  In fact it appears we have about twice as many 2-year old kokanee (the larger kokanee we like to catch) this year as we did last year.

We have also been busy talking to fishermen at the ramps this spring.  While not everyone is coming in with fish this year, most anglers are.  We are also seeing more limits of kokanee than empty coolers.  In April, catch rates averaged 7.6 fish kept per fisherman and 2.8 fish per hour of kokanee fishing.  In May, it picked up to 10.3 fish per person and 3.9 fish per hour.  We don’t have many interviews so far for June, but right now catch rates are 12.3 fish per person and 3.5 fish per hour.  These are great catch rates for Kokanee fishing.  The Kokanee we’ve seen in the creel recently are around 10 inches long, but there are occasional fish over 13 inches long.  Right now most people are fishing between Canyon Creek and Dent Bridge, but we have marked good densities of kokanee farther up the reservoir during our research work.

Not a kokanee fisherman?  We also interviewed 38 bass anglers over the past month who spent 117 hours to catch 463 smallmouth bass and kept 45. This works out to a little over 12 bass caught per person and four fish per hour.  Harvested bass have averaged about 13 inches, but a couple larger fish have been brought in, with the largest right at 20 inches.  Recent surface temperatures are in the mid to upper 60’s with a thermocline at 10 to 15 feet.  As the water has warmed and spawning has wrapped up, larger bass are moving into deeper water.  Some bass anglers I spoke with over the weekend reported that smaller bass were plentiful, but larger bass were down 40 to 50 feet and tough to come by.

Game on for big kokanee at Dworshak Reservoir

FISHING — The word from kokanee researchers at Dworshak Reservoir: Get out and a few big ones now — like the 16.5-incher pictured below — or settle for lots of smaller ones in the next few years.

Idaho Fish and Game Department has finished its annual July trawl surveys and here's the detailed report from research biologist Sean Wilson on what's in the lake, where to catch them and what's coming up.

If you like big kokanee, it’s been a good year to fish Dworshak Reservoir.  The average length of adult kokanee caught in our July trawl survey was a little over 11 ½ inches, which is down a bit from last year when the average was a little over 12 inches.  However, don’t expect these larger fish in the next couple years.  While the number of adult fish we caught this year was down slightly from last year, the number of one year olds, which will be what we fish for next year, was up by more than 50% from last year.  Moreover, our fry catches were more than ten times what we caught last year, and were the highest in the last ten years.  While it will take some time to produce estimates of the population for this year, the trawl catches are pointing to a growing kokanee population, which will result in smaller fish in the next few years.

While most fish in the creel have been similar in size to those caught in the trawl, there have also been a few really big fish reported.  One of our creel clerks recently measured two exceptionally large kokanee at the Dent boat ramp, one that was over 15 inches and another that was over 16 inches.  In recent creel checks, we talked to 50 kokanee anglers who fished a total of 315 hours and kept 262 kokanee.  This results in an average of over 5 fish kept per day fishing and a little over an hour fishing per fish kept.  This doesn’t count many other fish that were released or hooked and lost.

Fishing has slowed recently on the lower end of the reservoir as the adult fish make their way up to the top end to spawn.  The smaller, one year old fish which are averaging 8-9 inches right now will be around all year in the lower reservoir for anyone who is still interested in catching some smaller kokanee.  If you can make the trip, the upper end of the reservoir, particularly above Grandad Bridge, should provide some fantastic fishing for another month or so.  Anglers should be able to find concentrations of large fish staging in the reservoir before moving up into the streams to spawn.  This can mean a cooler full of fat, feisty kokanee.  So make sure to plan a trip before this opportunity is gone.

Not a kokanee fisherman?  Dworshak can provide plenty of other angling opportunities.  We recently talked to 31 bass anglers who fished for 147 hours and reported catching 145 bass, most of which were released.  We also checked a variety of other fish, including trout and panfish.  So whether you like to fish for bass, kokanee or anything that bites, make plans to spend a day or a weekend on the reservoir before the summer is over.

Dworshak levels plunging to cool Clearwater for salmon

BOATING — This week’s heat wave is changing the landscape for boaters and campers planning Fourth of July holiday trips to Dworshak Reservoir, which stretches 54 miles on the North Fork of the Clearwater River near Orofino.

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers dam operators are more than doubling the flows from the chilly depths of the reservoir to cool the Clearwater River to safer temperatures for young salmon and steelhead.

The increased discharges from Dworshak Dam have caused the Clearwater River to rise 1.5 feet downstream from the confluence with the North Fork.

Visitors in the many campsites along the reservoir will be impacted as the water level drops from the full pool reached last week. The level is expected to drop 5 feet below full pool by Thursday and continue dropping to 9 feet below full by July 8.

Decreasing water levels can leave moored boats high and dry and long expanses of rocky shoreline between the water and the campsites.

Read on for details from the Corps, along for the reasoning of fish managers charged with protecting endangered fish stocks.

Dworshak Reservoir nearly full; camping at its best

BOATING — Dworshak Reservoir is just two feet shy of full pool, which puts boaters into the period of the best access to the campsites along the reservoir up the North Fork of the Clearwater River.

Remember, this is a banner year to fish for Dworshak's kokanee as well as smallmouth bass.

The water should reach full pool at 1,600 feet elevation next week, according to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. 

Around July 8, the reservoir will gradually be drawn down to provide cool water for downstream salmon. That annual drawdown leaves many of the campsites vacant because of the long uphill walk from the water line.

Read on for details from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which manages Dworshak Dam and the reservoir recreation sites.

Bassmaster ranks Lake CdA 11th among nation’s top bass fishing lakes

FISHING — Lake Coeur d'Alene is ranked the best Northwest bass fishing lake and No. 11 in the nation in the new Bassmasters magazine rankings of the top 100 bass fisheries in the United States.

  • The Columbia River was ranked No. 21 in the country.
  • Dworshak Reservoir ranked No. 26.
  • Lake Sammamish ranked No. 51.
  • Fort Peck, Mont. ranked No. 75.

No. 1 in Bassmasters 2013 rankings is Lake St. Clair, Michigan

It’s official: survey confirms Dworshak kokanee bonanza

FISHING — Fisheries biologists made an educated guess earlier this month that kokanee fishing at Dworshak Reservoir and other regional waters would be in top form this season. See story.

Now Idaho Fish and Game Department biologists have finished trawling surveys that confirm their optimism.

Joe DuPont, regional fisheries manager in Lewiston explains:   

IFG completed its spring trawl survey on April 10.  The 2-year old kokanee (the ones we mostly catch) ranged from about 9 to 11 inches in length and were fat and healthy looking.  These fish were as big as we’ve ever caught this time of year, and were about a half inch longer than what we caught last year at this time. 

For this survey, we sampled from the Dam to Evans Creek (halfway between Dent Bridge and Grandad Bridge).  Interestingly, the lowest catches were near the Dam, and catches tended to increase as we moved up reservoir, especially upstream of Magnus Bay.  So, if you are having troubles catching kokanee this spring, you may want to try farther up reservoir then you typically do.  

Based on trawl counts, it appears that kokanee abundance will be on the low side again this year, so it should shape up to be another year of fewer, but bigger fish.

If you’re a bass fisherman, it’s almost time to start looking for smallmouth bass on the lower end of the reservoir.  Smallmouth bass tend to get active when water temperatures reach 50°F.  During our trawl, the surface temperatures on the lower end ranged from 48 to just below 50°F and a thermocline has already developed in some areas.  So get ready, bass should be getting hungry any time now. 

Kokanee revival forecast at Dworshak Reservoir

FISHING — Dworshak Reservoir’s kokanee fishery surprised anglers in 2012, as notoriously small kokanee finally showed some size. The fish were growing to the 13-inch range in response to the nutrient enhancement project Idaho Fish and Game and the Corps of Engineers have been conducting since 2007 to make up for the lack of feed in the reservoir’s deep waters.

This year – depending on overwinter survival that has yet to be determined — biologists expect twice as many two year-old fish in the fishery reaching even heftier sizes.

“The fish anglers are catching right now are running about 10-11 inches long,” Andy Dux, IFG biologist, said last week. “Those fish should be 12-15 inches long by this summer and be abundant enough to provide good catch rates.”

Here’s some science anglers can sink their teeth into: “Past research shows that as kokanee get larger, they are easier to catch,” Dux said.

The water fertilizing project was stalled in 2011 because of a lawsuit a citizen brought regarding its impacts on water quality.  That resolved, the nutrient project resumed in 2012 and the fish appear to be responding.

Dworshak’s kokanee fishery picks up as water temperatures warm, with good fishing from spring through summer.

The trick at Dworshak is to follow the fish, which progressively move farther up the 54-mile reservoir during summer toward their fall spawning areas, Dux said.

In spring, most anglers launch at Big Eddy near the dam since the fishing is best in the lower reservoir upstream for about 10 miles.

As summer progresses, more anglers will launch at Dent Acres recreation facility 13-miles upstream from the dam to get into the good fishing.

  • See the attached document for a detailed 2013 update of the Dworshak Reservoir nutrient enhancement project.


Dent Acres campground opens April 11 at Dworshak Reseroir

BOATING — The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers at Dworshak Dam and Reservoir says the Dent Acres Campground has been opened for the season and campers are reserving sites for spring and summer using the www.recreation.gov reservation system.

The smallmout bass fishing can be good, and Idaho Fish and Game biologists predict this will be a great kokanee fishing season at the reservoir.

Reservations can be made for camping dates May 23 or later, though the campground opens on April 11 on a first-come, first-served basis.

  • Dent Acres campsite fees are $10 per night via self-deposit registration for April 11 – May 22.
  • Reserved campsites beginning May 23 are $18 per night.
  • The Group Camp is $50 per night, and the Picnic Shelter is $25 for the day.
Dent Acres boat ramp was opened for public use on Monday, March 11.
For updated Dworshak water level and boat ramp information, call (800) 321-3198.
For more information regarding facilities access and current conditions call (208) 476-1255 or stop by Dworshak Dam Visitor Center, which is open Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Most Dworshak facilities closing for season

BOATING — Most of the recreation facilities at Dworshak Dam and Reservoir are buttoning up for the winter.

Dam View, Grandad and Canyon Creek campgrounds, and Merrys Bay day-use area are closed for the season and will reopen in the spring 2013 as weather conditions allow.

Dent Acres campground will remain open until Dec. 15, weather permitting, to accommodate late-season hunters.

Big Eddy, Bruces Eddy and the fishing wall area below the dam will remain open for use during the winter season. 

Roads accessing recreation areas can be challenging and icy during inclement weather.

Info: (208) 476-1255 Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Controversy continues over adding nutrients to Dworshak Reservoir

FISHERIES — In an effort to improve the kokanee fishery in Dworshak Reservoir,  the U.S. Corps of Engineers and Idaho Fish and Game are experiementing with "fertilizing" the waters.

This is a popular idea with some people, but not by others, including those who've filed a lawsuit claiming the nutrient supplementing has caused algae blooms.

The Columbia Basin Bulletin had an interesting dialogue on the issue.  Click here to see two sides to a report the CBC had the previous week.

Nature-themed programs at Dworshak Visitor Center

OUTDOORS PROGRAMS —  Free nature-themed movie presentations are being presented this month, starting Friday at the Dworshak Dam Visitor Center near Orofino, Idaho.

Read on for the list of Friday and Sunday programs, ranging from bugs to grizzlies.

Dworshak camping 50 percent off in August

To reserve a campsite go online to www.recreation.gov. Non-reservable sites are first-come, first-served.   — Make camping reservations during August weekdays — Monday through Thursday — and get 50 percent off at facilities near Dworshak Dam managed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Dent Acres Campground, with 42 reservable campsites and eight first-come first served, is a good example of a top-quality experience. Open April 7- November 30 (weather permitting),  facilities include restrooms, showers, camping, group shelter, playground, day-use, picnicking, fishing, boat ramp and hiking trail. The campground is 20 miles north of Orofino, Idaho.

Info: Dworshak Natural Resources Management. Telephone:(208) 476-1261.    

Email: DworshakRecreation-NaturalResources@usace.army.mil

Other Corps recreational opportunities in the Walla Walla District:  www.nww.usace.army.mil/corpsoutdoors

While Dworshak drawdown continues, recreation still available

BOATING — With snowpack levels more than 130 percent of normal for the Dworshak Dam and Reservoir watershed area, regional water-management officials continue to hold Dworshak lake levels at 1,451 feet,  which is 149 feet below full pool (1,600 feet).

That leaves a lot of shoreline to tramp up to the lake's many mini-camps.

But  U.S.Corps of Engineers manaers say there's still plenty of recreation available at the reservoir untilthe runoff flows and enables them to bring levels back up.

Read on for details.

Kokanee limits temporarily removed below Dworshak

FISHING — Kokanee limits were lifted starting Saturday BELOW Dworshak Dam to give anglers a chance to harvest fish that are otherwise being sucked into the dam.

NOTE: My previous post erred by suggesting the limits were lifted in the reservoir. That's not so:  The order targets only the spillage of kokanee through the dam.

With many dead and dying kokanee been flushed through Dworshak Dam, the bag and possession limits will be removed for kokanee in the North Fork Clearwater River and Clearwater River downstream of the North Fork in Clearwater County  March 12-May 15, Idaho Fish and Game announced this afternoon. 

While anglers can take home as many kokanee as they can carry, the fish may only be taken by rod and reel, dip net or by hand.  AnIdaho fishing license is required. 

Kokanee, which are a popular target of anglers fishing at Dworshak Reservoir, tend to congregate near the dam during winter. When mountain snowpacks are abundant and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers dumps water to make room from spring runoff, the fish are susceptible to being washed downstream.  

At this point, the number of kokanee being flushed is not expected to have a large influence on next year’s fishery, IFG biologists say.