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Thursday, October 17, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Outdoors blog

Clearwater steelheaders report good winter fishing

B-run steelhead are bound for the Clearwater and Salmon rivers.
B-run steelhead are bound for the Clearwater and Salmon rivers.

FISHING -- Save for the periods of high, off-color water, the winter steelheading in Idaho's Clearwater River has been outstanding, says state Fish and Game Department regional fisheries manager Joe DuPont.

Catch rates have been as low as five hours per fish, which is considered excellent for the hard fighting, yet sometimes elusive ocean-going rainbow trout.

Here are details from DuPont:

Unlike most anadromous species, Idaho steelhead can spend many months in fresh water before they spawn in the spring, giving anglers extra opportunity to fish for them. In the past few weeks Clearwater steelhead have begun showing up in the South Fork Clearwater.  Between 15 and 100 steelhead have been moving into the South Fork each day. More anglers are fishing the South Fork, and Dupont expects those numbers to increase as spring approaches.

While catch rates on the Lower Clearwater rose a bit at the end of January, anglers should not be discouraged. There are plenty of fish still moving through the system, and the best is yet to come.

As you get closer to spawning, you will see more fish showing up in the areas they were released from. Late in the season, you can experience incredible catch rates in the lower Clearwater.”

One of the major release points is just below Dworshak Dam. Most steelhead spawn in March and early April, so anglers fishing the North Fork Clearwater (below Dworshak) and the main Clearwater just downstream from the North Fork will have good opportunity to catch more steelhead in less time for the next six to eight weeks. The same phenomenon will occur in the Salmon River, as steelhead continue to move up the system toward the places they were hatched or released.

Toby Wyatt of Reel Time Fishing out of Clarkston has an even higher opinion of the recent action in today's fishing report:

Steelhead fishing on the Clearwater has been epic, catch rates are well into double digits. All of our boats hit double digits every day in January, making it the best month we can remember. We are continuing to see excellent catch rates so far this month. Currently we are off the river due to high and muddy flows, but the river is on the drop and will be fish-able by the start of next week. We expect the Clearwater to fire back up and no doubt we will be back to some red hot fishing! We still have a good month left in the season so get a hold of us to experience some of the best fishing we’ve seen in years.

Check out some cool drone footage shot on the Clearwater by a Reel Time client on Jan. 29-30:


  • See information on Idaho steelhead fishing, including dam counts and catch rates.

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Rich Landers
Rich Landers joined The Spokesman-Review in 1977. He is the Outdoors editor for the Sports Department writing and photographing stories about hiking, hunting, fishing, boating, conservation, nature and wildlife and related topics.

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