The Coeur d’Alene River and its Little North Fork are in perfect condition for fishing. The St. Joe and Kelly Creek are high but fairly clear and could provide fair to good fishing during the long Fourth of July weekend.
Fly fishers who fished the Coeur d’Alene River last weekend reported catching good numbers of 12- to 13-inch cutthroat and a few more than 20 inches. Fishing pressure was heavy.
Because the Coeur d’Alene has been the only major trout stream in the Panhandle that has been low and clear enough for good fishing, anglers have concentrated along its shore the last two weeks. Now that other rivers are dropping and clearing, angling pressure will be spread out.
Both the Henry’s Fork and Henry’s Lake in the Last Chance area may be good choices for this weekend.
Dave Rust, a spokesman for Henry’s Fork Anglers, said most fly fishers are using Pale Morning Dun and caddisfly imitations along the Henry’s Fork.
Most productive trout producer in North Idaho continues to be Priest Lake. The mackinaws are small but plentiful. Many experienced trollers catch limits every time they fish.
The majority of small- and medium-sized North Idaho lakes are yielding 10- to 16-inch rainbows. They are planted with hatchery trout periodically.
Numerous Montana trout streams now are low and clear enough for good fishing. Most are still high for this time of year.
The Missouri below Holter Dam finally is low enough to provide some fishing. The stream, which was running at more than 24,000 cubic feet per second only a couple of weeks ago, was down to 13,000 early this week. It could be below 9,000 cfs during the Fourth of July weekend.
Rock Creek and the Blackfoot River are the top choices for stream fishing in the Missoula area, Jim Toth, owner of Grizzly Hackle fly shop in Missoula, said.
“If you want to float a river, choose the Blackfoot,” he said. “If you wade, go to Rock Creek.”
Salmonflies, golden stoneflies, Pale Morning Dun mayflies and some caddisflies are hatching along all streams.
The Clark Fork is still too high and muddy for good fishing, he said. If you fish it, use Woolly Buggers and other big flies. The Bitterroot is still high, but some fly fishers are taking trout with golden stone and salmonfly imitations.
The Madison River has finally cleared enough to provide good trout fishing, Rust said. It’s still higher than normal.
Most fly fishers have been casting PMDs and caddisflies. The famed salmonfly hatch is just starting above Ennis.
Gray Drake mayflies are hatching in the Yellowstone National Park section of the Madison.
Biggest kokanee in the region are in Loon Lake. Catching them can be a challenge. If you catch a couple, you’ll have more meat than a limit of kokanee at Lake Coeur d’Alene or Koocanusa Reservoir.
Joe Haley of the Granite Point Resort said the kokanee are 18 to 21 inches long. One angler caught a 3-pound-plus kokanee that was slightly more than 21 inches.
Most of the kokanee weigh nearly 3 pounds, he said.
Incidentally, trollers are continuing to catch mackinaws at Loon Lake, Haley said. He recommended trolling a Sutton spoon or U20 blue Flatfish extremely slowly near the bottom.
If you just want lots of kokanee, troll at Lake Coeur d’Alene. Steve Smith of the Fins & Feathers shop said fishermen who want to catch 25 10-inch kokanee can do so by trolling in Bennett Bay or in and near Wolf Lodge Bay.
Fishing has been slow at Lake Mary Ronan, but there are signs the kokanee are starting to take anglers’ baited lures, Mark Thomas of Camp Tuffit said. Fishermen have been seeing lots of fish on their sonars and a few have done well. Most of the adult kokanee are 14 inches.
Thomas said fishermen have been catching good-sized trout the last two weeks. Some anglers have been fishing for perch, most of which are 7 inches long. Some are 12 to 13 inches.
Kokanee fishing was slow last weekend at Koocanusa. However, some anglers have done well. Three fishermen checked in at the resort with 40 kokanee 10 to 12 inches long.
Water temperatures have been lower than normal for this time of year at the region’s lakes. As a result, fishermen have been doing well at some waters, even during mid-day hours.
At Bayley Lake, for example, fly fishers, using chironomid pupa patterns, have had good luck, hooking and releasing numerous 13-to 20-inch rainbows. The surface temperature at the fly fishing-only lake last weekend was 64 degrees; usually, it is 70 or more this time of year.
Incidentally, all trout hooked at Bayley Lake after today must be released. The limit from opening day through today is one fish more than 14 inches a day.
If anglers think the weather will be good this weekend, campgrounds almost certainly will be full. There are Forest Service campgrounds at several lakes in Pend Oreille, Stevens and Ferry counties.
Best trout fishing will be in the Spokane region and in Okanogan County. Only a few lakes in the Columbia Basin have been yielding trout. Among them are Lenore, Dry Falls, Lenice, Nunnally and Merry, all selective fishery waters, and the Potholes Reservoir and Moses Lake.
The chinooks in Lake Coeur d’Alene have been tough to catch the last few weeks, but fishing seems to be picking up, Smith said. He recommended that anglers troll herring behind dodgers in 40 feet of water. Popular areas are Powder Horn and Wolf Lodge bays. The salmon average 10 pounds.
The Little Salmon River near Riggins will remain open to fishing for chinook salmon through July 16, the Idaho Fish and Game Commission has decided. The stream was scheduled to be closed to salmon fishing July 6, but salmon have been slow to return to the river.
The projected catch is 1,200. Fishing hours have been extended to 9 p.m. The season limit was increased from four to six, which is effective statewide.
The season for the Salmon’s South Fork, if approved by the National Marine Fisheries Service, will be July 10 through Aug. 2
If you prefer to catch spiny rayed fish, the Fourth of July weekend may be one of the best times this year to put some walleyes, crappies, bluegills, perch or bass in your cooler.
A good choice for hooking a variety of fish might be Sprague Lake. Mike Mielke, a co-owner of the Sprague Lake Resort, said fishing was excellent Sunday for some anglers.
For example, he said, Derrick and Cindy Green of Yakima and their son and daughter caught walleyes to 23 inches, crappies to 13 inches and perch, one of which measured 12 inches.
Some who fished off the dock caught rainbows, Mielke said. The largest was a 6-pounder and the smallest measured 14 inches. Until recently, bass fishing was poor at the lake.
Roosevelt and Moses lakes also have been producing good walleye fishing. Roosevelt is nearly full and boats can be launched at all ramps.
Anglers have been catching crappies at the Twins and Hayden in North Idaho and bass at numerous Panhandle lakes, including Hayden, Fernan, Hauser, Cocolalla, Round, Smith and Robinson. Incidentally, the catchand-keep season for bass at Hayden opened today.
If you hook a sturgeon between 4 and 5 feet long in the John Day Reservoir, you can keep it. The Fish and Wildlife Department reported that only half the 560-fish quota for the section of the Columbia between McNary and John Day reservoirs have been caught. The season, which had been scheduled to end this week, will continue until further notice.
If you’ve been planning to fish for shad, now is the time. Enough are in the vicinity of the John Day Dam for fair to good fishing.
Two million shad have climbed the ladders at Bonneville Dam. A half million have been counted at John Day and more than 80,000 at McNary.
Pike are hitting lures at Lake Coeur d’Alene and the lakes adjacent to the lower Coeur d’Alene river. Smith said fishermen should concentrate in bays where there is new weed growth.
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