Now that fall has officially arrived, anticipate the cooler, longer evenings to churn up the fish activity at your favorite spots. Terrestrials will still be key until temperatures really drop, so pack a few hoppers, ants and beetles wherever you go.
A friend who “escaped” to Montana this week said the smoke was pretty bad over there. His party floated 10 miles of the Clark Fork River above the Blackfoot on the first day where there were “lots and lots” of cutthroat, but none over 17 inches. On their second day, they floated 10 miles of river west of Missoula where the fish were just as numerous but larger. Most of their action came on a hopper/dropper with the majority of cutts taken on the dropper.
The St. Joe River should be a great option over the next few weeks, according to the pros at Silver Bow Fly Shop. With the smoke gone and the temperatures falling, it is reportedly “game on.” Keep using terrestrials as appropriate, but it would be a good idea to transition to mahogany duns and October caddis as the season progresses.
The Grande Ronde might be worth a look for those hoping to land steelhead. The flows are still low, but fall can be prime time for some new action.
Salmon and steelhead
Bonneville Dam passage through Sept. 15 totaled 276,533 adult and 36,938 jack fall chinook. This is the fifth-largest cumulative adult count to date and seventh-largest jack count to date in the past 10 years. The clip rate was approximately 70%, which is higher than average. McNary Dam passage through Sept. 15 totaled 85,649 adult chinook. The fall chinook run at McNary is typically 41% complete, based on 10-year average run timing. Counts of steelhead at Bonneville Dam since July 1 total 89,354 fish, which is 85% of the recent 10-year average. It is the eighth-highest count to date in the past 10 years.
The mainstem Columbia River from Buoy 10 at the mouth of the river to the Highway 395 Bridge near Pasco opened for fall chinook and coho salmon fishing last Saturday, a few days earlier than originally announced. The opening comes after the estimated Columbia River fall chinook run size was updated to 476,680 adults, an increase of 13% from the preseason forecast. Coho returning to waters above Bonneville Dam are also running above the preseason estimate with 66,700 early-stock coho now expected to return. All coho retained downstream of the Hood River Bridge must be hatchery-origin. The daily adult bag limit is two salmon, of which only one may be a chinook. All other regulations remain in effect including those specific to retention of jacks and previously adopted steelhead retention closures and bag limits. The fishery is expected to remain open through Dec. 31.
Guide Toby Wyatt of Reel Time Fishing reports excellent early success on Hanford Reach chinook. Pictures he sent indicate the fish are still in excellent shape.
Friends who have been camped out at the Snake/Clearwater confluence to bobber fish for steelhead and salmon were having excellent success – until I said so in the paper. Following last Thursday’s report, they went three days in a row without a bite. The fish were still there, they just weren’t biting.
Trout and kokanee
Kokanee fishermen who could tolerate the smoke last week were still finding plenty of Loon Lake nighttime kokanee in 40 feet of water. The fish were still in excellent shape, and some were 13 inches long with a lot of heft. To make things better, the bite has been early, with some anglers limiting by 8 p.m. Loon is open through October.
At Fins and Feathers in Coeur d’Alene, Jeff Smith said he is absolutely perplexed as to why, but the big kokanee in the lake – which he assumed would just keep getting bigger – have gone on an early spawn and fishing for them is all but over. Anglers are still catching the 10-inchers – next year’s fish.
Some of the biggest, most beautiful trout in Idaho will start hitting in Lake Pend Oreille in the coming weeks. The kamloops there are moving toward the surface and a Frisky Jenny fly behind a flasher will draw vicious strikes from fish ranging 5 pounds and up.
With water temperatures dropping, trout fishing is picking up on Potholes Reservoir. Best fishing for 2- to 5-pound rainbow is in front of the State Park.
The Rod Meseberg Walleye Classic will be held Oct. 10-11 on Potholes Reservoir. Entry is $300 per team. Sign up at the MarDon Resort office or on Saturday morning at the tournament trailer from 6-7 a.m. – cash or check only. Call MarDon for more info (509) 346-2651.
Pike fishing on Lake Coeur d’Alene is good, although no large fish have been reported lately. The water is dropping and getting cooler, and the deeper weed beds have been productive. Spinner baits are the top fish-getter at this time.
The 2020 northern pike minnow rewards program concludes for the year at the end of September.
Approximately 90,000 fish had been turned in at various check stations throughout the state. There were 104 tagged fish turned in, each worth $500. Boyer Park on the Snake River had the most pikeminnow recorded at around 17,000.
Recreational halibut dates have been added to the Washington coast fishery for the remainder of the season. Marine Areas 1 (Ilwaco/Chinook) and Area 2 (Westport) on Monday and Tuesday; Marine Area 3 (La Push), Marine Area 4 (Neah Bay) and Marine Areas 5-10 (Puget Sound) Sunday through Tuesday. These openings are in addition to days already proposed to be open.
Idaho Fish and Game recently expanding the department’s pheasant stocking program by more than doubling the number of stocking locations, adding at least one in each of seven regions. In the Idaho Panhandle, there will be releases at the Coeur d’Alene River WMA, the Palouse River upland game area, Petersen Loop, the Genesee area and the Craig Mountain WMA.
Idaho’s duck and goose youth hunt is scheduled Saturday and Sunday. This early hunting opportunity is a great way to introduce youngsters to the outdoors and to the excitement of chasing game.
The skies are typically flush with birds, offering plenty of opportunities for novice hunters under supervised guidance.
For the first time this year, veterans and active duty military personnel can also participate in this early, two-day hunt.
For more information and rules, visit idfg.idaho.gov/press/youth-and-veteransactive-military-waterfowl-weekend-sept-26-27.
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