Cool weather makes conditions prime for trout fishing and more.
For many Idahoans, feeling cool morning air and seeing hints of red and gold in the forest means it’s time to lace up the boots and grab a gun or bow for hunting season, but don’t overlook fall fishing. That cool weather means many fish are re-energized after their summer slumbers and ready to eat like bears fattening up for winter.
Fall fishing may be overshadowed by Idaho’s hunting season, but it’s not an either/or proposition. Idaho is famous for its “cast and blast” opportunities, and if you’re not a hunter, it’s also a great time to experience your favorite fishing spots when there are likely fewer people there.
Most rivers are also running low and more easily accessible than during high water, and anglers shouldn’t overlook lakes and reservoirs, either. While some are near their lowest water level of the year and may be sporting extra vegetation, cooler water means the fish become more active, and they’ve probably gained a few inches or ounces since spring.
Fish and Game’s fish stocking crews also return to many local ponds and other nearby waters that become too warm for trout during summer. It’s a great opportunity to squeeze in some fishing time without traveling far from home.
Clearwater River: While there is a bag-limit reduction and size restrictions on the Clearwater River in what looks to be a lean year for fall steelhead, fall Chinook fishing in the Clearwater River system was recently expanded by the Idaho Fish and Game Commission. The biggest change in opportunity came on the mainstream Clearwater. New areas were opened up to Chinook fishing from Memorial Bridge in Lewiston upstream to the confluence of the Middle Fork and South Fork Clearwater rivers. Anglers can keep up to six adult fall Chinook salmon per day, only one of which may have an adipose fin, and an unlimited number of jacks, which are smaller than 24 inches.
Upper Clearwater tributaries
Fall offers some of the best fishing of the year for native west slope cutthroat. These waters provide not only great opportunities for fly anglers, but also pleasant weather and some breathtaking scenery. The North Fork Clearwater River and Kelly Creek are two storied cutthroat waters that anglers should consider. If they time it right, fall anglers will be treated to a full palette of autumn colors, both on the trees and in the river as kokanee make their way upstream from Dworshak Reservoir to spawn. Many other waters in the Clearwater River system are worth visiting in the fall, including the Lochsa and Selway rivers.
Be sure to check the 2019-21 Idaho Fishing regulations before you head out, as each of the waters mentioned here have special rules in place.