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Fishing in North Central Idaho

September 27, 2022

You can fish year round for Bass, Brook Trout, Bull Trout, Kokanee, Sturgeon, Tiger Muskie, Cutthroat and Rainbow Trout, and Whitefish in North Central Idaho. Other fish, like salmon and steelhead, can be fished during specific seasons. Read on to learn more about fishing and the many lakes, rivers, reservoirs, and streams in North Central Idaho.

Chinook Salmon

Anglers plan vacations around the epic spring, summer and fall chinook salmon runs. Fish range from 12-20 pounds but some have been hooked over 30 pounds. Seasons and rules are set annually based on when they being their migration upstream to spawn.

Steelhead

Steelhead are large, ocean-going rainbow trout native to Idaho and the northwest. When they leave the ocean to return to Idaho, one of the most amazing fishing opportunities is created. They can typically be found fall through spring in the lower sections of the Clearwater, Snake and Salmon rivers and eventually in the South Fork of the Clearwater, Little Salmon, and upper Salmon rivers.

Coho Salmon

Thanks to the Nez Perce Tribe’s successful hatchery program, Coho Salmon have returned to the Clearwater River system. Coho typically arrive in early September and peak in mid-October. Coho range from 8-12 pounds.

Sturgeon

White Sturgeon Fishing on the Snake River ©Snake River Adventures

White sturgeon are the largest freshwater fish in North America. They can live to be over 100 years old and 10 feet long! They can be found in the Snake and lower Salmon. They are catch-and-release only but angling for these fish are very popular if only for the photo op you can share with your friends of you and an 8-10 foot fish.

Check seasons and limits with the Idaho Fish and Game.

Clearwater River

Fly Fishing on the Clearwater River

The Clearwater River, as well as the Middle Fork, North Fork and South Fork of the Clearwater, have some of the best fishing around. It’s world renowned for prolific runs of B-run steelhead and spring chinook. 

Fly fish for trout below Orofino in July and August when Dworshak Dam is dumping cold water into the Clearwater River.

Book a guide to fish near the confluence of the Clearwater and Snake to catch a legendary steelhead or salmon.

Fish the Middle Fork and North Fork of the Clearwater River for Chinook Salmon, Cutthroat Trout, Mountain Whitefish, Smallmouth Bass, Rainbow Trout, Bull Trout, Steelhead and Coho Salmon.

Snake River

Fish for smallmouth bass, catfish, and rainbow trout on the Snake River near Lewiston, Idaho. Book a guided Hells Canyon trip to catch (and release) a monster white sturgeon. 

Salmon River

The breathtaking Salmon River of No Return has some of the best fishing in all of Idaho. Thousands of salmon and steelhead journey up the Salmon and Little Salmon Rivers making them a premier catch. It’s the largest undammed river in the lower 48 states and has hundreds of miles of natural spawning of wild Steelhead as well as hatchery runs of Steelhead. Trout, bass, and salmon fishing are fantastic too!

Lochsa River

The Lochsa River is known for excellent Cutthroat Trout. It’s an easily accessible river that draws avid anglers as well as novices.

Selway River

Fish the scenic Selway River for Cutthroat Trout, Mountain Whitefish, Rainbow Trout, and Bull Trout.

Winchester Lake

Fishing at Winchester Lake

Thousands of rainbow trout are stocked in the spring and fall on this beautiful reservoir near Winchester, Idaho. Docks and fishing platforms provide easy access. Or, hop in your canoe and spend a lazy day in a beautiful forested setting. Winchester Lake State Park adjoins part of the lake and has picnic facilities, camping options, and a fish cleaning station.

Spring Valley Reservoir

Near Moscow, Idaho and just north of Troy, Idaho is the beautiful Spring Valley Reservoir. Surrounded by rolling hills and trees, this body of water is stocked heavily spring and fall with trout. Largemouth bass, catfish, Tiger Muskie, and other fish can also be landed. Fishing docks and platforms provide good access. Gas motors are not allowed on the reservoir.

Elk Creek Reservoir

Located near Elk River, Idaho, you can catch Largemouth Bass, Rainbow Trout, Bluegill, and more. It’s the oldest reservoir in the inland Northwest and was originally created as a logging pond.

Dworshak Reservoir

This Reservoir is located in a gorgeous location near Orofino, Idaho. Extending more than 50 miles, Dworshak provides some excellent lake fishing. Seven boat ramps can be found around the reservoir as well as two campgrounds and some remote camping options.

Fish for Kokanee, Cutthroat Trout, Smallmouth Bass, Rainbow Trout, Bull Trout, and White Crappie.

Deyo Reservoir

Nestled amid farms and trees, the beautiful Deyo Reservoir provides a great family fishing experience. Rainbow Trout are stocked heavily spring and fall. Largemouth bass, Bluegill, Pumpkinseed, and Sunfish can also be found. Located near Weippe, Idaho, the reservoir has seven fishing docks, a boat ramp, picnic shelter, and swimming beach.

Deer Creek Reservoir

Located near Pierce, Idaho, Deer Creek Reservoir is stocked with rainbow trout in spring and fall, as well as sterile brook trout and tiger trout. The beautiful mountain reservoir is perfect fishing for kids, families and avid anglers.

Kelly Creek

Fly Fishing for Trout in Kelly Creek ©Silver Bow Fly Shop

Kelly Creek is one of Idaho’s best-kept angling secrets. Located near Pierce, Idaho, Kelly Creek flows into the North Fork of the Clearwater. West-slope Cutthroat trout leap in crystal clear water. Also fish for Mountain Whitefish, Rainbow Trout, and Bull Trout. 

Mountain Lakes

Alpine lakes provide a unique fishing experience in North Central Idaho’s scenic backcountry.  There are nearly 700 mountain lakes in our region and Idaho Fish and Game stocks hundreds of alpine lakes every year. These lakes are mostly in remote mountainous backcountry areas and often within wilderness areas that are typically only accessible by foot or horseback  but provide an unforgettable fishing trip. Some are accessible with ATVs, motorcycles, or automobiles.  Visit Idaho Fish & Game to see a list of alpine lakes that are stocked in North Central Idaho.

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