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.
Here are some suggestions from Fish and Game’s fisheries managers and information staff around the state about some good fall fishing spots you might want to check out. This is just a sampler of what’s available in the fall for anglers. To find more, visit the Idaho Fishing Planner at idfg.idaho.gov/ifwis/fishingPlanner.
South Fork Boise River: As the most popular fall river fishery in Southwest Idaho for quality wild rainbow trout and mountain whitefish, this one stands out as obvious. But things on the South Fork will be a little different this year. Typically, by the end of September, flows have dropped to 600 cfs., which is conducive to wading and greatly increases the popularity of the river. Because of a stuck clamshell gate in Arrowrock Reservoir, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation is having to keep flows high to avoid dropping the Arrowrock pool, and likely won’t be able to fix the stuck gate until after irrigation season in mid-October. So, while the South Fork Boise will still be a great fall fishery, it will mainly be a float fishery with limited wading until flows come down later than usual.
Snake River: While it won’t be long before the Snake River becomes a hotspot for waterfowl hunters, the fall is still a great time to catch bass and catfish in the river. Fall is often overlooked, but it can be a great time to catch bass, especially early in the season. As temperatures drop and days begin to shorten, bass can become aggressive feeders heading into the winter.
Payette River: Bass fishing — both large and small mouth — remains the primary appeal on the lower portions of the Payette River, particularly below Black Canyon Dam. A new feature has been added above the dam with the infusion of 100 tiger muskies to the Reservoir. This species of fish is a hybrid that is sterile and will not reproduce but can provide an exciting catch for sports fishermen. Noted for their fight the tiger muskies, especially in catch and release waters, can grow to trophy sizes. Their predator relationship with sucker fish can actually help boost other fish populations like perch over time. Trout is still a primary feature of most of the Payette River fishery and recent Fish and Game stocking in nearby ponds makes fall rainbow trout opportunities prime.