The incoming run for 2004 is stacking up at the confluence of the Clearwater and Snake Rivers near Lewiston, and they're starting to spread throughout Idaho. This year is off to a pretty good start, and by the time you read this article there should be over 45,000 fish past Lower Granite dam. Unfortunately, the numbers of fish are far less than earlier projected. Consequently, you had better head for the nearest tackle store, or call a guide service, and get a line in the water, soon!
Catch rates for the first week of the season in the lower Clearwater River (Below Cherrylane Bridge) to the confluence at Lewiston, Idaho, were about 28 hours per fish caught, and 39 hours for fish kept. But, with more than 10,000 fish over Lower Granite this past week, and averaging more than 1,500 new fish a day continuing to arrive, fishing will only get better. Anyway you plug it, that's salmon fishing. Sorry about the pun, but plugging has been the most popular method of fishing so far.
With all the early excitement about the upcoming salmon season, I decided it was time I try my hand at backtrolling plugs for these magnificent fish. In the past I have fished for, and caught salmon in Idaho with both casting and fly fishing gear, but the new challenge was to catch one from my boat. I had no idea what boat equipment, or fishing tackle and gear would be involved. So after a few phone calls and personal contacts, I got some sage advise from a couple of avid salmon anglers at tackle shops in both Nampa and the Lewiston/Clarkston area.
First off, I stopped by Howard's Tackle Shoppe in Nampa and talked with Gene who steered me on to what later turned out to be the perfect salmon plug. Next, I picked up my outdoor writer buddy, Ed Mitchell and we timidly proceeded up north to give the week old salmon fishing season a "loose jerk," to put it jokingly! Needless to say, after several hours trying to manage my new boat equipment, and just plain ole' "firsttimers" misfortune, we decided to again seek counsel from a higher authority other than ourselves. We stopped by Camp, Cabin and Home, a new sporting goods store in North Lewiston. In no time, Trent Brown, a young but enthusiastic and knowledgeable angler, not only reaffirmed some previous information we got from Gene, but filleted and wrapped our previously acquired Kwikfish with the salmon's delight, sardines! I couldn't help think the combination sounded more like a Wendy's lunch special, "Kwikfish sandwich with a sardine wrap!" What could be more appetizing?
In spite of our awkward beginning, with a lot of help from a couple of real salmon fishermen, I somehow managed to catch a chinook in only 10 hours of fishing! Even though this was not my first king salmon, and hopefully it won't be my last, it was a memorable, and an educational experience.
We were fortunate to have fantastic assistance from local independent tackle shops. But a person could spend twice the money, most assuredly more than twice the time, and arouse a lot of frustration trying to figure out where or when to go, what works, what doesn't, and why. So if you go--and you're firsttimers like we were--don't be shy, ask plenty of dumb questions, or hire a guide! There are plenty of great folks working in Idaho's sport fishing industry just waiting to share their enthusiasm for fishing! I know. It worked for me
Another South Fork Salmon Season
"Still the King" Idaho Rod & Reel article from 2002
Survey Shows Economic Effect of Big Salmon Run
Idaho Fish and Game News Release from 2003
2004 Weekly Chinook Salmon Fishing Report
Season opened April 24 on Clearwater, Snake, Lower Salmon, and Little Salmon rivers.