Lewiston, Idaho, is uniquely located at the junction of two major steelhead trout rivers, the Snake and the Clearwater. Both fill with migrating steelhead in the spring and fall, fish returning from one to three years of feeding in the ocean. The Snake River is the primary holding water of the spring run, the A-run, while the Clearwater River is the best place to fish the B-run, locally known as the "Big B-run."
The Clearwater River by Boat
If you want to use your fishing boat, the Clearwater is your river. Running through the heart of Lewiston with ample access points, the Clearwater holds the area's biggest fish. In 1973, the Idaho steelhead record was set in the Clearwater River---a 30-lb. trout.
Evelyn Kay, operator of Clearwater Drifters and Guide Shop, recommends putting in at Pink House Hole 4 miles west of Orofino, then fishing down from there. However, since the fish travel up the river, no perfect hole exists; what works one day might not work the next.
Shore Fishing the Clearwater
According to fishery biologist Larry Barrett, "There's lots of good bank access along the Clearwater." For shore fishers, he recommends jigs baited with shrimp or eggs. Use a bobber to avoid snags.
One hole Barrett suggests is Dwarshak Hatchery, 3 miles west of Orofino. The hatchery releases steelhead smolt into the Clearwater River, making this spot the destination for many migrating fish.
Shore Fishing the Snake
Snake River Road follows the Snake River from Lewiston to Rogersburg. Fish the banks at one of the many pullouts. Pay attention to flows. The spring thaw can create variable conditions, making some holes very challenging. Also, make sure you have a fishing license for the appropriate state: One side of the river belongs to Idaho and the other to Washington.
The Snake River by Boat
Thirty miles south of Lewiston, the country's deepest gorge, Hells Canyon, cradles the Snake River. Its walls are steep and the bottom rocky, creating class-III rapids only expert boat drivers can navigate. Fishing holes vary by the time of year. If you plan to fish the B-run in the fall, spend most your time below Couse Creek Road.