The Upper Spokane River as a Smallmouth Bass Fishery
Most people look down on the fact that there are smallmouth bass on the Upper Spokane River... however, I beg to differ. For those that are not familiar with the Upper Spokane River, I define the "Upper 'Kan" as anything above Upriver Dam, in particular, any water from Plante's Ferry Park and upstream to the dam at Post Falls.
There is definitely lots of controversy over the introduction of smallmouth in what is a protected Native Redband Trout Fishery, and rightfully so. I am 110% all for the protection of the Redbands, heck most of our guide service revolves around them! The reality is, is that the smallmouth, however the hell they got into the river, are definitely not going anywhere... so might as well fish for them! The introduction of smallies in the Spokane River was definitely not a planned stocking. More than likely there are several culprits for them finding refuge in our backyard river.Photo by Michael Visintainer
My theory is that the bass have spilled over the dam at Post Falls from the prolific smallie fishery above in Lake Coeur d'Alene. Other theories include that waterfowl could be the source for transportation of eggs, and good 'ol bucket biology from someone that was selfish and thought smallies would be a great idea if they dumped them in. At any rate, they are there and it would take one hell of an effort to eliminate them. From my guess is that the smallmouth have been in the system for well over a decade now. It seems though that the population of smallies, while fairly prolific, has stabilized somewhat from talks with the Washington Depart of Fish and Wildlife and maybe has even found a balance with the remaining population of Redbands in the upper river. As most of you know, smallmouth bass love to eat other fish and it has been thought that the decline in Redbands in the upper river is directly related to the bass. I believe the decline in the Redband population is a mix of the bass as well as water flows from Lake Coeur d'Alene... but that is a whole different topic.
Since the bass don't seem to be going anywhere soon, some of us at the shop actually have gotten to know the newer fishery a little more on our days off and target the smallies specifically. They are abundant enough to keep you entertained and on these hot summer days the bass are always willing to play. While most of the bass seem to be stunted probably due to the fact there is a lack of food in the Upper Spokane River, there are some fish that will go 18". The average smallmouth is 8-12" with a few in the 13-15". Not big, but lots of fun on 5 or 6wt. Even though the bass probably did put a dent in the trout population at one point, I think because of the lack of insect life and small invertebrates keeps the smallies at bay. I guess too, I've heard too many different stories now on how large the population of Redbands really was in the river. Supposedly the Upper Spokane above the falls only had a small population of trout because only the biggest, baddest steelhead could make it over the falls on the right water years. And since now we don't have any steelhead in the river because some dip-shit didn't put a fish ladder in Grand Coulee it's tough to say since we are only seeing the remnants of what things used to be.
While there may be mixed feelings on the bass in what historically was (and still is) a trout stream as the saying goes... If you can't beat 'em, join 'em... and you might as well bring your fly rod too.
Make Sure to check out Part 2 of this Spokane River Smallmouth Series for some tips and gear on catching these urban spiny rays.