The Lesser Known Season in Idaho

Sean Visintainer - 03/22/14

Fishing high water on the Coeur d'Alene River.

The Lesser Known "Season" of the Coeur d'Alene and St Joe Rivers

What does that title mean? Everyone associates the "Fishing Season" as the time of the year that the rivers are coming out of runoff, the trees have leaves on them, insects abound, and t-shirts are the norm. Yes, we all love that time of the year, June through September is undoubtedly "The Fishing Season" in Idaho. But what about the other 8 months? In particular what about now?! I know most of you are itching to get out and fish.

It was only a handful of years ago that the nearby Idaho streams even became year-round fisheries. Not many people even know that you can catch cutthroat before Memorial Day Weekend! As if the fish have some magical internal clock that alerts them to the "Fishing Season" and now they can go back to feeding. ;)

In my opinion, from now (Mid March) till the 3rd week of April can possibly be one of the best times of the year to fish. Why until then? Typically by the 3rd week of April the odds of the river starting to "blow-out", or get the major runoff from snowpack, are pretty high, thus putting most rivers around the region out of commission for 4-6 weeks.

What makes this lesser known season so special? 3 major reasons:

  1. Fish become more active - Water temps start to warm, fish become more active. Remember they are cold blooded. Simple right?
  2. Insect hatches begin - As water temps begin to warm, not only do the fish begin to become more active, but also so do the insects. Check out the info below about pre-runoff insect hatches.
  3. Less fishing pressure - It seems that a little foul weather scares people away... that's why they invented Gore-Tex. Even though the weather can be inconsistent this time of the year, if you can be more flexible, windows of good weather are frequent. I wore a t-shirt last Thursday on the St. Joe most of the day... no joke.
St Joe River Cutthroat Trout.
Insect Time Frame Notes
Midges Late Feb - Mid March Small hatches get fish up on the warmest early spring days.
Capnia Stones Late Feb - Mid March Ehhh... I'm sure fish eat these little guys.. but I never seem to witness it!
Nemoura Stones Early Mar - Late Mar Small dark stone up to 1" in length. Not a very big hatch, but can bring up fish.
BWO's Mid March - Mid April The first real "player" for insect hatches. If these guys are out in numbers you can really start to see heads come up. A staple.
March Brown's Late Mar - Mid April A small hatch the bridges the time gap between the bwo's and skwalas. Definitely worth a few in your fly box.
Skwala Stones Late March - Mid April The first big meal of the year. Not as intense of a hatch like the Yakima or Bitterroot, but if one or two of these guys are out something really special can happen.
Gray Drakes Mid April - Early May Overlaps with skwala hatches. These is something about drakes fish cannot resist. I call them the super models of the insect world.