The Clearwater River in north-central Idaho is renowned for outstanding fishing for B-run steelhead and chinook salmon, and to a lesser extent, native cutthroat trout in the summer. In the fall, the steelhead season kicks in with catch-and-release fishing in September, and then catch-and-keep from October to the end of April. B-run steelhead in the Clearwater average 12-14 pounds, but many of them go higher, in the 20-pound range. These ocean-going rainbows put up a big fight when hooked, and they’re great eating.
The benefits of fishing between Orofino and Lewiston is that sometimes, Snake River steelhead will spend some time in the Clearwater River before moving up the Snake, adding to fish density in the Clearwater. But the lower Clearwater can get a bit congested when the fishing is hot. Outfitters provide guided drift boat fishing, power boat fishing and walk-and-wide fishing, depending on the guests’ preference. Many hotels are located in the Lewiston and Orofino area for overnight lodging. Be sure to book your trip early because during the heat of the steelhead season in the fall and winter, the trips fill up quickly, and lodging can be tough to find on a moment’s notice.
From early May to the end of June, the chinook salmon kicks in. These fish can run in the 20- to 30-pound range. Each year, the duration of the chinook salmon season depends on the number of fish coming up the Columbia and Snake Rivers from the Pacific Ocean. The Idaho Department of Fish and Game sets the season and bag limits accordingly.
If you’d like to catch a big steelhead or a salmon, the Clearwater River is the place to find them.