The tailrace fishery on the Snake River downstream of American Falls Dam to Eagle Rock has really grown in popularity over the past decade. This stretch of the Snake River has long produced a fabulous recreational fishery, one that has increased in both quality and diversity over recent history. Angler effort has followed suit, and for good reason—the fishing can be downright great throughout much of the year! The fishery is primarily supported by a combination of rainbow trout, brown trout, smallmouth bass, and white sturgeon. Anglers from near and far enjoy this stretch of river and it has become somewhat of a destination trout fishery. This winter has been no exception, with recent angler effort being fairly high. Along with that, Fish and Game has documented an unusually high rate of non-compliance with the winter fishing regulations. In fact, Conservation Officers have detected several hundred angling-related violations over the past year along this stretch of river. The intention here is to provide some clarity and guidance that will help anglers stay in compliance with the special rules used to manage this fishery. Hopefully, this will break-down the regulation complexity and help make anglers feel at ease when they check-out this section of the Snake River.
Some fish populations in this portion of the Snake River are managed using special angling regulations, or exceptions to the general Southeast Region Rules found in the Idaho Fish and Game fishing proclamations. The Snake River is divided into two distinct reaches based on fishery management: 1) the section from American Falls Dam downstream to Eagle Rock, and 2) the section from Eagle Rock downstream to the western boundary of the Gifford Springs boating fishing zone. The special fishing regulations for these two river reaches are as follows:
Section: From the downstream side of the Gifford Springs boat fishing zone (western boundary) upstream to Eagle Rock
• Bass limit is 2, any size
• Trout limit is 6, only 2 may be Cutthroat Trout
Section: From Eagle Rock upstream to American Falls Dam
• October 16 through Friday before Memorial Day weekend – limit is 0 for game fish species, catch-and-release, no bait allowed, barbless hooks required
• Saturday of Memorial Day weekend through October 15 – bass limit is 2, any size; trout limit is 6, only 2 may be Cutthroat Trout, only 2 trout over 16 inches
With respect to the section from Eagle Rock to American Falls Dam, no harvest of game fish species is allowed between October 16th and the Friday before Memorial Day (that’s May 28th in 2021). In addition, anglers are not allowed to use bait and must use barbless hooks during this period. Bait and barbed hooks are allowed starting the Saturday before Memorial Day; however, the regulations still differ from the general fishing regulations. During this time, the daily bag limit for bass is two (both species combined) and the trout daily bag limit is six. Only two of a six trout daily bag may be cutthroat trout, and only two trout of any species may be longer than 16 inches.
From Eagle Rock downstream to the Gifford Springs area, the bass limit is two and trout limit is six. Again, only two of any trout in a six limit daily bag may be cutthroat trout. Any size trout may be harvested in this reach.
The intent of special angling regulations is to control angler interactions in a way that supports management direction and provides specific angling experiences. Special rules are an important tool that fishery managers use throughout the state to shape fisheries and angling experiences congruent with the state’s Fisheries Management Plan. Remember, nongame fish species may be harvested by any legal method at any time during the year.
Anglers are encouraged to contact the Southeast Regional office or try out IDFG’s fishing planner (https://idfg.idaho.gov/ifwis/fishingplanner/) for additional guidance and regulation-related information.