Steelhead, Chinook Salmon, Sockeye Salmon (Endangered Species), Small-Mouth Bass, Channel and Blue Catfish, Crappie, Yellow Perch, Carp and Rainbows
From Lower Granite Dam to the Oregon border
Drive west from Pullman on Highway 194 to Almota and the part of the river immediately downstream from Lower Granite Dam. The most accessible part of the Snake in Washington is the section from Clarkston downstream to Wawawai, where Wawawai River Road parallels the east side of the river for more than 20 miles. Take Snake River Road out of Clarkston to drive along the Snake’s west bank all the way to the mouth of the Grande Ronde.
Lyon’s Ferry State Park, at the confluence of the Palouse and Snake Rivers, has an expansive boat ramp, as well as campsites, restrooms, showers, and other amenities. Central Ferry State Park, just off Highway 127, also has a boat ramp, plus tent and RV sites. Boyer Park and Marina, operated by the Port of Whitman County, has a free boat ramp, moorage for over 100 boats, tents and RV sites, fuel, and a restaurant, and is open from mid-March until early November. Wawawai Road provides access to several boat ramps on the east side of the river between Clarkston and Wawawai. Chief Timothy State Park, located on an island in the Snake River, off U.S.12 west of Clarkston, has a boat ramp wide enough to launch as many as four boats at the same time, campsites, restrooms, and showers. It also has five floats on its south side, just for campers in its shoreline RV sites. There’s another boat ramp at Looking Glass Park, south of Clarkston at the mouth of Asotin Creek, and another below the mouth of the Grande Ronde River. The nearest food, gas, tackle, and lodging can be found in Clarkston or across the river in Lewiston, Idaho.
Fishing the upper Washington side of the Snake River:
You get a little bit of everything if you spend the time doing a little investigation on this section of the Snake River. A lot of the upper Snake is like an on going lake, more than a river, thanks to the Lower Monument, Little Goose, and the Lower Granite Dams, which back up much of the river between Clarkston and Kahlotus. South of Clarkston, however, the river gains speed as you move upstream to the world famous “Hells Canyon”, and there’s not doubt your on one of the Northwest’s most inviting rivers.
Lake Hebert West, Lake Bryan, and Lower Granite Lake, the reservoirs behing the three dams on this stretch, offer very good lake smallmouth bass fishing. The fishing is best after the water warms to at least 60 degrees in the late spring, and from then on it’s possible to enjoy fast action with small grubs, crawdad-finish crankbaits, and other standard small-mouth lure. Work them around the base of rock cliffs and over submerged rock piles, scattered boulders, and points of land merging into the water.
Trolling for steelhead is also productive in the reservoirs, and the fishing is at least as good during the night as in the daylight hours. October, November, and December provide the best catches, so be sure to bundle up if your going to plan a night fishing trip. Hot Shots, Wiggle Warts, Hot Lip Express, and Hog Boss plugs are among the consistent strike-getters.
Blue catfish aren’t just found anywhere in Washington, but angler’s do get them here, and some of the bigger-sized fish can be of 15 pounds or more. Like the (usually) smaller channel cats, they can be caught with chicken livers, strips cut from sucker fish bellies, night crawlers, Berkley’s Catfish Power Bait, and other various stinkbaits. The upper ends of the reservoirs, where there’s some moving water, often produce some of the best catfish action.
Modified versions of the catfish techniques can be used on the sturgeon, the real monsters of the Snake. Be sure to change the bait as sturgeon prefer smelt, herring, and pieces of eel. Some of the better sturgeon holes are located immediately downstream of Clarkston, but remember this part of the river is catch and release only. If you want to keep a sturgeon, you’ll have to fish below Lower Granite Dam.
Panfish action on the Snake River reservoirs is outstanding. Find a school of active crappies and it’s not unusual to go away with 50 of the mild-flavored little fish for a day’s efforts. Small leadhead adorned with red and white plastic skirts or tube bodies are most effective, but other color combination also work. If you know there are panfish around you’re not getting them to hit, do some experimenting around with various colors until you find one that works.