Clearwater River Fishing Tips

General anglers guide to Idaho's Clearwater River winter steelhead fishing. Steelhead Baits, Methods of fishing and problems with navigating the river are all discussed. 

Steelhead fishing on the Clearwater River in Idaho starts in late summer and goes throughout the winter and well into the early spring months.
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The early arriving fish tend to be smaller than the big, B-run steelhead that enter the system in late October and November. It is these fish that are the prizes of the Clearwater.
The larger steelhead average between 8 and 14 pounds with a good number that will go into the high teens and the occasional fish that hits 20 pounds or better.  It is the b-run steelhead that draw anglers from all parts of the country.

The Clearwater River is suited for all types of fishing. During the fall and early winter months these fish are very aggressive and will take flies, spinners or jigs under bobbers.  Other popular methods of fishing are back trolling plugs or drifting corkies with or without bait. Side drifting is probably the most successful method for catching fish but it is also the most difficult method to learn and do well.

Winter weather in this area tends to be relatively mild. Unlike the Salmon River country, ice is almost never a problem; however, water temperatures will get very cold late in the year (December through February). It is during these months that fishing becomes more of a challenge. The bite tends to be slower and very soft, but if the angler is patient he is rewarded with some fantastic fishing. Another benefit of winter angling is there are fewer people on the water. This results in less competition for runs and fish.

The Clearwater is a small river that is very clear and in most places quite shallow. Techniques that work well in some of the surrounding rivers do not seem to be nearly as successful on the Clearwater. Whether this is due to the extreme water clarity or the fact the river is shallow and much of the time boats travel over the holding areas by necessity or lack of knowledge - these fish can be easily disturbed and scattered. This makes catching even more difficult.

Skilled fishers with good knowledge of the river can and do overcome the problems associated with small river angling. Understanding fish movement and the dynamics of the ever-changing river increases one's chances of success.

Many novice anglers have found fishing difficult at best due to the lack of experience or unwillingness to adapt to this tough little river.

One last word...courtesy is not be the inconsiderate person that blocks others from a run. Some areas drift well others will plug well and there are areas that are perfect for bobber anglers. If you do not have the skills to drift or back troll then find spots that work for you but always remember that this river is not yours alone. Simply throwing an anchor in the middle of a run that drifters or people running plugs are using is simply not sportsman like. Someday you may need help on the river and if your boat has the reputation for this kind of behavior you may not be received well.
Over the years there have been numerous articles written about Idaho's Clearwater River. One thing that seems to be ignored is this river and the fish can be extremely difficult. When other rivers are fishing well and the fish are aggressive the Clearwater fish are simply on a sulk. The only word that fits is ‘fickle’.

The Clearwater is not without challenges but it remains a popular river for fall and winter steelhead fishing. It draws anglers from throughout the country looking for that prized b-run trophy fish!

If you have never fished this river it is always a good idea to find a good reputable guide and utilize their services. They are in touch with where the fish are and the best way to make your day successful, without this working knowledge the Clearwater can be very stingy in giving up it’s big, beautiful fish.
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41 1/2 inches....21 inch girth. Weight estimated  well over 20 pounds ... Clearwater B-Run fish of this size are not everyday catches...However, they do happen with some regularity, especially in the late winter months.

Big B-run Steelhead buck from the Clearwater River in Idaho