Smallmouth Bass fishing on the Snake River - Tips and information for
planning your Snake River fishing trip.
Snake River Bass Fishing - Information on the Snake River for the boater or bank angler looking for Smallmouth Bass.
River information — The Snake is impounded from it’s confluence with the Columbia for approximately 147 miles upstream by the four Lower Snake River Dams-Ice Harbor (nearest the Columbia) followed by Lower Monumental, Little Goose and Lower Granite Dams. From Lower Granite upstream to the beginning of the free flowing section of the river is about 40 miles, upstream from this point there is around 22 miles of river that is accessible via paved and gravel roads on the Washington side of the river all the way to the confluence of the Snake and Grande Ronde River (sizable tributary). From the Grande Ronde upstream it is about 8 miles to the beginning of the Hells Canyon National Recreation Area (HCNRA) and another 70 miles to Hells Canyon Dam and the end of the free flowing river. From Hells Canyon Dam upstream there are 3 major impoundments (Hells Canyon Dam followed by Oxbow and Brownlee) as well as many smaller dams further upstream.
The lower impoundments are primarily sand and basalt bottom and shoreline with many areas of rip-rap banks and some good coves and bays that harbor baitfish and also tend to warm early in the year. The many shallow flats tend to have pretty good weed beds as well. Overall the reservoirs provide excellent cover and forage and have a very good population of smallmouth ranging from fry to upwards of 8 lbs. or better (7lbs. 9 oz. is the largest I can confirm from the area above Lower Granite Dam). This area is best accessed by boat and requires only practical boating/navigation knowledge.
The upper end of slack water to the Grande Ronde the Snake provides an excellent fishery for the bank fisherman and boater as well. The river is characterized by it’s rocky shorelines and white sand beaches and varies in depth from a few feet to in excess of 100 ft. Navigation in this section requires good boat handling skills and the ability to read rapids, shallows and submerged hazards. Rapids are mostly class I and II and flows will range from 10,000 cfs to in excess of 100,000 cfs in high runoff years. This area (all the way to Hells Canyon Dam) is severely influenced by fluctuating flows from the dam, water levels may rise and fall as much as 4 or 5 ft. in a matter of hours, impacting navigation and fishing as well. While the area is navigable in a prop boat a jet boat is a better choice for the average individual who may not be familiar with the river. Bass fishing is great in this area, primary cover is rocky points, drop-offs and eddies as well as riffles and runs broken by in-stream boulders. During the high water periods we have many back-channels and flooded flats that provide fantastic action for short periods of time in the spring. This stretch of river is my personal favorite and holds an enormous population of smallmouth ranging from small to large (one of our guides C&Rd a prespawn hen that was 24 inches long and 12.25 inches in depth).
From the mouth of the Grande Ronde up, the river changes completely. This is Hells Canyon proper and most of the river corridor is managed by the USFS with entry permits required and limited during the Primary Season (mid-May through early Sept.-for info contact the HCNRA Office in Clarkston, WA at 1-509-758-0616). As you progress upstream the canyon walls become steep and rugged all the way to the river bank, rapids are up to Class IV and boat travel should be limited to the highly skilled and experienced boaters (jet boats highly advised and of proper size and design for conditions). The bass fishery in this upper reach is punctuated by volumes of fish in the 1 to 2 lb. range with fewer numbers of large fish. The river is of “drop and pool” character with fish lying behind nearly every rock, in the eddies and on all of the rocky flats. This section of river has spectacular scenery, a myriad of wildlife and excellent smallmouth fishing for small to medium sized fish.
Hells Canyon Dam upstream, the impoundments provide a good population of both Smallmouth and Largemouth bass in good numbers and fair size. As with the lower river impounded waters, this area is navigable in prop boats as well as jet boats and requires only practical boating skills. Structure consists of rocky shorelines, coves with some weeding and drop-off areas.