Quick update for the fish-brained among you: right now is an exciting time in Kootenai River Country. With the first pulse of snowmelt from the high altitudes, the bugs come alive, and trout respond in kind.
Stoneflies start to flush out of the tributaries right about now, and caddis and mayflies in the main stem Kootenai begin hatching prolifically. Water temperatures take a brief plunge with the addition of all the melted snow, which does affect trout activity levels. They don’t eat all day long, but when they eat, they chow.
This is good news for those of you who prefer to sleep in and stay up late. We are already back to days of long light here in the north country, with full darkness coming well after nine pm.
As far as water clarity goes, there are only a few pesky streams that bring in enough sediment to muddy the waters on the Kootenai. These are mostly located in the upper river reaches and rarely last longer than a week.
The bigger issue affecting fishing on the Kootenai this time of year has to do with discharge from the the Libby Dam and the annual Sturgeon pulse that raises river levels to its highest for the year. This temporarily rearranges fish populations and is arguably the toughest time to find fish on the Kootenai. This period can last for two weeks to a month, depending on conditions.
Here’s where we have more good news to share: this year the Sturgeon pulse is slated to come on the early side of things, in mid-May- and is not looking to last longer than two weeks. That means earlier fishing opportunities all around on the big river and a longer season in general.
As far as small stream fishing goes, in Montana most creeks are closed for a period each spring to protect spawning native cutthroat and rainbows. Opening day falls on the third Saturday in May. For 2021, that means the 15th. In Idaho, the tributaries we fish don’t close, but we respect the spawning period regardless. We consider trout to be our business partners after all, and want to be on good terms. No coitus interuptus here.
Closures aside, spring tributary fishing is always a bit of a dance. Flows are crucial and variables are many. So we keep our eyes to the skies, the graphs, the forecast and the mountain sides.
At just about a week out from opening day, we’re optimistic. Given snowpack, we’ll likely have a shorter timeframe to float than last year, but we should get a good window of a week or two, either way. A cloudy and rainy June would help a great deal.
As of this writing, the Kootenai is running around 9,000 cfs out of the dam and water temps are 40. At the Idaho/Montana state line, thirty-five miles downstream, flows are around 16,000 cfs and water temps are in the mid 40’s.
Clarity is not crystal, but also not dirty. It’s fishable, folks. You know where we’ll be! Contact us if you’d like to book a day on the water: https://kcanglers.com/contact-us-float-fish-kootenai-river/
We will leave you with this image…