Brownlee Reservoir is the uppermost reservoir of
the Hells Canyon complex, which is a series of three Idaho Power
dams built on the Snake River to generate electricity. Brownlee
Reservoir is by far the largest, covering 15,000 acres. The
reservoir is long and narrow, featuring rocky steep shorelines.
Since the reservoir is the border between Oregon and Idaho, anglers
should note, that with a license in either state, they can use
facilities of either state to put in or take out boats, as long as
they do not fish from the shore, dock or a docked boat in the state
which they do not hold a license.
Brownlee Reservoir is among the most heavily
fished waters in Idaho. Healthy populations of warm water fish such
as smallmouth bass, catfish and crappie are especially popular.
Brownlee has produced four state record gamefish; the flathead and
bullhead catfish, and the white and black crappie. Perch, bluegill,
largemouth bass and stocked rainbow add to the diversity of this
Southern end access to Brownlee Reservoir can be
made at Farewell Bend State Park, on the Oregon side, and Steck Park
near Weiser on the Idaho side. Spring Park Camp on the Oregon side
is nearly directly across from Steck Park. The north end of the
reservoir is best accessed through Cambridge, at Woodhead Park near
the dam. These areas have good to excellent dock and ramp facilities
for boaters and provide some shoreline access. Other shoreline
access is limited by rough terrain.
Smallmouth bass is the premier fish of Brownlee. Best fishing is
from a boat and there are few fish that are more fun to catch. Look
for gravelbar areas and rocky outcroppings. Smallmouth are usually
found in less than 20 feet of water, larger fish tend to be found
deeper. Cast plugs, plastic grubs or worms, or lead-headed jigs and
retrieve in a jigging motion.
Largemouth bass can be caught with the same methods, but likely will
be found in weedier shallows. They too should be actively fished
with a jigging or retrieving action.
Crappie fishing is best in the spring and early summer. Skirted
lead-headed jigs, in a variety of colors are effective. Fish calm
inlets by casting jigs toward shore and retrieving. Try various
colors of jigs to see what is effective. Once you find them the
action can be quick.
Catfishing has become very popular in Brownlee, especially in the
upper 1/3 of the reservoir. Best fishing is generally in the summer
and can be done effectively from shore. Catfish are scavenger fish,
so cubait, ripe chicken livers, or catfish stinkbait works best.
Bait should be still fished off the bottom. You will want to use a
medium weight rod with 10-12 lb. test line. These fish average 2-6
lbs., but much larger ones are not uncommon.
Another popular summer fishery is for perch. They can be caught from
boat or shore and once found, action can be fast. Most effective
baits will be worms or cutbait.
Rainbow trout are stocked as fingerlings in Brownlee in spring and
fall and grow in the reservoir to catchable size. They provide a
good winter fishery near the dam. They can be caught trolling with
rooster tails, spoons, or rapalas, or occasionally from shore by
still fishing with worms.
Bluegill are coming on in the lower 2/3 of the reservoir and are
reaching good size. They can be caught on a variety of tackles and
baits including lightly weighted hooks with worms, or jigs. Fly
fishing with spider poppers can be great fun.
Thanks to the Idaho Dept. Of Fish & Wildlife
for the above information about Brownlee Reservoir. This information
is fairly basic but subject to change so please check their official
website for more current information.