Brownlee Reservoir

Brownlee Reservoir is the largest of three dams in the Hells Canyon Complex in Idaho.

The Brownlee Reservoir is located near the Midwestern Idaho and southwestern Oregon borders. The reservoir is in the Snake River canyon, in a hilly and semiarid region (Ebel & Koski, 1968). The reservoir is also a ground for salmon spawning and used for recreation and domestic water supply. The reservoir is through-flowing, since it has a relatively short residence time that varies from 15 to 70 days. The three major tributaries are the Snake, Powder and Burnt Rivers. The reservoir has turnover periods in the spring and in the fall.

Brownlee Reservoir -- This 57-mile long reservoir separating Idaho and Oregon was in many experts opinion the best warm water fishery in the western United States. That was back in the 1980s and early 1990s. The Oregon State record smallmouth bass was caught at Hewitt Park in 1978. The current state record flathead catfish was caught in Brownlee. In 1988 & 89 the Idaho fish and game and the Oregon department of Fish and Wildlife in cooperation with Idaho Power Co. took a creel census. That census showed that Brownlee produced more fisherman hours than any other body of water in the state with the exception of the ocean. The following fish species have been reported to inhabit Brownlee: Smallmouth bass, largemouth bass, bluegills, several species of bull heads, channel catfish, blue catfish, flathead catfish, black crappie, white crappie, sturgeon, red eared sunfish, pumpkinseed, rainbow trout, and more recently brown trout and walleye.
If you have ever fished, want to fish or just want to relax on the water, you will want to become a member of The Friends of Brownlee. Our sole purpose is to provide a means for dedicated people such as you to have a voice in the preservation and maintenance of Brownlee, as we have known it in the past. Our goal is to maintain a more consistent water level and to provide the species that are all ready in the reservoir time to reproduce in the spring, with constant water levels. This will provide better fishing in years to come. With more constant water levels all forms of recreation activities will benefit. The information above was found on the FRIENDS OF BROWNLEE RESERVOIR website which is very informative and it's good to see people caring about the great fishery.

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Brownlee Reservoir

Brownlee map

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 fishery.

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
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
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.

Official List of Idaho Record Fish

People who fish Brownlee Reservoir and nearby waters know this is a good area to fish if you want to have a chance at breaking a state record. Below are the Idaho state records for fish as of June 2004 according to Idaho Dept. Of Fish & Wildlife. The following information was obtained from the Idaho F&G website. It may be outdated so please visit their website for current information.

Idaho Fish and Game Logo

Official List of Idaho Record Fish

As of: Jan 2007


No Longer Legally Harvested No Longer Legally Harvested          Recently Added

Trout Family
Species Weight Length Girth Location Angler Address Lure Test Date
Atlantic Salmon 13 lb.
6 oz.
29.75” 17.75” Deadwood Reservoir Garrett Buffington Emmett Jensen Krocodile 6# 10/15/95
Brook 7 lb.
1 oz.
23.5” 15.5” Henry’s Lake DeVere Stratton Idaho Falls Worm 6# 8/16/78
Brown 26 lb.
6 oz.
36.5” 24.75” South Fork Snake River Farrell Oswald Idaho Falls Sculpin 6# 4/16/81
(Dolly Varden)
32lb. — — Pend Orielle Lake Nelson Higgins — — — 1949
(fresh water)
42 lb. 41.25” 29.75” Coeur d' Alene Lake Jane Clifford Coeur d’Alene Hootchie 30# 9/13/87
Chinook (ocean run) 54 lb. — — Salmon River Merrold Gold — — — 1956
Coho 6 lb. 23.5” — Cascade Reservoir Ted Bowers Horseshoe Bend Z-ray Green 12# 9/19/92
Cutthroat 18 lb.
15 oz.
— — Bear Lake Roger Grunig Montpelier — — 4/30/70
Species Weight Length Girth Location Angler Address Lure Test Date
Golden 5 lb.
2 oz.
— — White Sands Lake George Wolverton — — — 1958
Grayling 2 lb.
7 oz.
18.125” — Nez Perce Lake Velma Mahaffey Lemhi Horse Fly 4# 6/21/92
Kamloops 37 lb. — — Pend Oreille Lake Wes Hamlet — — — 1947
Kokanee 6 lb.
9.5 oz.
24.5” 14.5” Priest Lake Jerry Verge Spokane, WA — — 6/9/75
Lake (Mackinaw) 57 lb.
8 oz.
49” 32.5” Priest Lake Lyle McClure Spokane, WA — — 11/14/71
Lake Whitefish 3 lb.
8 oz.
22” — Lake Pend Oreille Jesse Peterson — Jig 12# 5/3/06
Mountain Whitefish 5 lb.
14.4 oz.
22.5” 14” Island Park Reservoir Robert Hall Glenns Ferry Caddis Fly 8# 1997
Rainbow 19 lb. — — Hayden Lake R.M. Williams — — — 11/47
Cutthroat Hybrid
24 lb. 35.5” 24.5” Pend Oreille Lake Irwin H. Donart Nampa Bucktail Fly 12# 11/21/91
Species Weight Length Girth Location Angler Address Lure Test Date
Sockeye 5 lb. 24” — Redfish Lake June McCray Boise — — 8/8/70
Splake 10 lb.
12.5 oz.
28.5” 18.875” Ririe Reservoir Brian Allison — Frenzy Deep Diver Lure 8# 5/12/06
Steelhead 30 lb.
2 oz.
44” — Clearwater River Keith Powell Lewiston — — 11/23/73


No Longer Legally Harvested No Longer Legally Harvested          Recently Added

Other Species
Species Weight Length Girth Location Angler Address Lure Test Date
Black Crappie 3 lb. 8.96 oz. 17.5” 15” Brownlee Reservoir Jason Monson Middleton — — 6/8/03
Bluegill 3lb.
8 oz.
— — C.J. Strike Reservoir Darrell Grim Nampa — — 1966
1 lb. .03 oz. 9.875” 10.25” Star Lane Pond Kevin Graveline Eagle 1/16 oz. jig 4# 5/8/01
Bullhead Catfish 3 lb.
14 oz.
20.5” 11.875” Brownlee Reservoir James Winter Gooding Dead Minnow 10# 5/25/86
Channel Catfish 31 lb
.05 oz
38” 23.5” Mann Lake Kenny Decker Kooskia Nightcrawler 30# 8/25/01
Flathead Catfish 58 lb.
8 oz.
48” 31” Brownlee Reservoir J. Newberry/
Star Snell Hooks 20# 8/23/94
Green Sunfish 5 oz. 7.375” Hauser Lake Tom Fulton Post Falls Rubber Worm 12# 5/26/94
Species Weight Length Girth Location Angler Address Lure Test Date
Largemouth Bass 10 lb. 15 oz. — — Anderson Lake Mrs. M.W. Taylor — — — —
Ling (Burbot) 14 lb. — — Kootenai River P.A. Dayton — — — 1954
Northern Pike 38 lb.
9 oz.
49” 23.75” Coeur d' Alene Lake Dennis W. Hicks Post Falls Spoon 10# 04/11/92
Northern Pike 38 lb.
9 oz.
49.75” 23” Hayden Lake Walter Estes Spirit Lake Smelt 80# 3/19/02
Pumpkinseed 14 oz. 9.75” 10” Chase Lake Bob Russell Coeur d’Alene Wedding Ring 8# 1977
Smallmouth Bass 9 lb.
11.5 oz.
23.75” 20.5 ” Dworshak Reservoir Dan Steigers — — — 10/28/06
(Rod & Reel)
394 lb. — — Snake River Glenn Howard — — — 1956
(Set Line)
675 lb. — — Snake River Unknown — — — 1908
Tiger Muskie 38 lb.
7 oz.
48.25” 22.5” Hauser Lake Douglas Butts Eureka, MT Mepps Bucktail Yellow 30# 6/16/01
Species Weight Length Girth Location Angler Address Lure Test Date
Walleye 17 lb.
6 oz.
33” 21.5” Salmon Falls Creek Reservoir Mark Abel — — — 10/01/06
Warmouth 9.6 oz. 8.75“ 8.5” Snake River Marvin Stevens Twin Falls Slip Bobber/
— 6/23/88
White Crappie 3 lb.
1 oz.
17” 14.5” Crane Creek Reservoir Leslie Greenwood Council Worm 10# 5/27/01
Yellow Perch 2 lb. 9.6 oz. 15.5” — Wilson Lake Jerry Hamblin Burley — — 1/3/76

No Longer Legally Harvested No Longer Legally Harvested          Recently Added

Nongame Species
Species Weight Length Girth Location Angler Address Lure Test Date
Carp 37 lb.
8 oz.
44” 25.5” Brownlee Reservoir Jere Bower Boise Shad Rap 12# 6/13/88
Chiselmouth 1.16 lbs. 14.25” 8.375” Salmon River Justin Powell Nampa Worm 10# 4/15/03
Largescale Sucker 8 lb.
6.7 oz.
26” — Lake Cascade Patrick Perry Boise Worm 10# 4/30/05
Peamouth 1.06 lbs. 14.75” 7.75” Clearwater River Robert Riek Peck Worm 6# 5/4/04
Pikeminnow 7 lb.
14.24 oz.
25.25” 16” Snake River Emil Nowoj Asotin, Wa. Jig 8# 5/7/04
Tench 4 lb.
14 oz.
21” — Spokane River Scotty Brueher — — — 2000
Tilapia 1lb.
10 oz.
13.5” 11.5” Snake River Stephen Gobel Twin Falls Worm 6# 2/10/01
Utah Sucker 7 lb.
11 oz.
25.5” — Portneuf River Craig Curtiss — — — 1999

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