South Fork & Henry's Fork Fishing Reports

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South Fork

South Fork, May 8th, 2021

Flow out of Palisades Dam was raised to 10700 cfs (12200 cfs at Heise, 5410 cfs at Lorenzo ) Yesterday. This flow is at the normal for the season. Best fishing remains through presenting  rubber legs and streamer patterns. Top water fishing is minimal with only scattered midge activity.

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South Fork, April 27th, 2021

Flow out of Palisades Reservoir was raised slightly to 4770 cfs ( now 5600 cfs at Heise, 3320 cfs at Lorenzo) last Sunday. Should be no effect on fishing as flow is  below normal for this time of year. With the not quite normal snow pack last winter many reservoirs are being filled as much as possible before big irrigation demands arrive.  A few midges are appearing  up and down the river, but best success for now comes through pitching rubber legs and streamer patterns.

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South Fork, April 17th, 2021

Flow out of Palisades Dam was raised to 3430 cfs On Thursday, April 15th ( now 3880 cfs at Heise, 2100 cfs at Lorenzo) continuing the stair-step increase defined in the April 13th report.  These flows are a bit below the mean flows for this date.  Use the same flies and the same strategies we suggested in the April 13th report.  Water remains clear and cold.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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South Fork, April 13th, 2021

 

March South Fork

Flow out of Palisades Dam was increased from around 1750 cfs to 2460 cfs (2970 cfs at Heise, 1700 cfs at Lorenzo) last Friday. River water is cold and clear, in fishing condition throughout, but too cold for anything but midges to hatch.   Look for USBUREC to raise flows in a step-wise manner from now on to the irrigation season. Rubberlegs, big stonefly nymph patterns and streamers work well as do small nymph patterns around riffles.  All boat ramps are open.  The USBLM Stinking Springs Human Entry road closure will be lifted at sunrise on May 1.

Water is back in the Dry Bed because irrigation structure repair there is complete.

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South Fork, March 13th, 2021

Here’s a bit of info if you are considering a float trip during this beautiful weekend.  The Conant boat ramp has enough snow to make getting to the river a bit difficult.  Kitty litter,  tow rope, and shovels may be in order. Other than that, flow out of the dam remains around 900 cfs increasing on downstream to around 1300 cfs at Heise. Water is ultra cold and clear with midges emerging best in backwaters and calm channels. Rubber legs, streamers, etc., best bet for encountering bigger fish. Nymphs with and without beads give best results around riffles.

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South Fork, March 6th, 2021

 

March South Fork

It’s been a long cold winter on the river, but here are a few things worth some words. First, the flow from Palisades Dam has been near consistent at around 900 cfs all winter. Downstream because of tributary contribution flow increases to around 1300 cfs near Heise.  Flow decreases somewhat downstream to the Henry’s Fork confluence. Midge activity seems to be increasing and will continue to do so as we warm up.  Activity can be particularly good were spring water enters.  Rubber legs patterns have been the best “go to” fly. Try them in traditional black , brown, olive, or tan (#4-8, all colors). Present these to run deep at the top of holes and runs drifting deep with an end-of-the-drift swing upward through the water column.  The best access is around the Heise bridge and there are some such points on downstream.

Stay warm, and wade carefully. The water is awfully cold!

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South Fork, January 2nd, 2021

It looks like about 900 cfs will be the maintenance flow out of Palisades Dam until the upcoming irrigation season. That seems a bit small to some folks, but consider that tributaries add a considerable amount of water to the river on downstream at least to Heise where the flow increases to around 1300 cfs.

In any case, the South Fork is arguably our most popular river for angling. That being said, IDF&G spends a good deal of its fishing resource allocations on studying and maintaining its salmonid population. Below are results of recent studies that indicate good news for the salmonid population, the wildlife that depends on it, and anglers.

 

High trout numbers continue in the South Fork Snake River

By Pat Kennedy

The South Fork Snake River (SFSR) in eastern Idaho supports the largest river population of native Yellowstone cutthroat trout in Idaho as well as other popular game fish including Rainbow trout and Brown trout. Idaho anglers have repeatedly asked Fish and Game managers to focus management efforts on protecting native trout species when possible. This public sentiment is reflected in our state fish management plan where the goals for the South Fork Snake River include: protecting the genetic integrity and population viability of cutthroat, and reducing rainbow trout abundance to less than 10% of the trout in the upper river near Conant, as was the case in the mid-1980’s. These goals are also reflected by the Yellowstone cutthroat trout management plan. Each fall, IDFG employees use boat electrofishing techniques to estimate trout numbers in order to gauge management efforts relative to goals stated in the management plan. Results from 2020 surveys suggest two things; trout numbers are at a record high and Rainbow trout still comprise more of the population in the upper South Fork than called for in the management plan.

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Almost every year since 1986 IDFG conducted abundance estimates in October near the Conant boat ramp to monitor trout abundance in the upper river. At our Conant monitoring reach, we estimated trout densities to be 6,302 fish/mile. The 10-year average is 4,710. Good trout numbers are expected to contribute to continued good catch rates for anglers. Rainbow trout, which are the biggest threat to cutthroat trout through competition and hybridization, continue to provide management challenges. Rainbow trout made up 43.1% of the trout catch, so IDFG plans to continue efforts to lower their abundance using the angler incentive program and other tactics.

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Pat Kennedy, IDF&G

Figure 1.               Estimates of fish per mile for Yellowstone cutthroat trout (YCT), rainbow trout (including hybrids; RBT), and Brown Trout (BNT) at the Conant monitoring reach from 1982 through 2020 with 95% confidence intervals.

Figure 1

Abundance surveys have been conducted near the Lorenzo boat ramp most years since 1987 to monitor abundances in the lower river.  At Lorenzo, Yellowstone cutthroat were estimated at 1,260 fish/mile, the highest on record (Figure 2)! The ten-year average for cutthroat is 407 fish/mile. The total trout estimate was 2,650 trout/mile which was significantly higher than the ten-year average of 1,889 trout/mile. Brown trout are doing well here too with 1,390 fish/mile which is slightly lower than the ten-year average (1,477 fish/mile).

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Figure 2.              Estimates of fish per mile for Yellowstone cutthroat trout (YCT) and brown trout (BNT) at the Lorenzo monitoring reach of the South Fork Snake River from 1987 through 2020 with 95% confidence intervals.

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Pat Kennedy, IDF&G

The most important take-home message from these surveys is that trout abundance is high in the SFSR. The total trout estimate is higher than ever estimated at Conant, since 1982. Cutthroat appear to be doing fairly well, despite the continued threats from rainbow trout. Unfortunately, what’s good for one species seems to be good for the other, as rainbow trout continue to comprise a greater proportion of the population.

 

Other rivers in the western U.S. also host estimates of trout per mile in the thousands, but few boast estimates higher than 5,000 trout/mi. Within Idaho, the South Fork Boise, Big Lost, and Henry’s Fork rivers boast some of our highest abundance estimates, but none have exceeded 6,000 fish/mi. Other rivers in the west such as the Green River below Flaming Gorge reports 10,000 trout/mi, but stocked 14,500 RBT in the summer of 2020. Similarly, the Idaho rivers with high abundance typically receive at least some hatchery trout supplementation. The SFSR is not supplemented with hatchery trout. The exceptional wild trout population in the South Fork highlights the extremely high productivity observed in recent years in the river and the potential this tailwater fishery possesses. For anglers, high abundances of trout should ensure that fishing will remain great into next year and beyond.

 

 

 

 

 

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South Fork, December 1st , 2020

It looks like about 900 cfs coming out of Palisades Dam will be the basis for the South Fork maintenance flow through the winter.  Resulting flow at Hesie will be around 1300 cfs and at Lorenzo around 600 cfs.   Where roads and bank ice permit, there will be a good choice of walk-in wade fishing locations. Be aware that the South Fork River Road above Heise closes to motorized vehicle travel from Table Rock to Black Canyon on December 15th.  This closure protects wintering wildlife.

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South Fork, November 7th, 2020

Water flow in the river has been stable (about 1300 cfs at Irwin) for almost two weeks. BWOs remain active, and rubber legs and streamer patterns will produce especially under low light conditions. But winter is coming, and next week looks like ice in the guides and reels and chilled fingers expected. Is it time to clean up the gear and store it for next year? Not quite. There will be some “half decent” weather as we move through November with decreasing BWO activity and more reliance on nymph and streamer patterns for fishing success.  So enjoy the remnant of our season, and what ever you do: don’t go for a dunking!

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