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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
For anyone who has ever fished Priest River in ID, I suspect you have had a similar experience to mine. You see a lot of really promising river, miles of beautiful country and you see plenty of insect life to support a really good trout fishery.....but you come away kind of disappointed at the actual quality of the fishing. Yes there are some cuttys, an occasional brown, etc., but usually I come away thinking "man that river system should fish better!"

I am wondering if anyone has any ideas on how to improve that fishery. If improved and managed it could really be a solid river and would probably bring in some $$ to an otherwise pretty economically depressed part of the state of ID.

As far as I can tell, the fact that there is a topwater dam coming out of Priest Lake (and how that dam is managed by ID dept water resources) causes a lot of the problems. Seems like the water just gets way too warm in the summer as it comes right off the top of the lake, and the varying levels don't help either. I think the system might also suffer from sedimentation caused by agriculture/cattle but seems like the water temp is bigger issue. Additional issue might be that as far as I know no agency public or private has ever put much into trying to improve or restore the river for fishing....

Anybody have any info or thoughts on why the Priest River drainage (below the dam, not upper Priest River) isn't better?

If anyone has any ideas I'd be curious to hear them. I can get off my rear and reach out to my local TU gang on topic, but I was hoping the forum could get me smarter on fisheries to enable me to state the case better.
 

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Priest River, ID - why isn't it better fishing, and how can the fishery be improv

I've seen some big fish in priest river. I'm guessing it was probably better before the damn was put in. I love priest lake and wish some of the creeks actually held large fish. Lake trout have pretty much eaten every kokanee and cutthroat in the lake....
 

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Priest River, ID - why isn't it better fishing, and how can the fishery be improv

This is a great question...

I suspect you are onto the problem... summer time water temps make an otherwise great habitat a tepid soup habitable only by some pikeminnow... this is only a guess on my part but it seems logical. It must have been great westslope cuttie and bull trout habitat at one time.

Keep us posted on what you find out. I am fairly curious about this one as well.
 

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Priest River, ID - why isn't it better fishing, and how can the fishery be improv

I just fired up my local TU point of contact on topic. Look forward to hearing what he has to say. In this era of "stimulus spending" I can think of few better things to spend money on than a fisheries improvement project..... Makes me wonder whether that dam could be improved and the fisheries guys could put some time and money into the fishery (that would seem most realistic approach).
 

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Priest River, ID - why isn't it better fishing, and how can the fishery be improv

Years of logging and erosion. More importantly, Priest River is more of a west side old growth forest cascade river in terms of sterilness than the rivers a little further east that have more PH and aquatic/terrestrial bug life. Having said that, there are some big fish in there but those fish tend to be lake fish who aren't residents. Its basically a cascade river at the foot of the east side rainshadow.
 

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Priest River, ID - why isn't it better fishing, and how can the fishery be improv

There are very nice fish in there. I have fished with a gear guy (lake summer resident) who has it dialed in. He does very well from the lake down. They generally aren't very interested in flies in my experience.
 

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Priest River, ID - why isn't it better fishing, and how can the fishery be improv

When I lived in Newport, we use to fish it for white fish every winter. A really good white fish run. The White fish come from
Lake Pend Oreille. Can be fun. I also heard one time they were going to start a steelhead run in Priest River like they have with the Great Lakes back east. But, I don't believe it ever came about.
That would be a great way to increase the fishery there at Priest River.
 

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Priest River, ID - why isn't it better fishing, and how can the fishery be improv

I caught a huge cutthroat trolling for lakers in Priest... Those rivers and creeks must have been so amazing before the bass, perch, etc. 10 years ago there were no perch, 5 years ago there were no bass...
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Priest River, ID - why isn't it better fishing, and how can the fishery be improv

I have done OK with cuttys in there but I just keep looking at it and saying - it should be better! There is a healthy insect population (stones, etc.), they have lots of the hatches typical to ID/MT, the logging activity has gone down sharply so I think erosion issue might not be as bad....

I even know of a small area in the drainage with some browns - but again find myself saying "should be better!"

I have never caught bass in there but I am not targeting them. maybe i should try?
 

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Priest River, ID - why isn't it better fishing, and how can the fishery be improv

What I don't understand is why the heck does any body make a dam with top spilling? I mean if you are gonna have a dam you should generate some electricity...
 

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Priest River, ID - why isn't it better fishing, and how can the fishery be improv

Welcome to Idaho, have a nice day. It's the same with the North Fork of the Payette. You look at that river downstream of Cascade, and you wonder how good the fishing could be if the water wasn't coming over the top of the dam at 70 degrees in the summer.
 

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Priest River, ID - why isn't it better fishing, and how can the fishery be improv

I think the dam up top is to blame for reducing the flow of Priest River, especially in the summer months when they want to keep the lake level up for outdoor receational activities. This lack of cold (snow melt) water causes the river to really heat up as early as May through September. It has created a better environment for smallmouth and a worse environment for trout. The trout tend to leave the river in the summer, heading down to the deeper water in Pend Orielle River/Reservoir and come back during the winter. I love wild trout and this river has some beauties in it part of the year! The best time to fish for nice big wild cuts is during the snow melt, from Mid-March to the end of May. Then the huge smallmouths start to come from Pend Orielle into Priest River to Spawn. I have fished the last week of may at my secret hole on Priest River and caught a 3 pound cut, next cast a 4 pound smallmouth, next fish is a 2 pound cut, next fish is a 4 1/2 pound smallmouth and so on. You can't beat fishing for wild bass and trout at the same time using the same exact tackle (my secret). The upper river is much cooler than the lower slow moving part of the river and I have caught both brooks and browns up there, though there are not a lot of access points to fish. Al and all, I like the river because it is wild and mostly untouched even if the fishing isn't fantastic, when you do catch something, it is wild, not some skinny, diseased stocked rainbow or whatever.
 

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Priest River, ID - why isn't it better fishing, and how can the fishery be improv

Ummm...welcome to the board.
 
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