Brownlee Reservoir covers 11,000 acres amid part of the 50 miles of Snake River. Fishing opportunities are plentiful where the waters hug the Idaho-Oregon state boundary lines. Brownlee Reservoir is one of the prime warm-water fishing areas of the Pacific Northwest. Anglers frequent this fishing destination seeking to bag the abundant smallmouth bass, crappie, trout, sunfish, and channel catfish. You’ll find other fish species here as well, which enhances the fishing experience. The reservoir covers an expanse from the Brownlee Dan to Oregon and Farewell Bend State Park, which is south of Huntington.
Black and white crappie are abundant in Brownlee. In late spring and early summer, they move to shallow water to spawn and are easy to catch, especially in early mornings and evenings. Before or after spawning season, look for them in deeper water (about 30 feet). Crappies like to congregate in the coves and arms; the Powder River Arm is a notable spot, as well as Brownlee Creek’s Idaho entrance and Burnt River’s Oregon entrance. During spawning season, use a crappie jig (about eight feet below the bobber) with a long leader beneath a float; or try it without the float when jigging in deeper water. Using lighter colored jigs usually works well at Brownlee, with jig head weights of 1/32 or 1/16 ounce. Bait with Berkley Crappie Nibble or natural bait like worms or grubs. Lures that mimic minnow-sized fish are also effective for catching crappie. Use a light or ultralight rod and reel and 2- or 4-pound test line.
Smallmouth bass are most aggressive and available in their late May/early June spawning season. Find their nests in 2-6 feet of water. In summer and early fall, try fishing from 10 to 20 feet depths. Smallmouths will congregate in the same areas as crappie, but they are also found in the main reservoir. Try the shoreline between Morgan and Conner Creeks and look for rock-covered points and rocky drop-offs. Smallmouths aren’t picky eaters, but they do respond well to lures that look like small fish, soft plastic swimbaits, grubs and worms, crankbaits, and spinners. If the smallmouths are in their spawning season, try curly-tailed bass grubs or crappie jigs toward the bank, and work the lure along the bottom near nests to trigger an aggressive reaction.
Channel catfish can exceed 20 pounds at Brownlee. Fish for catfish from spring through fall, with the best season in late May and early June. Catfish are most active in low-light conditions. Catfish are plentiful at the upper third of the reservoir; try Farewell Bend and Steck Park. In coves and arms, catfish hold to shallows and weeds, so bank fishers will have good luck. Channel catfish love worms and nightcrawlers, prawns, shrimp and cut bait on bait holder or circle hooks. In shallow water, try fishing a bait on the bottom beneath a float. Catfish require a heavier tackle and line in the 10- to 12-pound range. Of special note: in late July and early August, Mormon Crickets hatch, bringing hungry catfish right to the surface. If you can catch some of these crickets for bait, the catfish will come right to you.
Brownlee has many other fish. Find largemouth bass in soft bottom areas, and follow smallmouth lure recommendations. For yellow perch, use smaller hooks, or baited jigs, fishing close to the bottom. For sunfish, use bait under a bobber, or a fly rod with a sinking fly or surface popper. Bullhead and flathead catfish may be found upriver in the Snake River. For rainbow trout, fish the mouths of cooler tributaries and cool, deep waters.