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Snake River - Fort Hall Bottoms
The Fort Hall Bottoms, The Best of Idaho Unknowns

Article by Ben Arellano of Angler Guide

There is a remarkable fishery in Idaho that people very seldom see and few fly fisherman ever fish. Unlike the Henry's Fork, Silver Creek or the famous South Fork, very little is ever mentioned and even less written about it.  Everyday hundreds of fishing enthusiasts and tourist pass it by not knowing it even exist. Not knowing it provides some of the most remarkable and productive fishing habitats in Idaho.
Fort Hall Bottoms, Fly fishing that rivals Henry's Fork and Silver Creek.

The name of this fishery is the Fort Hall Bottoms, and it rivals all the fisheries mentioned above.  Located on the Fort Hall Indian Reservation the Bottoms are impressive.  The springs in the area account for almost 600 billion gallons of water into the Snake River Basin.  The reservation in itself provides scenic viewing areas for visitors seeking undisturbed wildlife such as moose, elk, deer, wild horses and buffalo. The buffalo and wild horse herds literally number into the hundreds.

The Native Cutthroat of the Fort Hall Bottoms

The Fort Hall Bottoms fishery numbers are impressive. The average number of fish per mile is around 2000, but increases dramatically during spawning. The spring fed streams and creeks are ideal for cutthroat and rainbow. Surprisingly the Fishery states over forty percent of the cutthroats are larger than twenty inches in length.

But the Bottoms waters weren't always this fertile. Prior to 1993 the Fort Hall Bottoms suffered from years of unrestricted grazing and rapid flooding and drafting of American Falls Reservoir. The cost was loss of bank vegetation, erosion of stream banks, warmer water temperatures and siltation in spawning gravels. Since then restoration enhancement efforts has increased fish population densities five fold. Stream depths has increased significantly in targeted areas, and new areas of clean spawning gravels have been created. Many areas of actively eroding bank have been stabilized and revegetated.

A nice brown taken from Snake River.

But purist who fish these springs and creeks are blessed with something few blue ribbon fisheries offer. Seldom may they see another fly fisherman.  When the river is low and clear, the fly fishing is superb, as you wade from bank to bank, moving up through a series of pools and riffles and crossing gravel bars. Four and five  pound cutthroats are routine and now and then one over ten pounds is caught.  About the only time the Bottoms feel pressure is in late April and May. Reason being the fishing season opens about a month earlier then that of the other blue ribbon waters.

You would think a resource like this would be high profiled and treasured by enthusiasts, but not the case. The difficult access, together with strict catch-and-release regulations and limited permits for non tribal members has given the river a low profile for Shoshone-Bannock tribe. 

Today the Tribes operate as a sovereign government which provides many services to Tribal members and non-Indians with revenues from agriculture, business enterprises, tourism, and other operations.


Species: Cutthroat, Rainbow, Brown Trout

Hatches: Caddis, Stoneflies, Leadwing Olive, Gray Drake, Brown Drake, Green Drake, Pale Morning Duns

Tackle & Gear:  For most fishing on the Fort Hall Bottoms an eight to nine foot, four to six-weight rod is a good choice.

Season: Fort Hall Bottoms  Open first Saturday in April through October 31st. Exceptions below follows

  • 3 brown trout, none over 12 inches.
  • Catch-and-release for cutthroat and rainbow trout.
  • Artificial lures only.

Rates (2011): Season Pass $200.00,  Single Day $40.00, Two-day Pass $60.00.  Restricted to 6 non-tribal members a day..

Phone Fort Hall Fisheries @ 208- 239-4564



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About Shoshone-Bannock Tribe
Annual Shoshone- Bannock Indian Festival:
Held the second week in August. The four-day event has been honored as one of the "Top 100" tourist attractions.

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