located about 20 miles northwest of Cambridge, Idaho and
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 and is 58
long. The reservoir is long and narrow, featuring rocky
steep shorelines. Since the reservoir is the border
between Oregon and Idaho, anglers with a license in either
state 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
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.
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 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.
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
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.
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.