Vinnie Froehlich shares an experience…

Posted: January 2, 2014 by Hellcat in Fish Reports, Gear Fishing, Out of Area, Salmon, Trout & Steelhead

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FotoFlexer_Photo VINNIE

Snake Clearwater Steelhead Derby 2013
Author: Vince Froehlich / North Fork Angling LLC

Deemed the largest steelhead derby in the nation, the Snake Clearwater Steelhead Derby has for several years been a premier fundraiser event for the Lewis Clark Valley Chamber of Commerce. Sponsored primarily by Lewiston & Clarkston area businesses, this derby attracts over 800 amateur & pro-anglers from around the NW to compete for 10K in cash & prizes.

The Clearwater strain of steelhead is arguably the largest known B-run variety of this noble trout species. Recent fishing regulation changes made to the Clearwater River due to poor escapement of these monster brood stock steelhead, further challenged competitors to seek out alternative water on the Snake River looking for a hatchery beast to enter into the derby. Prior to the derby, Idaho Fish & Game introduced a slot limit on Clearwater River hatchery fish for a maximum overall length equal or less than 28″ and changed the daily limit from three to one retained fish. Controversial and detrimental as it was to the derby, it was a necessary change to further the health of this amazing fishery. The new regulations didn’t deter derby competitors from fishing the Snake River and Confluence areas in search of larger hatchery fish, where no immediate rule changes were administered.

This was the North Fork Angling Fishing Team’s second year fishing the derby, and while we merely made a ripple last season, we learned what worked, what didn’t, and we did our homework to make a splash this year. Assembled from some of my favorite veteran anglers with the same passion for the sport as I, team confidence was high going in. Team fishing is not allowed as per derby rules, so each of us registered individually representing NFA and relied on each other’s expertise in the boat (and at the net) to seal the deal when the time came – this alone proved invaluable many times over.

In this derby success is measured only on the leader board and by weight. It was a slow start for us with several native fish being caught and released, only getting a small hatchery entry that ended up a “Mystery Fish” (closest to randomly picked weight) winner for a day. Fishing only daylight hours from dawn till dusk, we preserved our enthusiasm and focused on finding where fish were cruising or staging, and targeted this same stretch of water relentlessly. We fished from Saturday November 23rd until Wednesday the 27th leaving three derby days on the calendar to be home with our families for the Thanksgiving holiday. NFA Team member Steve Leitch, an up-and-coming pro-angler from Moxee, WA had the best overall success. Steve finished second in the “Fish Skins” Derby with a total of 38.0 pounds of hatchery steelhead caught. He also was awarded a “Mystery Fish” and then finished second among all anglers in Wednesday’s daily competitions – barely being edged out with a 13.6 pounder finishing second to a Spokane angler’s 13.64 entry. Congratulations Steve! Proud to have you on The North Fork Angling Fishing Team !

The most successful presentation was slowly moving cured & dyed prawns under a float through the path of migrating fish in 16 to 26 feet of water. Varying bait depths and troll patterns proved essential to triggering a bite in the brutally cold flat-water fishing conditions.

Area boat access is superb, having lighted ramps, large parking areas with clean restrooms and trash dumps – all of which are minutes from downtown Lewiston & Clarkston. Weigh Stations are strategically located to accommodate all derby competitors.

Noteworthy was our campground accommodations at one of the derby sponsors, The Clearwater River Casino. Located just five miles up the Clearwater River towards Orofino ID, the casino is a newly remodeled jewel of the Nez Perce Nation.
With a AAA card, a full hook-up camp site was a mere $10 per night. Secure restrooms with showers are on site for guests. Special thanks to team members Mike & Jill Ihly of Selah, WA for hosting us in your boat & toy-hauler for the week, and for fishing harder then anybody else on the river. Thanks also to our team sponsors Yakima Bait Company and Grumpy’s Outdoor Supply.

If you would like more information on The Snake Clearwater Steelhead Derby, contact the Lewis Clark Valley Chamber of Commerce at: (800)933-2128, or visit the official website at: We hope to see you there next year !

Happy Holidays and God Bless – From The North Fork

About the author: Vince Froehlich is a full-time professional fishing guide, outdoor writer, and owner of North Fork Angling LLC, operating in SW WA State and seasonally in Alaska.

  1. Sal Monid says:

    Thanks for sharing. That is one fishery I have always wanted to explore. You guys definitely put in the time. Too bad about the run but good that they responded to protect the fish. They are definitely amazing fish. Sal

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