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Native Lands

Part One: Fort Hall


Native lands in Idaho provide opportunities for a variety of fish throughout the state. When traveling on Native lands remember you are in a sovereign, self-governing nation so you must obey all tribal laws and regulations. Some areas are off limits to non-Natives and some have special regulations in place.

On the Duck Valley Reservation, for example, the tribe asks that you not take photographs of teepees, as they are used in religious ceremonies and tribal religious matters are very private and personal.

There are four major Native land holdings associated with fishing in Idaho. Fort Hall in eastern Idaho is home to the Shoshone and Bannock tribes. The Duck Valley Indian Reservation is located on the Idaho/Nevada border and home to Shoshone and Pauite tribes. The Nez Perce land is along the Clearwater River on the Nez Perce Reservation and the Coeur d'Alene Tribe has land on the south end of Lake Coeur d'Alene in the Panhandle. All offer a quality fishing experience for those willing to follow the rules and special regulations that may apply to each area. Over the next several installments of IdaHoles, Boise Weekly will cover each of the four major Native land holdings on which you can fish, featuring Fort Hall this week.

Long before Lewis and Clark and the Corps of Discovery visited the West, the Shoshone and Bannock Indian tribes roamed a vast area that is now parts of Wyoming, Utah, Nevada and southeastern Idaho. When the Corps returned east, they reported of the riches of the region thus attracting hunters, trappers and traders to southeastern Idaho. In 1834, the Hudson Bay Company built the first permanent settlement here but it wasn't too long before trapping gave out and the fort converted to a supply stop for Oregon Trail travelers. Ruts of the historic trail can still be seen near an obscure monument to the original Fort Hall. Today the sovereign nation gets revenues from agriculture, tourism and other businesses operations.

At the western end of American Falls Reservoir, a remarkable transformation has occurred to a fishery that was once over-grazed and heavily eroded. The work that has been done to restore the fishery has increased the number of fish and the quality of the fishery.

The Fort Hall Bottoms can be compared to any blue ribbon stream in the state for its excellent water quality and healthy fish. Springs from the surrounding region provide more than 6 billion gallons of gin-clear water to the Snake River. Wildlife in the area includes coyote, pheasant, heron, ducks, porcupines, owls and deer. The two main fisheries are Clear and Spring creeks and permits are required for access.

Jimmy Creek—This creek is the northern-most of the three major creeks and it holds native Yellowstone cutthroat, rainbow, cuttbow hybrids and brown trout.

Spring Creek—The middle creek of the permit fishing water has about 12 miles of permit water that also contains native Yellowstone cutthroat, rainbow, cuttbow hybrids and brown trout. There is a boat ramp below Cable Bridge that allows boaters to fish some of the deeper holes below the bridge. Float tubers and waders above the bridge. No boats above.

Clear Creek—The seven-mile reach of river below Sheepskin Road is permit fishing for non-native anglers with native Yellowstone cutthroat, rainbow, cuttbow hybrids and brown trout.

Joe Evancho is the author of Fishing Idaho, An Angler's Guide published by Cutthroat Press in 2004 (