Skip to main content

Idaho Fish and Game

Dworshak Reservoir 2023 Fisheries Forecast


Expect improvements in Kokanee fishing and excellent smallmouth bass opportunities

Dworshak reservoir will provide excellent fishing opportunities once again in 2023. Kokanee anglers should see improved opportunities from 2022, and Smallmouth Bass anglers could experience some of the better bass fishing this reservoir has ever provided. Higher abundances of Rainbow trout stocking will also continue to provide opportunities for both boat and shore anglers.


            For Dworshak kokanee anglers, 2022 was more or less a bust. There have been record high numbers of kokanee in the system since 2021 causing growth rates to be very slow. Most kokanee in Dworshak spawn at two years of age, and these are the fish that anglers typically catch. Annual surveys conducted in late summer 2022 found the average length for a two-year-old kokanee was only 7.5 inches (see figure below). Past surveys have found that kokanee are difficult to catch until they exceed 8 inches, which explains why fishing was so difficult in 2022 despite the high abundance of fish in the system. 

Although Dworshak kokanee typically spawn at two years of age, they have been found to delay maturity until three when growth rates are slow. Given that two-year-old kokanee were the smallest on record in 2022, we expect that many of those fish will have delayed maturity for another year. The last time two-year-old kokanee abundance was on the high end was in 2015. Those fish were also relatively small, averaging about 8 inches, and many of them delayed maturity an extra year which led to an estimate of over 300,000 three-year-old kokanee in 2016 (see figure below).

Annual surveys in 2016 found that these three-year-old kokanee averaged around 10.5 inches. Given what we observed in 2016, we are expecting a similar pattern in 2023. However, the three-year-old fish this year will likely be a little bit smaller than they were in 2016, but they should still reach 9-10 inches which should make them easier to catch and provide a better sized fillet. 

            On top of the three-year-old kokanee, there will also be a high abundance of two year old kokanee this year. These fish will likely be on the small side again, but it’s possible that by the warm summer months they will exceed 8 inches making them more available to anglers.

Smallmouth Bass

            This past year was a memorable one for big smallmouth in Dworshak. The catch-and-release state record was broken in Mayand lasted for just over 6 months before being broken again in December. These were certainly not the only 2 big ones caught in 2022. It was quite common for anglers to boat 6-pounders throughout the year, and I received several reports of smallmouth over 8 pounds from late summer into the fall. 

The abundant kokanee population has benefitted Smallmouth Bass for a couple of reasons. First, lots of kokanee simply means lots of food for bass. Additionally, the high kokanee numbers have led to smaller-sized kokanee and that means there is more food available to small bass, not just the ones that are already big. In Dworshak, smallmouth typically grow relatively slow until they reach 12 inches. Once they get past that size they grow as fast as anywhere in the world. Over the last couple of years, the bass that were already a good size have gotten huge, and lots of bass that were “stalled” out around 11-12 inches have gotten past that bottleneck and are now also growing to a very good size. All of this will lead to outstanding bass fishing in 2023. 

Rainbow Trout

Kokanee and smallmouth get the most attention on Dworshak, and for good reason. One additional opportunity that anglers should be aware of is Rainbow Trout. Catchable-sized rainbows are stocked from May through October at the Dent Acres boat launch. They distribute well throughout the reservoir, especially on the lower end below Dent bridge. Anglers often encounter these trout in creek mouths or when trolling for kokanee, but they can also provide an opportunity for shore anglers, especially at the main campgrounds including Dent Acres and Dworshak State Park. After spending the winter in the reservoir, the flesh quality of these fish can be quite good. Check out the upcoming stocking schedule for the Clearwater region.