Snake River Fishing: The Complete Guide for 2024

Apr 17, 2024 | 8 minute read
Reading Time: 8 minutes

Nicknamed the “Serpentine Sanctuary” by locals, Snake River is an angler’s dream come true. Here, the lure of fishing doesn’t just lie in the stunning surroundings, it’s also in the diverse array of fish that call it home. Anglers from all over come to explore the unique opportunities that fishing the Snake River provides.

An aerial view of the Snake River Canyon on a cloudy day, with rocks breaking the flow of the river in the middle of the image

Spanning four states – Wyoming, Idaho, Washington, and Oregon, this is a mighty body of water.  Wherever you are on the Snake River, you’ll be enveloped by its rugged natural beauty – so much so that this place stands out even before you’ve dipped your line in the water! But it’s also a place brimming with potential for unforgettable fishing stories.

So, gear up, tune your tackle, and join us on this adventure along the Snake River. We’ll delve into the intricacies of Snake River fishing – from the top targets through the most effective techniques, best spots, and more. Let’s get to it!

Best Fish to Catch in Snake River

Forget the scenic beauty for a moment and let’s focus on what makes Snake River fishing truly special. In these waters, you’ll encounter a plethora of fish, eagerly waiting to challenge your angling skills. 

Cutthroat Trout

An angler knees in a shallow river bed as he holds a Cutthroat Trout prior to releasing in with his inflatable drft boat in the background
Photo courtesy of Riverside Fly Fishing and Scenic Tours

Cutthroat Trout take center stage in the Snake River’s angling show. Imagine Trout that are naturally theatrical, providing anglers with an exhilarating fishing experience. To connect with these fish, many locals opt for fly fishing – a technique that complements the Cutthroat Trout’s tendency for dramatic entrances.

On average, Cutthroats in the Snake River can range between 12 and 24 inches. Your fly becomes an invaluable partner when targeting these river superstars. Whether you encounter them in the riffles or calm pools, Cutthroat Trout transform each fishing trip into a spectacular display of nature’s wonders.

Smallmouth Bass

A closeup of a man in sunglasses and a baseball cap smiling as he holds a Smallmouth Bass up to the water on a calm body of water on a clear day
Photo courtesy of Stott’s Fishing Adventures

No Snake River fishing trip is complete without witnessing the energetic performances of Smallmouth Bass. Hunt Smallies near places like the Hoback River confluence, where they show off near rocky structures. You’re likely to end up with a solid catch, somewhere around 12 to 20 inches in size. 

As you cast into Snake River’s currents, Smallmouth Bass will impress you with their high-flying skills. Lures become your tickets to grab their attention, and the rocky habitats serve as the best place to cast them. 

Brown Trout

A young boy sitting on a boat, wearing a baseball cap and blue life vest holding a Brown Trout in his left hand wiuth the water visible behind him on a day with sunny intervals
Photo courtesy of Fish Nets Guide Service

Enter Brown Trout, a fish that always demands a strategic approach. Techniques like nymphing and streamer fishing work best to lure these secretive creatures from their hiding spots. The Snake River Canyon, with its deep waters and undercut banks, is a good place to land a Brownie ranging from 14–30 inches.

When you’re out there trying to catch Brown Trout in the Snake River, it’s crucial to be sneaky because these fish can be quite cautious. Getting a decent-sized Brownie requires patience, skill, and knowing where they like to hang out. You’ll often find them in cooler, deeper parts of the river, which can make fishing a bit tricky. However, landing one of these beauties is a real badge of honor – even for seasoned anglers!

Rainbow Trout

Two men in baseball caps and sungalsses stand on a shore holding a large Rainbow Trout each on a sunny day
Photo courtesy of CastCadia Guide Service

A stunning Rainbow Trout in the Snake River is a sight to behold. These fish are a living artwork, with gorgeous colors that set them apart from other fish. To catch Rainbow Trout, you’ll want to try your hand at fly fishing, particularly using nymphs and dry flies. 

But what makes Rainbow Trout so fascinating for anglers? Well, they have a preference for clear, cold waters, and they’re opportunistic feeders. They’ll eagerly go after various aquatic insects, which is why fly fishing works so well. The South Fork provides an ideal environment, with its pristine waters and abundant insect life. 

Mountain Whitefish

A closeup of a hand holding a Mountain Whitefish just above the waters of a river

We’ll end our roundup of the best fish to target by shifting our attention to a different kind of species. While Mountain Whitefish may not grab the spotlight like some of the river’s other inhabitants, they play a vital role in the Snake River’s ecosystem. 

Typically measuring between 10 to 16 inches, Whitefish are fond of small nymphs or bait, especially in areas with gentler currents, such as around the Palisades Reservoir. What sets these fish apart is their remarkable adaptability. They thrive in various water conditions, making them prevalent throughout the river. However, it doesn’t mean that they’ll jump right on your hook. Get ready for a game of patience where you’ll have to lure them out!

How to Go Fishing in Snake River

Now that you’ve got a sneak peek into the Snake River’s star cast, it’s time to talk about the real deal – how to get in on the action. So, let’s get tactical:

Fly Fishing

A woman crouches down while wading in a river and holding a net and a Trout, as a man behind her looks on while holding a fly fishing rod on a clear day
Photo courtesy of Riverside Fly Fishing and Scenic Tours

Fly fishing on the Snake River requires finesse and some artistry. Picture yourself knee-deep in the flow, your fly rod in hand, mimicking the dance of the river’s insects. You’re trying to make tour fly irresistible to the river’s Cutthroat, Rainbow, and Brown Trout. With a light touch and a strategic approach, you’re navigating through the river’s complex riffles and tranquil pools.

The South Fork is the place to be for top-notch Snake River fly fishing. Match your flies to the hatch, create a harmonious interaction, and watch as the river comes alive. It may not be the easiest approach but practice makes perfect! 

Shore Fishing

A view through the reeds towards a man wade fishing in the Snake River at dawn on a bright day

If you’re all about versatility and getting up close and personal with the river, shore fishing on the Snake River is perfect. With a medium-action spinning rod, try casting lures into the intersection between land and water from the riverbank. Make use of a variety of lures, as you go after anything from Cutthroat Trout to Smallmouth Bass.

Where to head? Your best bet is exploring areas near rocky structures and submerged logs. This is where the fish love to hang out. Each cast needs to be calculated here, whether you’re aiming for the elegant Cutthroat, lively Smallmouth, or anything in between.

Drift Fishing

For a more immersive and reflective fishing experience, drift fishing on the Snake River is the way to go. Local drift anglers gently float downstream, casting into the river’s promising pockets where Brown Trout and Rainbow Trout hang out. This calm approach lets your bait naturally drift, mimicking the river’s offerings.

Drift fishing is an intimate journey into the heart of the Snake River, particularly along the South Fork’s currents and depths. You’ll want lighter tackle the closer you get to the fish, but the same principles apply for bait – try to match whatever’s biting!

Snake River Charter Fishing

A view across the water of a river towards a fishing charter featuring two women sitting down, as one man wades in the water behind them fly fishing on a clear day
Photo courtesy of Fish Nets Guide Service

Prefer to leave the details to the pros and just enjoy the ride? Booking a Snake River fishing charter is your answer. Join forces with expert guides who know every bend and current of this river. You can sit back and enjoy as your guide takes you to the prime spots for every fish out there. 

Armed with all the appropriate gear, these charters bring you face-to-face with the river’s diverse inhabitants. For an unforgettable encounter with numerous Smallies, guided by those who know these waters best, a charter near the Hoback River confluence is a must.

Snake River Fishing Spots

A view along the Snake River in Grand Teton National Park on a clear day, looking towards snow-capped mountain peaks along the winding waterway

Now that you’ve honed your angling skills, let’s explore the practical stages along the Snake River. Here’s where the action unfolds:

  • Moose Wilson Road Access. Located in the heart of Grand Teton National Park, this spot offers a picturesque setting for your angling endeavors. The Moose Wilson Road Access provides a gateway to encounters with Cutthroat Trout and Smallmouth Bass against a stunning mountainous backdrop. 
  • Snake River Canyon. The canyon offers another impressive setting for anglers seeking an extra challenge. With its rugged terrain, this spot conceals both Brown and Rainbow Trout in its depths. Nymphing and streamer fishing become your tactics of choice to lure these fish from the shadows of the canyon’s cliffs.
  • Hoback River Confluence. At the confluence of Hoback River, charter fishing takes on an exhilarating tone. Snake River fishing guides navigate the currents and guide you to ideal spots for all the lively performers. 
  • South Fork River. As we mentioned earlier, this spot stands out as a prime location for fly fishing enthusiasts. Its meandering course creates riffles and pools, providing the perfect stage for the dance of Cutthroat and Rainbow Trout. 

When to Go Fishing in Snake River

A man and a women dressed in Christmas wear – the man with a Santa hat and beard and the woman dressed as an elf – on a boat on a sunny day, with yellow hills visible across the water behind them
Photo courtesy of Wy Reel Action Fishing, LLC

Timing is everything in the world of angling, and the Snake River is no exception. Spring signals the return of Cutthroat and Rainbow Trout to the shallower waters. And, as temperatures rise, Smallmouth Bass join in near rocky structures and river confluences.

Summer draws Brown Trout into the limelight. The South Fork River becomes a bustling venue for fly fishing enthusiasts, as the riffles and pools come alive with Rainbow Trout, too. Meanwhile, the Hoback River Confluence emerges as a hotspot for Smallmouth Bass. 

Late summer sees Mountain Whitefish steal the show, particularly around Palisades Reservoir, before fall brings a sense of closure to the angling season. But not before the grand finale! Brown and Rainbow Trout thrive at this time of year, as they feast up before going into hiding for the winter.

Snake River Fishing Tournaments

It’s no surprise that a river as big as this hosts various fishing tournaments throughout the year. These events bring together enthusiasts from near and far. You can showcase your fly fishing finesse on the South Fork, for instance, adding even more excitement to your angling experience.

Snake River Fishing Regulations

An infographic featuring a vector of a boat, the FishingBooker logo, along with text stating "Snake River Fishing Regulations: What You Need to Know" against a blue background

Before we let you go, we just need to share a quick word about keeping the Snake River’s fishing scene healthy and thriving. For instance, catch-and-release is crucial for certain Trout species. However, the rules can change depending on where you are on the river. One day it’s one size limit, the next it’s a different technique that’s outlawed. 

Now, about fishing licenses – everyone needs one, whether you’re a local or just visiting. And where you need to get your license from depends on where you’re planning to fish. Check with the authorities of whichever state you’re in to make sure you’ve got the appropriate permit. 

For the latest information on what’s happening regulation-wise, check out Snake River or South Snake River fishing reports. They’re updated by the Wyoming Game and Fish Department and are pretty handy. If you’re going out with a guide, they’re usually updated on all this stuff too, so don’t be shy to ask them.

Snake River Fishing: Beyond the Bend

A view of some rapids in the Snake River near Jackson on a sunny day, with green trees lining the river in the distance

That may all seem like a lot to unpack, but it’ll all become clearer once you get out there. This mighty body of water awaits, and your next fishing adventure is just one cast away. Are you ready to write your own chapter in the Snake River’s fishing story? Book a trip, pack your gear, and hit the waters!

Have you ever been on a Snake River fishing trip? What’s your favorite fish species to catch? Share your stories with us in the comments below!

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Lisa traded the lecture hall for the vast expanse of the world's waters, transforming her love of teaching into an insatiable passion for angling and storytelling. She would sail through oceans, lakes, and rivers, reeling in the world’s fish stories one catch at a time.

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