Idaho ice anglers love their winter fishing

rphillips@idahostatesman.comJanuary 9, 2014 

  • YOUTH ICE FISHING DAY

    Where: Horsethief Reservoir.

    When: 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday.

    Sign up: Not required.

    Weigh-in deadline: Not required.

    Entry fee: None.

    How you win: By showing up. It's a fun, educational event; no prizes.

    Other stuff: Free hot dogs and drinks while they last. Idaho Department of Fish and Game has some loaner rods available, but bring your own tackle if you have it. No fishing licenses are required to participate in this event. Carpool because parking space is limited.

    Details: idahoyouthoutdoors.org

    Getting there: From the Treasure Valley, go north on Idaho 55 to Cascade and the north end of town; take Warm Lake Road about 6 miles to the marked turnoff to Horsethief Reservoir.

    MORE ICE FISHING EVENTS, S9

Zero-degree weather doesn't usually lure 300 people onto a frozen reservoir, but it didn't stop them last year at the Youth Ice Fishing Day at Horsethief Reservoir near Cascade.

The weather could be challenging again Jan. 11 for this year's event as snow storms are expected in the mountains, but event planners will still be out there drilling holes so people can try ice fishing.

Between 200 and 600 people hit the ice during each of Youth Ice Fishing Day events over the last four years.

Better weather usually brings out bigger crowds who want to try to catch trout at Horsethief.

Organizers are advising people to make sure they have the proper clothes and their vehicles are capable of driving snowy roads. Car pooling is also advised.

Ice fishing is an activity lots of people overlook in Southwest Idaho, but head out to a popular ice fishing spot on weekends and it looks like a tailgate party with some fishing thrown in.

And it's not just dedicated anglers who get involved, according to Sean Cluff, founder and organizer of the Youth Ice Fishing Day.

"We have a lot of people who've never fished before, and their first time fishing is ice fishing," he said.

The youth day is one of several upcoming ice fishing events that showcase the sport.

They give novices and experts, young and old, a chance to get outside and go ice fishing, win cash and/or prizes, and meet fellow ice anglers.

"They come for the tournament and they stay for the camaraderie," said Luke Spaete of Boise, who hosted the inaugural Hardwater Classic last year.

Spaete's derby is both a chance for ice anglers to compete and also a fundraiser for Cluff's event.

"It's a little more for the hardcore ice fishing crowd," Spaete said.

"We're all a bunch of nerds who like to get together and talk about our gadgets," joked Cluff, who also participated in Spaete's tournament.

Those events join two other longtime ice fishing derbies at Lake Cascade and Magic Reservoir, which give anglers a slate of upcoming events this winter.

The more the merrier, says Tom McGlashen, owner of Tackle Tom's in Cascade.

"These derbies are interesting to folks and give them a reason to come up here and have a good time," he said.

Even if you have no interest in competing, ice fishing is a fun, inexpensive outing and cool (pun intended) social gathering.

You have access to an entire reservoir, unlike warmer seasons when a boat is required to access most spots.

You can invite all your friends because there's no shortage of space on the ice.

You can make ice fishing as simple or elaborate as you want. A basic kit consists of a rod, auger, slush spoon and a bucket to sit on.

You probably already have much of what you need. If you're not ready to spring for an ice auger (prices range from about $60 to $600), Tackle Tom's in Cascade will rent you one for $7 a day.

But don't be surprised if you start adding things to your kit after seeing all the really tricked-out ice-fishing set ups out there.

Here are some ice fishing tips:

• Rule one: Dress for the cold and wear the right shoes. Any boot that is warm and waterproof, or at least very water resistant, is good for ice fishing. If there's snow on the ice, boots above the ankle are preferable. Wear your warmest socks, and don't wear cotton. Having cold, wet feet is the most common reason Sean Cluff sees people leave early during his Youth Ice Fishing Day.

• Make it a picnic. It's obviously cold out there, and warm drinks and a hot lunch make a huge difference, especially for kids. "Keep kids warm and fed and they will go for hours," Cluff said. Bring a backpacking stove or a small gas grill.

• If you want lots of action, find perch. Even if they're small, they keep things lively. With luck, larger perch or trout will come along in between the smaller ones. Magic Reservoir and Lake Cascade both have them.

• Ice fishing appears simple, and it is. Drill a hole and drop a baited hook or jig through the ice. But there's an art to it, which is why you see guys with electronics and multiple rods and boxes full of jigs and baits. Keep it simple to start, but don't stop learning.

• Think safety. Know your surroundings and understand factors that weaken ice, such as inlets and outlets, springs, rocks, docks, weedbeds, etc.

HARDWATER CLASSIC ICE FISHING DERBY

Where: Lake Cascade.

When: Saturday, Jan. 25.

Sign up: 6 a.m., Cascade American Legion Hall, 105 E. Mill Road.

Weigh in deadline: 5 p.m. at the American Legion Hall.

Entry fee: $25 (ages 15 and up), $10 (14 and under).

How you win: Cash prizes for the top three largest perch, single largest trout and largest other fish. Also, cash prizes for the largest perch and trout in youth category. Amount of cash prizes based on number of entries. Also, lots of door prizes and raffle prizes.

Other stuff: Chili feed and cash bar available at American Legion Hall. Meal is part of entry fee, and extra meal tickets can be purchased for nonparticipants. A $5 parking fee is also required at most parking areas on Lake Cascade that are part of Idaho State Parks unless your vehicle has an Idaho State Parks Passport.

Details: idahoyouthoutdoors.org

Getting there: From the Treasure Valley, go north on Idaho 55 to Cascade.

TACKLE TOM'S

Where: Lake Cascade.

When: Feb. 15-16.

Sign up: 6 a.m. at Tackle Tom's, 304 N. Main in Cascade, or in advance of the event at the store.

Weigh-in deadline: 3 p.m. Sunday.

Entry fee: $10 for adults 18 and up.

How you win: Six top trout by weight, perch, aggregate weight of three largest perch, and payout is top six.

Prizes for three largest trout and top three stringers of three perch for the weekend. Prizes are cash-based entries and merchandise.

Other stuff: Most parking at Lake Cascade requires a $5 day pass unless you have an Idaho State Parks Passport.

Details: Call 382-4367 or check Tackle Tom's Facebook page.

Getting there: From the Treasure Valley, go north on Idaho 55 to Cascade.

WEST MAGIC ICE FISHING TOURNAMENT

Where: Magic Reservoir

When: Feb. 15-16.

Sign up: Starts at 7 a.m. each day at West Magic Resort.

Weigh-in deadline: 1 p.m. each day at West Magic Resort.

Entry fee: $7 per category, per day.

How you win: Catch the longest or heaviest trout or perch each day. One fish can not win both longest and heaviest categories. Cash payouts are daily. There are also hourly raffle prizes.

Other stuff: Fish fry will be after the weigh-in each day. Anglers who entered the tournament eat for free, others can pay to eat.

Details: Call 487-2571

Getting there: From the Treasure Valley, go east on Interstate 84 to U.S. 26 and take it to U.S. 75. Go north to milepost 92 and turn west. Go to the turnoff to West Magic Resort.

Roger Phillips: 377-6215, Twitter: @rogeroutdoors

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