Quick, hand me a shovel. It seems everywhere you turn, news headlines and social media posts revolve around the Treasure Valley’s recent “Snowpocalypse,” which has wreaked havoc on school schedules, work commutes and our collective psyches.
We’re not going to let the weather keep us down, but I do want to address some legitimate questions about how the record snowfall might affect fishing, both now and throughout the year. Here are some things to keep in mind:
▪ Winter access: The biggest snow-related problem facing anglers is access. Routes to popular ice fishing destinations can be hazardous, and access roads off the beaten path are often the last to be plowed. If you are venturing out, make sure to bring a four-wheel-drive vehicle, chains and enough warm clothing and supplies to survive if you get stuck. Never fish alone, and always make sure people know where you are headed.
▪ Beware of slush: Slush is an angler’s worst enemy this time of year. In the rivers, floating ice and slush make fishing nearly impossible. And on the ice, it can make things downright uncomfortable. When snow piles up on top of a frozen lake, the bottom layer often melts, resulting in wet, messy conditions around your fishing holes. Shoveling off the snow before you drill holes can help, but the best bet is to look for hard ice where the wind has blown most of the snow away. And be careful snowmobiling — the slush makes it a lot easier for sleds to get stuck.
▪ Messy spring? Warm weather is a ways off, but when it does come, we are likely to face higher, colder water levels than normal. Keep a close eye on river CFS levels and avoid fishing if they are running too high. Muddy runoff likely will plague some rivers and access roads. Start thinking about backup plans in case your favorite spots become unfishable.
▪ When will the bass spawn? Colder temperatures might delay bass spawning this season. Bass typically spawn when the water reaches 58 degrees. In Idaho, that usually occurs in mid-to-late May or early June. According to Idaho Fish and Game Regional Fisheries Manager Joe Kozfkay, most local bass fisheries won’t be affected if the spawn gets pushed back a few weeks. But in colder systems like Anderson Ranch and Lucky Peak, a late spawn could be harmful because the fry won’t have time to grow to optimal size for surviving their first winter.
▪ Assessing alpine lakes: Fishing high-mountain lakes is a summertime endeavor, but the snow could impact fishing in two ways. For one, the additional snowpack could delay or complicate access to some lakes. Secondly, Kozfkay said harsh winters and big snowpack can cause winterkill in shallower lakes, putting a dent in the trout population.
Stay safe out there, but don’t be afraid to bundle up and go fishing. As long as you can safely reach your destination, the fish are still biting. Tight lines!
Jordan Rodriguez has been fishing Idaho waters since he was a teen. Share your fish stories, adventures, tips and tricks at firstname.lastname@example.org.