When is the last day of fishing season? Like so many things in life, it depends who you ask.
For some anglers, fishing season ends the day their favorite lake, stream or boat dock closes.
For others, fishing season is over the day hunting season opens.
Many anglers hang up their gear when temperatures dip below freezing. It’s a reasonable thing to do. After all, fishing involves being outside near the water and using your fingers a lot. And when the thermostat dips into the 20s, that’s a hard combination to pull off.
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For the real die-hards, fishing season never ends. Like everyone else, we look forward to spring and a new season of hungry bass, plentiful panfish and spring-run chinook salmon. But longing for warm weather fishing and sitting around waiting for it to arrive are two entirely different things.
I would rather watch my fishing pole gather icicles than dust. Here are a few ways you can enjoy some cold weather angling this winter.
Short and sweet: When you fish in the cold, you only have so long before your rod eyelets freeze over and you lose feeling in your extremities. Bundling up is a no-brainer, but I also like to keep winter fishing trips a bit shorter so I can enjoy the time I have. Hiking into your destination helps, too, as long as the trail isn’t too treacherous. Getting your heart rate up will help you stay warmer while you fish.
Hoof it: In addition to keeping your body temperature up, fishing on foot is safer than taking a boat out — winter weather is notoriously unpredictable in Idaho — and there are a lot of great holes available to bank anglers this time of year. Rivers and streams like the Boise, Payette, Salmon, Big Wood (Magic Valley) and South Fork Snake (in eastern Idaho) usually run low and slow in the winter months, providing great opportunities to cast into deep holes that are prime real estate for trout.
Ice up: Ice fishing is another wintertime opportunity every angler should try. We’re probably several weeks away from freeze-over, but ice fishing is fun and relatively inexpensive to get into. All you really need is your warmest winter gear, some short ice fishing rods, a handful of jigs and bait, and a power auger — or better yet, a friend with a power auger.
Brave it: When the going gets cold, it’s easy to sit in our temperature-controlled living rooms and think, “Nah, I’ll fish when it’s nicer outside.” But some of my biggest trout have been caught on frost-filled days. Your trips might become shorter or less frequent, but don’t abandon fishing entirely. Just prepare for the elements, embrace the challenge and go for broke. Those hot, fresh fish and chips will taste even better when it’s cold and snowy outside.