Every Monday, we’ll post fishing writer Jordan Rodriguez’s weekly report in the Playing Outdoors blog. His column appears three Tuesdays per month.
Lake Cascade and Horsethief Reservoir (Ice Fishing)
Ice fishing is officially open for business! Lake Cascade is continuing to freeze from both ends, with the best ice conditions available near the Blue Heron boat ramp on the south end. There was at least six inches of solid ice there as of Dec. 15, though anglers will want to stay south of the golf course, as the ice is thinner toward the middle of the lake. Snowmobiles and other vehicles are not recommended this early in the season, but small groups of anglers on foot should be fine. Horsethief also has about six inches of ice as of this writing. Snowy roads might make for tricky access, but if you’re willing to hike through some snow, you can get to the water. Cascade has trout, perch and a grab bag of other species, while Horsethief is trout-only. Ice jigs tipped with worms, corn, marshmallows or salmon eggs usually do the trick, and jigging Rapalas are another solid option. Ice anglers can fish with up to five rods, so mix it up and see what’s working. As of this writing, we do not have fishable ice at Payette Lake, Warm Lake or Magic Reservoir. Stay tuned to the weekly fishing report for the latest updates.
Getting there: Cascade and Horsethief are located north of Boise up Idaho 55. For the latest conditions and fishing reports, call Tackle Tom’s at (208) 382-4367.
Boise River (Trout)
Unless you go ice fishing, the Boise might be your only available option for the next little while. The Payette River is snowed in and riddled with ice, and with the freezing temperatures, many local ponds and lakes are icing over or building ice around the edges, which makes fishing tough. But the Boise River typically remains free and clear, and there is good fishing to be had if you are willing to brave the cold. Fly-fishermen are having the best luck with nymphs and streamers below the surface. Sculpin patterns can be particularly effective on larger rainbows and browns. Anglers are also running into some big schools of whitefish, particularly through the Barber Park stretch. They will readily take smaller nymphs or egg patterns. Traditional spinning gear is effective, too. Try throwing flashy spinners, spoons, Rapalas or bait. Worms, salmon eggs and power bait drifted through deep holes will usually pick up some fish. Dress warmly and avoid getting wet at all costs!
Getting there: Fish & Game stocks hatchery rainbows between Barber Park and the Glenwood Bridge.
Owyhee River (Trout)
Winter fishing can be tricky on the Owyhee, but I’m still seeing anglers land some big browns and rainbows. Fly anglers are catching fish on streamers, leeches, egg patterns and mayfly nymphs. You might even get lucky and catch a midge hatch for some dry fly action. Spin anglers can also fish the Owyhee with spinners, spoons and other trout lures. Barbless hooks are recommended for easier catch-and-release on those trophy browns. Winter flows get pretty low, so waders are recommended to help you navigate and get to the good spots. Don’t forget your Oregon fishing license.
Getting there: Fish downstream from Adrian, Ore.
LURE OF THE WEEK
Swedish Pimple: What a name, right? Swedish Pimples are a spoon-like lure that are a staple in any ice fishing tackle box. Some guys use them in open water for bigger species like pike and walleye, but I’ve only ever fished with them through the ice. It’s a fairly simple lure to use. Just drop it through your hole and let it sink to the bottom. Then, take a few cranks up and leave it suspended near the bottom, jigging it every few minutes. Pimples come with a treble hook attached, though they also include a single hook in the box. It’s usually best to tip the lure with some bait. Worms, mealworms, corn, marshmallows or Power Bait nuggets are popular choices, and many anglers combine a few different baits onto one treble hook. Because you can ice fish with up to five poles, I like to set up my lines with a few different sizes and colors of Pimples (along with an alternate lure or two). If the action is slow, I move around from hole to hole, jigging each rod for a few minutes and then moving along. If the bite is on, I focus on one or two rods and jig more regularly. Usually, the fish seem to prefer one color over the rest. Pink, silver, orange and green are the colors I’ve seen work best. Swedish Pimples come in 10 sizes, from the tiny #2 (pictured in pink alongside a ¼-ounce #4 in silver) to the gigantic #14, which is more of a muskie/pike or saltwater lure. For catching trout or perch in local waters, I recommend sizes 2 through 5. They are available in most local sporting goods stores for $2-$4 apiece.
Jordan Rodriguez has been fishing Idaho waters since he was a teen. Share your fish stories, adventures, tips and tricks at outdoors @idahostatesman.com.