Every Monday, we’ll post fishing writer Jordan Rodriguez’s weekly report in the Playing Outdoors blog. His column appears three Tuesdays per month.
A couple of notes to kick off the first fishing report of the new year:
▪ Don’t forget to pick up your 2017 fishing license! It’s easy to overlook, especially if you don’t fish much during the winter months. But if you buy your license now, it will save you an inconvenient run to the store when you dust off the boat in the spring.
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▪ With the cold snap, pretty much every lake and pond in the Treasure Valley is frozen over. Some anglers had been ice fishing at local ponds in recent weeks, but Meridian Parks and Recreation has since banned ice fishing, citing unsafe conditions because of aerators that cause weak spots in the ice. Is there enough ice to fish on most ponds in and around Boise? Probably, but a few dogs have already fallen through soft spots, so it’s better to play it safe and do your ice fishing out of town. Read on for some suggested destinations!
C.J. Strike Reservoir (Ice Fishing)
C.J. Strike doesn’t always build enough ice for safe fishing, but Fish and Game issued a release last week reporting five inches of ice in the Bruneau Arm and access available at Cottonwood Campground. Rainbow trout seem to be the most common catch so far, but perch, crappie and bluegill are also possibilities. Ice jigs tipped with bait or small crankbaits like Rapala’s Jigging Rap and Salmo’s Chubby Darter are the most popular offerings. Mealworms, night crawlers, marshmallows, corn and Power Bait are good bait choices. The ice will deteriorate quickly when temperatures warm up, but with highs in the teens and single digits this week, ice fishing will remain an option at least through this weekend.
Getting there: Head east and then south on I-84 and Simco Road, then follow the signs to C.J. Strike Wildlife Management area via Strike Dam Cut-Off Road and Highway 78.
Magic Reservoir (Ice Fishing)
I made a trip to Magic last week, and conditions were ideal, with six-plus inches of ice near the West Magic Resort Lodge. The fishing was a little slow, but our group managed a handful of perch, including a couple of nice 12-inchers. Swim jigs tipped with mealworms or cut bait were the ticket. No trout showed up on our trip, but I have seen reports of nice rainbows up to three pounds coming out of Magic this winter. They tend to hit jigs like Swedish Pimples tipped with bait, or the “Magic Sandwich,” which is a treble hook loaded with a piece of night crawler, a kernel of corn and a marshmallow. Temperatures were in the single digits on our trip, so an ice shelter and/or propane heater would be good to bring, if you have them.
Getting there: Take I-84 east past Mountain Home. Take Exit 141 and follow U.S. 26 and Idaho 75 northeast to West Magic Resort. Call the West Magic Lodge at (208) 487-2571 for the latest updates.
Salmon, Snake and Clearwater Rivers (Steelhead)
Spring steelhead season opened Jan. 1, and anglers are reminded to purchase a new steelhead permit in addition to a 2017 license. Open stretches of river include the Salmon from its mouth to the posted boundary downstream of the Sawtooth Fish Hatchery near Stanley; the Little Salmon from its mouth to the U.S. Highway 95 Bridge near Smokey Boulder Road; the Snake from the Washington state line at the confluence of the Snake and Clearwater rivers; the Middle Fork Clearwater from its mouth to Clear Creek; the North Fork Clearwater from its mouth to Dworshak Dam; and the South Fork Clearwater from its mouth to the confluence of the American and Red Rivers. The steelhead limit is three hatchery fish per day, nine in possession and 20 for the season. Wild fish must be released. Plugs, brightly-colored jigs, streamers, yarn and roe balls are some of the most popular tackle choices.
Getting there: Visit the Idaho Fish and Game website for a complete list of salmon and steelhead fish counts, season information, rules, and the latest harvest reports.
Jordan Rodriguez has been fishing Idaho waters since he was a teen. Share your fish stories, adventures, tips and tricks at outdoors @idahostatesman.com.