Every Friday (note the new publication day), we’ll post fishing writer Jordan Rodriguez’s weekly report in the Playing Outdoors blog. His column appears three Tuesdays per month.
Lake Cascade (Ice Fishing)
There is good fishing to be had at Lake Cascade, but you’ll probably have to battle through some tough conditions. Snow and warmer temperatures have combined to create a slushy mess on top of the ice, so getting around is a challenge. Snowmobile travel is iffy at best—you’re probably better off going it on foot with some snowshoes and/or waterproof footwear to combat the slush. Most of the good perch fishing is happening between Poison Creek and Sugarloaf Island. Perch are hitting on the usual assortment of small jigs tipped with cut bait, worms or meal worms. The bite can be finicky, but there are huge fish to be had if you can find them. Big rainbow trout also are a possibility. The Perch Assault tournament is happening this weekend, so be prepared to share the ice (and parking). With perch anglers coming from far and wide, it will be interesting to see if anyone lands a new state record fish.
Getting there: Take Idaho 55 north to Cascade. For the latest conditions and fishing reports, call Tackle Tom’s at (208) 382-4367.
Clearwater River (Steelhead)
Steelhead fishing continues to be productive on the Clearwater River. According to Fish and Game harvest reports, anglers were averaging nine hours per fish caught in the main Clearwater near Orofino, and five hours per fish caught on the North Fork Clearwater below Dworshak Dam. Those rates are down a little from late January, but still pretty solid, especially with a chance at a huge B-run fish. Drift fishing with roe balls, bobber fishing with jigs or fly fishing with streamers have been the most productive methods.
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.
C.J. Strike Reservoir (Ice Fishing)
Well, it was fun while it lasted. There is flood danger in the area, so it’s best to stay away from C.J. Strike. The ice season lasted three times longer than usual at C.J., yielding great fishing for perch and rainbow trout as well as bluegill, crappie and even a few bass. But with warm temperatures and rain persisting, it was probably time to start looking elsewhere anyway. I was out there last weekend, and while the ice was still 12 inches thick, a layer of water was starting to form on top. The temperature hasn’t been above freezing since then, so conditions are continuing to deteriorate.
Payette Lake (Ice Fishing)
Like just about everywhere else, there’s lots of slush on the ice at Payette. But those who are willing to stomp through it have been rewarded with some nice Mackinaw trout. Mackinaw fishermen are notoriously tight-lipped about their trade secrets, so it can be difficult to get good intel on where the fish are biting and what they are hitting on. But in general terms, big lake trout like larger, fish-imitating lures like spoons and tube jigs, perhaps tipped or stuffed with a piece of cut bait for added flavor and scent. Most fish are caught in 50-plus feet of water, though they sometimes cruise through shallower stretches. A fish finder is a must-have, unless you have some tried and true honey holes. Many Mackinaw anglers target and jig to specific fish after locating them on the fish finder. Heavier tackle (a stouter rod and at least 10-pound test) is recommended.
Getting there: Take Idaho 55 north to McCall.
Lure of the Week
Rebel Floating Minnow (scroll to the photo at the top of this post): The Rebel Floating Minnow is a versatile crankbait/jerk bait that can be effective in many situations. It floats, obviously, so it will remain on top when it’s not in motion. Sometimes, slowly twitching it on top water to imitate a dying baitfish will draw strikes. You also can cast and retrieve it, using various pauses, twitches and speed changes to make it look like an erratic, fleeing prey item. These techniques work both in flat water and in rivers. The lure comes in five sizes — starting at 1 5/8 inches and topping out at 4 1/2 inches — and more than one dozen colors. Some of my favorites include baby bass (pictured), fire tiger, silver/black and gold. Bass, trout, walleye and large panfish will take a Rebel Minnow. They typically cost $4-$6 in sporting goods stores, or online.
Jordan Rodriguez has been fishing Idaho waters since he was a teen. Share your fish stories, adventures, tips and tricks at outdoors @idahostatesman.com.