A fish-eye lens: Here’s what happens under the ice as a fish is hauled in
Remember your license! You need to get your 2018 license before you head out fishing this year. Idaho licenses are good from Jan. 1 through Dec. 31 — not for 12 months from date of purchase. I bought mine on New Years Day. Make sure you get yours before your next fishing trip.
Lake Cascade (perch, trout)
After a bit of a slow start to the ice season, I’m starting to see Cascade give up more of its famous jumbo perch. Despite unseasonably warm temperatures down in the Valley and up in the mountains, overnight lows have kept Cascade’s ice at a solid 6-to-8 inches at most of the popular access points. Wear good boots, as you might have to slog through some slush on warmer days. Perch seem to be holding in 20-30 feet of water and, as usual, they are biting near the bottom. Jigging with small ice spoons, Rapalas, Chubby Darters and other perch-colored lures tipped with worms, maggots, mealworms or cut bait is the ticket. On slow days, try jigging loud, rattling lures to call fish in from afar. If you’d rather catch trout than perch, set your baits shallower in 8-12 feet of water. You can ice fish with up to five poles per angler, so it’s easy enough to set up for both species if you wish.
Getting there: Take Idaho 55 north to Cascade. Popular access points include Poison Creek on the north end of the lake and Blue Heron closer to town. For the latest lake conditions and fishing reports, call Tackle Tom’s at (208) 382-4367.
Mountain View Reservoir (ice fishing)
Don’t overlook Duck Valley Reservation as you map out your 2018 ice fishing trips. While Billy Shaw and Sheep Creek are closed for the winter, Mountain View is open for business with 6-8 inches of ice as of this writing. I have seen some good trout hauls in recent weeks. The average fish is in the 2-pound range, with a chance at occasional footballs up to 5 pounds. Jigs and spoons tipped with worms, Power Bait or shrimp are the ticket, and be sure to keep a close eye on your rods — recent reports say the bite is pretty light, which isn’t unusual for trout through the ice. Fishing at Duck Valley requires a reservation permit, which costs $15 per day or $85 for the year. Permits are available on-site, as well as at several sporting goods stores in the Treasure Valley.
Getting there: Take I-84 east, follow Exit 90 through Mountain Home and take Highway 51 south toward the Nevada border.
C.J. Strike Reservoir (mixed bag)
First, the bad news: C.J. isn’t frozen over yet, and at the rate we are going, it doesn’t look likely to happen this year. A sudden cold snap could always change that, but for now, it’s open-water fishing only. There is good fishing to be had, though. This time last year, anglers were smashing perch through the ice in about 30 feet of water from Cottonwood to the Narrows. There’s no reason to think jigging off a boat couldn’t produce similar results, without the added fun (or trouble, depending on your disposition) of drilling holes and setting up an ice shelter. Use small lures tipped with bait, just like you would through the ice. Trolling or bank fishing for trout also stays productive through the winter. Wedding rings, spinners, worms, marshmallows and Power Bait are popular offerings.
Getting there: Head southeast 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.
Boise River (trout)
While ice anglers are ruing the winter weather, open-water enthusiasts have to be loving it. The thermometer is hitting 40 most days in town, which is quite comfortable for bundled up wading adventures. Angling pressure is much lighter in the winter months, so there’s a good chance you’ll have your favorite holes all to yourself. Target rainbow and brown trout lurking in deep pools, eddies, current seams and behind boulders and other structure. Spinners, spoons, Rapalas, bait and flies are solid options. Subsurface offerings like copper johns, leeches, streamers and hare’s ear nymphs are probably the best bets this time of year. If you want to fish a dry fly, a hungry trout might slurp a tiny midge. Try your luck between Park Center Bridge and Barber Park, but be sure to adhere to the special regulations in place on that section of river (two fish limit, none under 14 inches).
Getting there: Fish & Game stocks rainbow trout all along the river, from Barber Park downstream through Eagle and Star.