Magic Reservoir (ice fishing)
Ice fishing is hot at Magic Reservoir. The perch bite turned on last weekend — my group of five caught almost 100 fish in one trip, and I’ve seen similar reports from others. Make sure you fish the north arm of the lake near Hot Springs or Moonstone Landing. The popular stretch of lake near West Magic Resort never completely froze this season, but there’s 6-10 inches on the north end, which fishes more like a river channel. The fish are holding near the bottom in about 30 feet of water. Small tungsten jigs, Swedish Pimples and perch-colored spoons tipped with a night crawler, mealworm or cut bait should get lots of attention. The only downside is the fish are smaller. If you want to tempt something larger, try fishing in shallower water for trout. Magic is home to some big browns and rainbows.
Getting there: Take I-84 east to Mountain Home and then follow Highway 20 northeast past Fairfield. The turnoffs to Magic Reservoir via Moonstone Landing and Hot Springs Landing are just off the highway, about two hours from Boise.
Owyhee River (trout)
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Winter fishing continues to impress on the Owyhee. I’m seeing some nice catches from fly and spin anglers, with big brown trout and feisty rainbows cooperating more often than not. Midges and tricos are usually the ticket for dry-fly action, while streamers, worms, bead head nymphs and leeches will catch fish below the surface. Spin anglers can take advantage of browns’ aggressiveness by throwing spoons Rapalas and other minnow-imitating lures. Make sure you buy an Oregon license.
Getting there: Fish downstream from Adrian, Ore.
Snake River (bass, catfish)
Despite cooler weather, I’m hearing good things about the fishing on the Snake River. Catfish have been especially active, biting on worms, cut bait, chicken livers and crankbaits. To increase your chances, I recommend setting up one bait rod and fishing something active on the other. (Make sure you have your two-pole permit for 2018.) In addition to cats, anglers have been catching a handful of bass, especially smallmouths. Bass will often snag baits intended for catfish, but you can target them by slow-bouncing a tube jig, plastic crayfish, spinnerbait or crankbait.
Getting there: Fish between C.J. Strike Reservoir and Brownlee Reservoir.
Lake Cascade (ice fishing)
It’s a mixed bag at Lake Cascade. The fishing has been decent for those who brave the elements, but with a pile of snow on the ground and more in the forecast, access is tricky. Snowshoes, shovels and snowmobiles are good ideas if you want to give it a run. If you do find a way onto the ice, fish have been biting in 12-25 feet of water. Trout have been the most common find, and there are some big ones. Schools of perch can be difficult to locate, but a couple jumbos usually show up. Small jigs tipped with worms, Power Bait, cut bait or corn will work for both species.
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 in the Cascade area, call Tackle Tom’s at 208-382-4367.