Salmon and Clearwater rivers (steelhead)
It’s getting cold out there, but the steelhead are still biting. I’m seeing good reports from the Salmon and Clearwater rivers, where anglers are catching lots of 2-foot A-run fish with an occasional B-run monster mixed in. As the temperature drops, shoreline ice might become a problem for navigating the bank, launching a boat or landing fish. But if you’re willing to brave the cold and hike to some open shoreline, you should be able to find some big, sea-run rainbows. Depending on water conditions, back-trolling with side planers and plugs, floating a jig-and-bobber rig, drift fishing with yarn and roe or stripping flashy streamers can be productive. Be sure to read the modified harvest rules for this fall and purchase a $12.50 steelhead permit. Also, be on the lookout for bonus bull trout. They are big, beautiful fish that make great pictures, but make sure you release them — bull trout are a protected species in Idaho.
Getting there: Visit the Idaho Fish & Game website for a complete list of fish counts, seasons and rules, and the latest fishing reports.
Lake Cascade (ice fishing)
I’ve been getting lots of questions about ice conditions at Lake Cascade. There have definitely been anglers on the ice this week, and the weather forecast shouldn’t harm conditions any time soon. The north end of the lake freezes first, and I have confirmed reports of anglers catching perch and trout near the Poison Creek boat launch. As of Thursday, reports were that ice was 5-6 inches thick within 50 yards of shore, but thinner farther out. My advice is to play it safe and stay close to shore until we’ve had a few more weeks of good ice-building weather. Tackle Tom’s also reported 3 inches of ice near Blue Heron, so the south end of the lake isn’t far behind. Trout are usually taken on spoons and jigging Rapalas tipped with bait, while perch prefer small jigs (perch colors work great). Worms, marshmallows, corn, mealworms, Power Bait and cutbait are all good options. I recommend stopping by Tackle Tom’s to load up on gear and get the latest intel before you venture out.
Getting there: Take Idaho 55 north to Cascade. For the latest lake conditions and fishing reports, call Tackle Tom’s at (208) 382-4367.
Eastern Idaho lakes (ice fishing)
While lakes on the west side of the state are just starting to freeze, there are several destinations farther east that already have prime conditions. I’ve written quite a bit about Henry’s Lake over the past few weeks — it’s still producing monster trout, but time is running out. The strictly managed trophy fishery closes to fishing on Jan. 1. If you find yourself in eastern Idaho this winter, there are lots of hardwater destinations to try. Chesterfield, Blackfoot, Weston and Island Park Reservoirs are just a few. All have solid trout populations (Chesterfield is known for producing big trout) and a few have panfish, too. If you venture onto unknown waters, be sure to read the regulations first.
Getting there: I recommend following the Idaho Ice Fishing Reports Facebook group, which is a great resource for finding ice conditions and fishing intel from all corners of the Gem State.
Boise River (trout)
If ice fishing isn’t your thing or you only have enough time to fish in town, the Boise River remains steady and reliable. I recommend fishing during the warmest part of the day for comfort and practicality — it can be a pain trying to keep your line and rod eyelets free of ice. Inversion conditions aren’t the greatest, but the fish don’t seem to mind. Rainbows, browns and whitefish will eagerly slurp a well-presented fly, lure or bait. Spinners, spoons, small nymphs, streamers, worms and Power Bait should attract some attention in deep pools and riffles.
Getting there: Fish & Game stocks trout all along the river, from Barber Park to Glenwood Bridge through town all the way out to Eagle and Star.