If you want to go ice fishing this winter, use this checklist to prepare

In most scenarios, I’m a warm-weather guy. Shorts and a T-shirt are my default outfit. Given my choice of vacations, I’d go tropical. Boise’s mild springs, hot summers and lingering autumns are right in my wheelhouse.

Recent temperatures have made summer seem like a distant memory, but the cold also reminds me of the one thing I look forward to every winter — ice fishing!

It’s definitely not tropical, and wearing shorts isn’t an option, but there’s something awesome about standing on a frozen lake, surrounded by miniature fishing rods, just waiting for one to start wiggling.

I’m getting giddy just writing about it.

In fact, I’ve been busily preparing for ice fishing season. I picked up some new gear, booked a lodge on Henrys Lake for an early December expedition and taught my Ice Fishing 101 class. In less than two weeks, I’ll be freezing my face off at Henrys — hopefully while battling a 7-pound trout.

In our part of the state, lakes in the Cascade area usually harden first. Safe ice might still be a few weeks away, but once Thanksgiving hits, we’re definitely in range. Here’s a checklist to get you ready:

Prepare your gear: Odds are you haven’t touched your ice fishing tackle since March. Now is a great time to dust off your rods, re-spool your reels, organize your jigs, sharpen your auger blades and make sure everything is in good working order when the first reports of fishable ice start rolling in.

Stock up: It’s always good to restock your arsenal for a new fishing season. Hit your favorite tackle shop and see what’s new for 2019. Sportsman’s Warehouse in Meridian has an entire section dedicated to an innovative ice lure, the Lindy Glow Spoon, which houses a miniature, replaceable glowstick. Each spoon comes with three sticks and a tool for removing them once they’ve lost their luminescence. Get them while they last! Tools and gadgets like a power auger or flasher (ice fish finder) make great additions, and it’s always good to pick up a new rod or two since each angler is allowed five on most Idaho lakes.

Map your destinations: I always like to have a plan going into a new fishing season. What species do I want to catch? How many lakes can I hit? How do I make the most of each trip? From the Treasure Valley, the big four ice fishing destinations within reasonable driving distance are Lake Cascade, Horsethief Reservoir, Magic Reservoir and Warm Lake. If it gets cold enough, C.J. Strike might join the list. Expand your range and lakes like Payette, Henry’s and Chesterfield come into play. We never know exactly how long the season will last, so make a checklist, prioritize your goals and start planning weekends!

Do your homework: Ice fishing has a certain mystery, especially for newcomers. The best way to learn is by doing, but while you’re waiting for the lake to freeze, you might as well study up! Magazines, YouTube videos and social media groups are good places to find new techniques, the latest gear and important safety tips. You might also check out an in-depth ice fishing quick start guide I recently wrote for — it’s filled with just about everything an ice angler needs to know.

With our checklist complete, there’s only one thing left to do: enjoy Thanksgiving dinner and pray for some freezing weather. When the ice shows up, we’ll be ready!

Tight lines!

Jordan Rodriguez has been fishing Idaho waters since he was a teen. Share your fish stories, adventures, tips and tricks with him at