Need a great place for a great catch before ice fishing season? We’ve got you covered

Big channel catfish are among a half-dozen species you might catch at C.J. Strike Reservoir this time of year. Anglers also fish C.J. for perch, crappie, trout, sturgeon and bass.
Big channel catfish are among a half-dozen species you might catch at C.J. Strike Reservoir this time of year. Anglers also fish C.J. for perch, crappie, trout, sturgeon and bass. Courtesy of Jordan Rodriguez

Fishing is experiencing an in-between phase right now — bass and other warm-water species have slowed down, while ice fishing season is still a few weeks away. But there are still fish to be caught if you’re willing to bundle up and go after them. Here are a few destinations to try, along with some fishing tidbits from our region.

C.J. Strike Reservoir (mixed bag)

There’s almost always something biting at C.J. Strike south of Mountain Home. Right now, panfish are the main event. On a recent trip, crappie and perch were hitting brightly colored jigs in the Narrows. Sturgeon have also been biting, and while we didn’t catch one on this trip, we did land a big channel catfish — a common bycatch of sturgeon anglers. Quality bass fishing persisted through October, but the bite has tapered off. Trout are another option, and one angler we talked to said he’d had good luck trolling for pan-sized rainbows near the dam.

Getting there: Take Interstate 84 east to Mountain Home and Highway 51 south toward Bruneau and Grandview, or use Simco Road to access the east end of the lake.

South Fork Boise River (trout)

The South Fork continues to produce big rainbows. For the fly crowd, nymphing with baetis and midge patterns will usually carry the day. Don’t be surprised, though, if you see some surface bugs out on warm afternoons. Spin anglers can also fish the South Fork by modifying their lures to single, barbless hooks. Spinners and spoons are good options. Most anglers treat the South Fork as a catch-and-release fishery, but for those interested in harvesting, the two-fish limit (none under 20 inches) ends Nov. 30. All trout are catch-and-release only Dec. 1 – March 31.

Getting there: Fish along the national forest wilderness between Anderson Ranch Dam and Neal Bridge.

Owyhee Reservoir (bass)

For the bass diehards, Owyhee is still producing quality fish. My friend and professional guide Nick Young caught some mid-November monsters last week — look him up if you want to increase your chances at landing your biggest bass of 2018. As the water level drops, fish will hold to underwater rock piles and other submerged cover in deeper water. Target them using slow-moving jigs and soft plastic creature baits that you can crawl across the rocky terrain. If you make the trip, pack some crappie gear in case the bass don’t cooperate.

Getting there: Head west across the Oregon border to Adrian (be sure to grab an Oregon license) and follow the Owyhee River upstream past the dam.

Local authors publish new Bible on Idaho fishes

Caxton Press in Caldwell is set to release the new book Fishes of Idaho: A Natural History Survey. Written by John Sigler and Don Zaroban, the book is an encyclopedic survey of all fish species known to exist in the Gem State. The authors are hosting a 7 p.m. release event at Rediscovered Books in downtown Boise during First Thursday on Dec. 6. The book would be a great pickup for anyone interested in fishing, wildlife and Idaho’s great outdoors.

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Steelhead Update

As previously reported, Idaho Fish & Game will suspend steelhead fishing statewide on Dec. 7 under threat of a federal lawsuit. The situation seems fluid, but as of this writing, it appears steelhead fishing will go on hiatus while Fish & Game sorts things out. There is some good news, though — Fish & Game stocked hatchery steelhead in the Boise River on Nov. 21, giving anglers an opportunity to catch the anadromous rainbows in Boise. You need a steelhead permit to fish the Boise River, but barbless hooks are not required. The limit is two fish per day, and the season will not be impacted by the impending statewide closure because there are no wild steelhead involved.

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