It’s getting cold out there, anglers! If you’re like me, you’re probably itching for some ice fishing. There’s no safe ice on our side of Idaho as of this writing, although that should change quickly if the current weather holds. In the meantime, ice fishing has been hot at Henry’s Lake in eastern Idaho. Here’s the inside scoop on that, plus a few nearby spots to try while we wait for local lakes to harden up.
Henry’s Lake (ice fishing)
Henry’s is almost always Idaho’s first lake to freeze. Anglers have been ice fishing there since Thanksgiving, and it has been producing its usual bounty of big cutthroat trout, including trophies up to 10 pounds. I made the trek last weekend with some friends — read more about that trip in an upcoming column — and we had a great day catching trout on jigs tipped with mealworms, night crawlers and Power Bait. For us, the bite was best in the morning, tapering off after lunch time. We didn’t catch any true Henry’s monsters, but we finished with four big keepers and about a dozen smaller fish. Don’t wait too long to plan a trip this season — Henry’s closes to ice fishing after Jan. 1.
Getting there: Take I-84 and I-86 east to Idaho Falls, then follow Highway 20 north toward West Yellowstone. Henry’s Lake is just off Highway 20 — it’s about a 5½-hour drive from Boise on clear roads.
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Lucky Peak Reservoir (trout, kokanee)
Cold and snowy weather haven’t hurt the fishing at Lucky Peak. I’ve seen multiple reports of anglers catching nice stringers of trout from shore, and if you’re willing to brave the boat ramps, trout and kokanee will bite on pop gear trailed by small lures and jigs tipped with worms or corn. For trolling, I’d recommend setting lines about 10 feet down for trout and 20 for kokanee. If you’re fishing from shore, spinners and spoons will catch fish, but the most productive method is bait fishing with worms and Power Bait on a slip sinker. Make sure you watch your step around the ice edges. Packing a buddy heater and a warm thermos wouldn’t hurt, either.
Getting there: Follow Highway 21 northeast of Boise and access the reservoir at one of the many marinas, parks and boat launches.
Snake River (sturgeon)
As I wrote about in last week’s column, Snake River sturgeon are still biting. I’ve seen lots of big fish caught over the past month, with anglers targeting sturgeon at C.J. Strike Reservoir, Swan Falls Dam and other deep sections of river. Sturgeon will stay active through the winter as long as access holds up and you are willing to brave the cold. Squid, herring and other cut bait are the ticket for catching sturgeon. Make sure to observe Fish & Game’s guidelines for low-impact fishing on these protected giants.
Getting there: Sturgeon can be found all along the Snake, from American Falls through Hells Canyon.
Boise River (trout)
Late fall trout fishing continues to produce on the Boise River in town. My buddy Tim recently caught a giant 26-inch rainbow on the fly! It wasn’t a steelhead, but there should be a few of those still swimming around in addition to the usual rainbows, browns and whitefish. With flows down, target deeper pools and riffles using spinners, spoons, Rapalas, midges, bead-head nymphs, streamers or bait.
Getting there: Trout are regularly stocked along the river, from Barber Park through town and west toward Eagle and Star.