We have officially reached the ice fishing portion of the Idaho calendar. Conditions are ideal right now — most of the top destinations have plenty of ice, but daytime temperatures are warm enough to fish in relative comfort.
Remember the basics of ice fishing safety if you go: You need at least four inches of ice to venture out on foot, at least eight for snowmobiles and ATVs, and it’s always best to fish with a partner. Here are some spots to try your luck:
Lake Cascade (perch, trout)
Cascade has been fishable for about a month, although mild weather has prevented it from building to ATV-safe levels in most places. That leaves foot access as the best bet, and anglers have been getting on the lake via Blue Heron on the south end and Poison Creek on the north. In general, it seems more trout are caught on the south end of the lake, while perch congregate in the river channel from Sugarloaf Island north toward Donnelly. Having said that, both species are present throughout the lake. To target perch, fish in 15-30 feet of water with small jigs and spoons tipped with worms or mealworms. Something perch-colored with a piece of cut bait can also be deadly, as perch are notorious for eating smaller members of their own species. If big rainbow trout are your quarry, fish a little shallower with spoons, jigging Rapalas or bait combos including worms, corn, marshmallows and Power Bait.
Getting there: Take Highway 55 north to Cascade. For the latest ice conditions and fishing reports, call Tackle Tom’s at (208) 382-4367.
Horsethief Reservoir (trout, kokanee)
Cascade is an expansive lake that can be tough to fish, especially for youngsters and newcomers. If something smaller and simpler is more your style, Horsethief is the ticket. The lake is generously stocked with rainbow trout, and there are also populations of brown trout and kokanee salmon. Walk 50 yards out from virtually any shoreline and you’ll be in eight to 12 feet of water, which is perfect for targeting trout with small jigs, spoons and lures tipped with a piece of worm, corn or Power Bait. Be careful accessing the lake around boat docks, as I’ve heard reports of soft ice there.
Idaho Youth Outdoors is hosting its 10th annual Youth Ice Fishing day at Horsethief this Saturday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Fishing licenses are not required, and there will be free food, prizes and loaner rods for participants. Learn more on the Idaho Youth Outdoors website.
Getting there: Take Highway 55 north to Cascade, turn right on Warm Lake Road and follow it about 8 miles to the turnoff for Horsethief Reservoir.
Magic Reservoir (perch, trout)
It’s a farther drive from Boise, but Magic Reservoir near Shoshone has had the most consistent bite so far this season. I’ve spoken with multiple anglers who have put more than 50 perch on the ice. These tend to be smaller fish, but there are usually a few keepers mixed in. At any rate, it sure is fun to pull that many fish through the ice! There are also big rainbow and brown trout lurking to keep things interesting. Water levels were low this winter on the north arm of the lake closest to Boise, so making the trek to West Magic Resort or the southside dam is the best bet for finding good fishing. Use white, pink or perch-colored lures tipped with the Magic Sandwich — a piece of worm, a kernel of corn and a marshmallow.
Getting there: Take I-84 east to Mountain Home and Highway 20 northeast past Fairfield. You can also access Magic via I-84 and Highway 75. Call West Magic at (208) 487-2571 for the latest ice conditions and fishing reports.
Join me on Facebook Live!
Don’t forget to join me for a fishing-themed Idaho Statesman Facebook Live session at noon on Wednesday, Jan. 16. I’ll answer your fishing questions, provide some ice fishing tips and give away some great prizes, courtesy of Sportsman’s Warehouse in Meridian and Pine Mountain Outdoors. Be there!