We have reached the in-between phase of spring fishing in Idaho. In the Valley, warmer temperatures are starting to creep in, though there is still plenty of wind and rain to go around. In the high country, many lakes remain safe for ice fishing, though additional snow and warmer weather can lead to slushy conditions. No matter where your travels take you, be prepared to deal with variable weather and make a backup plan. Here are some spots worth checking out:
Hagerman Ponds (Mixed Bag)
Many of the ponds and creeks inside the Hagerman National Fish Hatchery area opened to anglers on March 1. As of this writing, the ponds were ice-free and already starting to produce some nice catches.
Known primarily as a trout fishery, the hatchery area is home to thousands of rainbows, including large brood stock fish and Palomino “banana” trout. Spinners, flies, crankbaits, worms, Power Bait and corn are among the offerings used to tempt trout. Some Hagerman ponds are also home to bass, bluegill and even sturgeon.
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Take a variety of tackle so you’re ready for whatever opportunities arise. If the ponds are slow or crowded, try exploring nearby Billingsley Creek or the Snake River. Fishing in Hagerman can be full of surprises!
Getting there: Take I-84 east, take Exit 141 and follow Highway 30 through Hagerman and out toward the Hatchery.
Owyhee River (Trout)
With flows rising quickly on the Boise River, conditions will be spotty for the foreseeable future. If you’ve been itching to dust off the fly rod, the Owyhee River in eastern Oregon is your best bet. Big brown and rainbow trout are slurping small midge patterns, and a streamer can always trigger a predatory strike. As the weather warms, look for other bugs to be on the hatch.
Traditional anglers can also chase trophy brown trout using spinners, spoons and crankbaits. Be sure to grab an Oregon license, and remember that all brown trout are catch-and-release only.
Getting there: Head west to Oregon through Parma and fish downstream of Owyhee Reservoir.
Lake Cascade (Ice Fishing)
A word to the wise if you head to Cascade: conditions on Highway 55 have deteriorated, with a series of gnarly potholes developing around Smiths Ferry. It might be best to avoid 55, but if you decide to brave it, proceed with caution and bring a spare tire.
At Cascade, deep snow and soft edges provide additional challenges, especially on warmer days. Anglers have really had to work to find schools of jumbo perch this season, but they are definitely there. Small jigs tipped with a wax worm or mealworm can entice fish on slow days, while more aggressive fish will hammer a perch-colored minnow imitation. Rainbow trout also show up with regularity—fish a little shallower with worms and marshmallows to target trout.
Getting there: Take Highway 55 north to Cascade. For the latest ice conditions and fishing reports, call Tackle Tom’s at (208) 382-4367.
Lucky Peak Reservoir (Kokanee, Trout)
It’s a little early for the trolling crowd to be out in full force, but those who brave the cold might be rewarded with some early-season kokanee. Squid jigs, wedding rings and hoochies tipped with corn should do the trick, and I’d start shallow, targeting about 20 feet of water. If you can’t find kokanee, fish even shallower and target trout.
Lucky Peak is also a handy spot to bank fish this time of year. There’s plenty of sandy shore access and pan-sized trout will usually gobble worms, marshmallows and/or Power Bait fished on a slip sinker setup.
Getting there: Take Highway 21 northeast from Boise and access Lucky Peak at any of the boat access areas.
Jordan Rodriguez has been fishing Idaho waters since he was a teen. Share your fish stories, adventures, tips and tricks with him at firstname.lastname@example.org.