Big bass stir at Owyhee Reservoir; local ponds are a safe bet for spring fishing

Spring fishing can be tricky business. Rain, wind, high river flows and unpredictable water temperatures make for a challenging season, but the worst of it will soon be behind us. In the meantime, here are a few places where anglers have been having some success:

Owyhee Reservoir (Bass, Crappie)

Water temps are still in the mid-40s, but that didn’t stop the bass from biting during an early-season tournament last weekend. Dozens of largemouth and smallmouth were boated, including a big fish weighing over 6 pounds. That’s not a surprise at Owyhee, which is perhaps the best big bass lake in our region. The trick is navigating its expansive waters and triggering a bite in chilly waters. Finesse jigs, soft plastics and slowly retrieved crankbaits are staples for most anglers this time of year. Smallmouth bass prefer rocky cover, while largemouth will congregate around submerged vegetation if they can find it, or offshore rock piles if they can’t. Watch for big schools of fish on your finder — those will be crappie, and they should be good-sized this year.

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.

Middle Fork Boise River (Trout)

The South Fork Boise River closes to fishing on April 1, but there is still good fishing to be had on the Middle Fork. There might be a little snow on the ground, but the roads in should be clear by now. Stonefly nymphs, Baetis, midge and streamer patterns are good bets this time of year, and spin anglers also can chase rainbow and bull trout using spoons, swim baits and spinners. Keep track of where you are— much of the Middle Fork requires artificial lures with barbless hooks and has a two-trout limit.

Getting there: Fish along the national forest wilderness between Arrowrock Reservoir and Atlanta.

Local Ponds (Mixed Bag)

If pond fishing is your game, there are plenty of fish swimming in small waters throughout the Treasure Valley. Fish and Game stocks tens of thousands of rainbow trout in ponds throughout March and early April, giving anglers ample opportunity to catch some fish for the dinner table. Spinners, flies and bait are effective options for trout. Many ponds are also home to bass, bluegill, crappie, catfish and carp. Bass are slowly starting to wake from their winter lethargy, while panfish will be grouping up while they prepare to spawn later this spring. Soft plastics, small crankbaits and panfish jigs are good ways to target bass and bluegill, while catfish and carp are usually taken on worms, dough and other baits.

Getting there: Fish & Game stocks more than a dozen ponds across the Treasure Valley, from Boise to Emmett. There are countless ponds with resident fish populations, too — just make sure you get permission before casting on private land.

C.J. Strike Reservoir (Mixed Bag)

The variety of fish available at C.J. Strike make it an ideal spot for spring fishing. Bring a full tackle box and you should be able to get at least one species to cooperate. Bass will be moving into warmer, shallower water to feed. Crappie and perch can be schooled up at various depths — if you find them, they usually aren’t picky about slurping up small jigs. Trout will be cruising near the dam and are often eager to hit spinners, pop gear and other trolling rigs. And if you have a heavier rod, drifting a chunk of cut bait is a good way to attract a big catfish or sturgeon.

Getting there: Take I-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.