After experiencing our first cold snap of the year, it’s time to start thinking about winter fishing conditions. While ice fishing is likely at least a month away in western Idaho, many lakes could start freezing around the edges before long. Here are a few destinations to try before winter sets in:
Horsethief Reservoir (Trout, Kokanee)
Located just outside Cascade, Horsethief is a popular “put-and-take” trout fishery, stocked generously by Fish and Game with rainbow trout, Kokanee salmon and even a few brown trout. Anglers have been experiencing good catch rates on pan-sized rainbows this fall. It has been a few years since the lake was drained and re-stocked following a perch infestation, so anglers might even have a shot at a big fish.
Trolling with spinners and pop gear or bait fishing with worms and Power Bait are the most popular tactics. Casting flies, spinners, spoons or Rapalas can also produce some fish. As of this writing, shore access and boat launches are open and available, and the roads are snow-free.
Getting there: Take Highway 55 north to Cascade, turn right on Warm Lake Road and follow it about eight miles to the Horsethief turnoff.
Mann Creek Reservoir (Mixed Bag)
This off-the-beaten path reservoir has been fishing well for rainbow trout. Mann Creek also holds bass and crappie. It has been several years since fishing was reliable for those warmwater species, but Fish and Game still stocks several thousand rainbows there each year.
The water is low right now—so much so that fishing on foot is really the only option. Be prepared to stomp through some mud to get to the shoreline. Flinging spinners and spoons or bait fishing with worms and marshmallows are the best options. Expect to catch mostly pan-sized fish, with a shot at something a little bigger on occasion.
Getting there: Mann Creek Reservoir is located just west of Highway 95 between Weiser and Midvale.
Boise River (Trout, Whitefish)
Fall is a beautiful time to fish the Boise River, and I am seeing some gorgeous brown trout in full\ spawning colors being caught all though town. Rainbow trout and whitefish are also abundant.
For the fly crowd, nymphing is the most productive method this time of year. You might also try swinging a streamer, and keep your eyes peeled for dry fly hatches on sunny afternoons. Traditional anglers are catching fish on spinners, crankbaits, spoons and natural bait. As always, I recommend releasing large, wild trout and keeping a few hatchery rainbows for the frying pan.
With fish counts down and several popular fisheries closed, I haven’t written much about anadromous Chinook salmon and steelhead. But anglers are still out there putting in the effort on the Snake and Salmon rivers. To date, the best fishing has been on the Snake, where steelhead anglers are averaging between 10 and 18 hours per fish according to the latest Fish and Game data.
I have also seen some nice B-run steelhead getting caught in the Salmon River near Riggins. Chinook fishing has been even tougher, and the fall season has closed on all but one section of river — the Snake between Cliff Mt. Rapids and Hells Canyon Dam. Check the Fish and Game website for the latest updates and harvest reports.
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 or visit www.tightlines208.com.