Outdoors Blog

Big fish lurk under the ice at Magic Reservoir, Warm Lake (fishing report, Jan. 23)

You can catch some nice perch at C.J. Strike Reservoir.
You can catch some nice perch at C.J. Strike Reservoir. Special to the Idaho Statesman

Every Monday, we’ll post fishing writer Jordan Rodriguez’s weekly report in the Playing Outdoors blog. His column appears three Tuesdays per month.

Magic Reservoir (Ice Fishing)

According to the folks at West Magic Resort, trout fishing is on fire of late, with three-pound rainbows coming up through the ice almost every day. Jigging with Swedish Pimples, Hali Jigs and Chubby Darters tipped with some sort of bait (worms, marshmallows, corn and Power Bait are popular options) is the ticket, and most fish are hitting just a few inches off the bottom. Schools of perch also are showing up. Small swim jigs tipped with worm or perch cut bait are the best bet. The ice is more than a foot thick, but the heavy snow on top has created a layer of slush—waders or waterproof footwear are recommended. Also of note, parking is extremely limited because of the heavy snowfall. To avoid being ticketed for parking on the road, anglers are encouraged to check in with the lodge upon arrival.

Getting there: Take I-84 east past Mountain Home. Take Exit 141 and follow U.S. 26 and Idaho 75 northeast to West Magic Resort. Call the West Magic Lodge at (208) 487-2571 for the latest updates.

[Related: Darrell Ocamica of New Plymouth joins Bassmaster Elite Series]

Warm Lake (Ice Fishing)

Trout fishing has been excellent at Warm Lake. The road in was recently plowed again, so access shouldn’t be a problem. The folks at North Shore Lodge report 16-plus inches of ice all the way to 350 yards from shore, so bring some extra gas for your auger! Anglers are catching lots of rainbow and brook trout in 40 feet of water, using a wide variety of jigs and baits. Worms, Power Bait, marshmallows and corn are old standbys. The lodge hasn’t seen a mackinaw yet, but there have been some broken lines, so those big bruisers are out there. Fish deeper with spoons and minnow-imitating jigs for mackinaws. Some anglers also like to tip their lures with cut bait when targeting the big, predatory lake trout.

Getting there: Take Idaho 55 north to Cascade and turn east onto Warm Lake Road. The lake is located 26 miles from the turn-off. For the latest conditions and fishing reports, call the North Shore Lodge at (208) 632-2000.

C.J. Strike Reservoir (Ice Fishing)

Ice fishing remains hot at C.J. Strike, with anglers catching lots of perch, some nice limits of trout, and occasional stringers of crappie and bluegill. I’ve even seen a few smallmouth bass come through the ice! The weather has made travel tricky of late, with snow and ice closing some of the access roads. Cottonwood is the most common access point. If the road to the boat launch is closed, try Jack’s Creek or the Narrows road. Hiking in from the Cottonwood turnoff is also an option. The fish have typically been holding in 25 to 30 feet of water. Jigs tipped with worms or cut bait are getting plenty of bites. Species diversity seems to increase closer to the narrows, but the perch are pretty much everywhere. Many of the fish I caught on a recent trip were females carrying eggs. Perch are prolific breeders, but try limiting your take to eight to 12 fish so the population can continue to thrive!

Getting there: Head east and then south on I-84 and Simco Road, then follow the signs to C.J. Strike Wildlife Management Area via Strike Dam Cut-Off Road and Highway 78.

Tackle Item of the Week: Ice Auger

When it comes to ice fishing, an auger is the most essential piece of equipment. Ice rods are cheap (and regular poles will do in a pinch), and while an ice shelter makes things more comfortable, you can get by without one as long as the wind isn’t howling. But you can’t ice fish without punching some holes, so an auger is a must-have. Hand-powered augers start around $50, while the much faster power augers (they come in both gas and propane models) cost anywhere from $250 to $500. The standard size cuts an eight-inch hole (the maximum allowed in Idaho is 10 inches). I took the plunge last year and bought a gas-powered Eskimo Stingray for just under $300. It’s on the lower end of the power auger price spectrum, but it does the job. I’ve been really happy with its speed and reliable start-ups, even in sub-zero temperatures. If you decide to invest in an auger, make sure to pick up a sled to pull it and an ice scoop to clear out your holes. Keep an eye out this spring when the ice starts to melt, as you might be able to pick up an auger on clearance sale.

Jordan Rodriguez has been fishing Idaho waters since he was a teen. Share your fish stories, adventures, tips and tricks at outdoors @idahostatesman.com.