Lake Cascade (Ice Fishing)
Cascade is frozen over and safe to fish on foot. As of this writing, the ice is at least 6-8 inches thick around the edges, but it does get thinner toward the middle. I wouldn’t recommend taking snowmobiles out just yet. I received two detailed reports from the north end of the lake, one near Poison Creek and one near Buttercup. Both trips produced decent numbers of perch; mostly small fish with a couple 12-inch keepers mixed in. No jumbos showed up, and I haven’t seen much in the way of big perch yet this season. On one trip, a purple Mister Twister tipped with worm was the ticket. On the other, it was a silver and orange jigging Rapala tipped with maggots. Most fish were taken in 20-25 feet of water. Fish & Game recently published an interesting survey indicating Cascade’s perch population remains strong. Releasing smaller perch, practicing responsible harvest and killing northern pikeminnows are steps anglers can take to keep it that way.
Getting there: Take Idaho 55 north to Cascade. For the latest lake conditions and fishing reports, call Tackle Tom’s at (208) 382-4367.
Local Ponds (Trout)
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Two quick reminders about Treasure Valley ponds: One, those that aren’t iced over can be productive wintertime fisheries. The weeds are long gone by now, and stocked trout will be active in the chilly water. Spinners, spoons, worms, Power Bait and even flies should attract some attention from a hungry rainbow. And two, local ponds aren’t an option for ice fishing. It hasn’t been cold enough to build safe ice, and even if it was, our local municipalities don’t allow ice fishing on city ponds. There are weak spots near aerators, and there’s too much of a liability risk for people and pets falling through. If your favorite pond is open, fish away. But if it’s iced up, you’ll have to look elsewhere until spring.
Getting there: Fish & Game stocks ponds across the Treasure Valley, from Boise to Payette.
Henry’s Lake (Ice Fishing)
I’m throwing Henry’s on the list one last time — Dec. 31 is the last day to fish it until Memorial Day weekend. Anglers are still catching cutthroat and brook trout, including monsters that often surpass five pounds. Small jigs tipped with worms and corn are the ticket, and the fish usually prefer actively jigged lures over “dead sticks” (lines that are left sitting still). Be warned — access can be tricky, especially when the main roads in haven’t been plowed after a big snowfall. Some anglers are getting in on snowmobiles (the ice is plenty thick enough to be safe on sleds by now). If that’s not an option, be prepared to hike in. Nearby Island Park Reservoir also offers good trout fishing if Henry’s is slow or difficult to access. Remember the two-fish limit at Henry’s, and bring your state parks pass or $5 if you plan to park at the state docks.
Getting there: Take I-84 east to Idaho Falls, then follow Highway 20 north toward West Yellowstone.
Boise River (Trout)
If ice fishing isn’t your thing but you still need a fix, the Boise River continues to produce for fly and spin anglers alike. Rainbows, browns and an occasional whitefish will pounce on spoons, spinners, bead head nymphs, streamer and sculpin patterns, or a drifting piece of night crawler or Power Bait. With cold weather setting in and ice building around the edges, warm clothing and insulated waders are a must. Be extra careful with your footing — tripping and getting wet will end your trip in a hurry. If fish are finicky in the river, bank fishing has been decent at Lucky Peak and Arrowrock, too.
Getting there: Fish & Game stocks trout all along the river, from Barber Park to Glenwood Bridge through town all the way out to Eagle and Star.
Jordan Rodriguez has been fishing Idaho waters since he was a teen. Share your fish stories, adventures, tips and tricks at firstname.lastname@example.org.