Outdoors Blog

Trout are biting through the ice at Horsethief (fishing report, Dec. 29)

A fish-eye lens: Here’s what happens under the ice as a fish is hauled in

Ice fishing is a fun, social and unique wintertime activity that can be enjoyed by anglers of all ages. It is a good excuse to get out of the house and a challenging twist on traditional fishing. In Idaho, the primary target species are perch and
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Ice fishing is a fun, social and unique wintertime activity that can be enjoyed by anglers of all ages. It is a good excuse to get out of the house and a challenging twist on traditional fishing. In Idaho, the primary target species are perch and

Buy your 2018 license! This is the last fishing report of 2017, so remember to get your 2018 license before you venture out in January. This is especially important for ice anglers, steelhead enthusiasts and other year-round diehards. But even if you don’t intend to fish until spring, snag your tag on your next trip to the tackle shop so you don’t have to make a special trip on your way to the lake.

Horsethief Reservoir (Trout)

If you find Lake Cascade to be too big, too tricky or too tough to access, try getting your ice fishing bearings at nearby Horsethief Reservoir. I fished Horsethief with some friends last weekend and it was quaint, scenic and easily accessible. A plowed road along the western shoreline provides several access points — the easiest parking area is across the spillway at the south end of the lake. From there, it’s an easy hike onto six inches of ice, and it doesn’t take long to get into trout-friendly depths of 8 to 10 feet. We caught a stringer full of small hatchery rainbows up to 14 inches long. The action was steady, but the bite was light — be ready to run around a lot and endure a few swings and misses if the fish aren’t biting with more gusto. It has been two full growing seasons since Horsethief was drained and poisoned in 2015, so there should be some bigger trout swimming around by now. There are also Kokanee in Horsethief — the only other group we shared the ice with reported catching a nice one. Small jigs, spoons and jigging Rapalas tipped with worms and corn are the ticket. We caught most of our fish in fairly shallow water, within six feet of the surface.

Getting there: Take Idaho 55 north to Cascade, then follow Warm Lake Road east for about eight miles. Sportsman Access signs point the way to Horsethief. For the latest lake conditions and fishing reports in the Cascade area, call Tackle Tom’s at (208) 382-4367.

Lake Cascade (Trout, Perch)

The sledding is easier at Horsethief, but the potential rewards are greater at Cascade, which is home to jumbo perch, monster rainbow trout and a handful of other surprises. Congratulations to Meridian angler Dave Gassel, who recently landed a state record 9.04-pound largescale sucker through the ice at Cascade. It’s probably not the record fish Gassel was trying to hook that day, but it’s still a great catch, especially on light ice tackle! Based on the latest reports, the best fishing has been on the north end of the lake in about 20 feet of water. Anglers have been catching perch — only a handful of true jumbos, but plenty of healthy keepers — and some nice rainbows on small perch-colored lures including ice spoons, Chubby Darters, jigging Rapalas and Gitzit swimbaits. Worms, cut bait, mealworms, corn and Power Bait are popular baits for tipping jigs. There is ice on both ends of the lake, but it still gets thin in the middle. Staying close to the edges on foot is probably the safest bet for now.

Getting there: Take Idaho 55 north to Cascade. Popular access points include Poison Creek on the north end of the lake and Blue Heron closer to town.

Salmon, Snake and Clearwater Rivers (Steelhead)

The new year is upon us, so let’s include a steelhead report with updated rules for 2018. Fish & Game commissioners recently extended the reduced bag and possession limits for the 2018 spring season, which starts Jan 1. Daily bag limits for the 2018 spring season are two fish per day and six in possession statewide. Only adipose fin-clipped steelhead may be harvested. Steelhead longer than 28 inches in total length cannot be harvested on the mainstem Clearwater, North Fork Clearwater, Middle Fork Clearwater, South Fork Clearwater, or the Snake River from the confluence (Lewiston) upstream to Couse Creek Boat Ramp. All other 2018 steelhead rules still apply, including season harvest limits and opening and closing dates. Snow and ice make access tricky this deep into winter, so I haven’t seen as many steelhead reports of late. But the diehards are still out there catching fish on crankbaits, streamers, jigs, roe and back-trolling setups. The Salmon River near Whitebird had the best catch rates on the latest harvest report.

Getting there: Visit the Idaho Fish & Game website for a complete list of fish counts, seasons and rules, and the latest fishing reports.

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

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