Fish on! 145 huge chinook released into Boise River
Every Tuesday, we’ll post fishing writer Jordan Rodriguez’s weekly report in the Playing Outdoors blog. His column will appear three Wednesdays per month.
C.J. Strike Reservoir (Mixed Bag)
The beauty of fishing diverse lakes like C.J. Strike is you never know what you might catch. From largemouth and smallmouth bass to trout, crappie, perch and bluegill, a smorgasbord of species are available for both boat and bank anglers. Crankbaits, jigs and soft plastics are the best bets for bass, and big panfish will occasionally grab those, too. I recently caught a big, cannibalistic bluegill on a large bluegill-patterned crankbait! Stocked rainbow trout will take slowly trolled pop gear, spinners or Rapalas, and the worm-and-marshmallow bait combo is another solid choice. For crappie, bluegill and perch, bring worms and small panfish jigs. If you’re in a boat, try trolling along in about 20 feet of water and watch the fish finder. If you see a cloud appear under the boat, anchor up and drop some lures or bait down. There’s a good chance a delicious fish fry awaits.
Getting there: Take I-84 east to Mountain Home and head south.
Alpine Lakes (Trout)
July and August are the prime months for fishing Idaho’s high mountain lakes. I’ve heard some reports of good fishing, and also of higher elevation areas that still have some snow on the ground. So be sure to bring some warm clothing — even when the snow is gone, it can get chilly at night. Hiking into alpine lakes is usually the hard part. When you get there, fishing tends to be pretty straightforward; the fish are eager to pack on some calories for the lean winter months, and they don’t face nearly as much angling pressure as their urban relatives. Small spinners like Rooster Tails, Mepps, Blue Fox and Panther Martins almost always pick up a few trout, and fly-fishing is highly productive as well. Most fly fishermen float a caddis or other small dry fly on top and drop a small bead-head nymph underneath. Live worms, grasshoppers, marshmallows and Power Bait also will attract plenty of bites. For more accessibility and a cool, relaxing dip, try packing in a float tube. Most alpine lakes are loaded with cutthroat trout, and a few also have brook trout, rainbows and tiger muskies.
Getting there: There are dozens of alpine lakes available around Cascade, McCall and Stanley. Get your hands on a trail map and do some exploring!
Sage Hen Reservoir (Trout)
I’ve been hearing good reports from Sage Hen, which doubles as one of Southwest Idaho’s more popular campgrounds. The lake has a nice population of rainbow trout, good shore access and fishing-friendly boating rules — motorized boats are allowed, but the lake is a no-wake zone with a 15 mph speed limit. The usual assortment of spinners, Rapalas, trolling gear, worms, corn, marshmallows and flies will catch fish depending on your angling preferences. Shore anglers tend to do best with marshmallows or Power Bait. If it’s too crowded in or around the lake, try hiking up the inlet stream. It’s a small creek, but there are lots of trout hanging out in deep pools or under cut banks. There is a two-fish limit on the creek; general rules (six fish per day) apply on the lake.
Getting there: Take Highway 55 north to Horseshoe Bend, turn west onto Highway 52 and then follow the Sweet-Ola Highway north to the reservoir. It’s about 2 hours from Boise.
Boise River (Trout, Chinook Salmon)
I’ve yet to fish for Chinook on the Boise, but from what I’m hearing, it’s tough sledding. Fewer than 300 fish have been stocked to date, and dispersed between Barber Park and the Glenwood Bridge, that’s pretty few and far between. Try fishing near dams and other structure that might cause fish to aggregate. My recommendation is this: Invest a few bucks in a two-pole permit and head to the river armed with one salmon rod and one trout pole. That way you can switch between the two, or put out a static bait for one species and actively fish lures for the other. This will require finding your own piece of real estate, but it will significantly increase your chances of hooking into something. Roe balls, tuna balls and brightly colored jigs and yarn work best for Chinook. Standard tackle like spinners, spoons, flies and bait rigs should get you into some rainbow trout, and maybe an occasional brown.
Getting there: Trout and salmon are stocked between Barber Park and the Glenwood Bridge.
Jordan Rodriguez has been fishing Idaho waters since he was a teen. Share your fish stories, adventures, tips and tricks at outdoors @idahostatesman.com.