Jordan Rodriguez holding two large crappie

When heavy rains pounded the Treasure Valley last month, I saw a Facebook photo of a guy fishing from an inner tube in a flooded parking lot. He was joking, of course, but the spirit of the photo underscored an often overlooked truth—no matter how great or small, just about every body of water in Idaho has something swimming in it.

We Idahoans are fortunate to have an abundance of world-class fishing destinations at our fingertips, from blue-ribbon trout streams to unique opportunities to catch salmon, steelhead and sturgeon. But some of my favorite fishing memories have come from small, off-the-beaten-path streams and lakes that you won’t find on the Cabela’s whiteboard.

When I was a kid, I remember taking my Mickey Mouse pole down to a tiny slough in my grandparents’ subdivision. A cranky neighbor scoffed at the notion of there being any fish “in that mud puddle” but, to his surprise and my delight, bluegill after bluegill attacked my Mister Twister.

I learned a valuable lesson that day, and unlikely fishing destinations have continued to serve me well. I’ve found 20-inch trout in a stream you could jump across, five-pound largemouth bass in little-known city ponds, and all manner of shapes, sizes and species of fish in irrigation canals.

The trick to catching big fish in small waters is finding them. Most anglers keep their favorite spots under wraps, but that doesn’t mean you can’t discover them on their own. The next time you camp at a lake, take some time to explore outlet or inlet stream. On a weeknight, get out of the house and get a line wet in a local pond or canal. Or plan a hiking trip to a mountain lake—the tougher it is to get in, the better the fishing is likely to be!

Well-known fishing spots are popular because they are productive and easy to access. And if you follow the crowd, it’s likely you’ll catch some fish. But it’s the dusty trails less traveled that often lead to the fishing memories that last a lifetime. Tight lines!