Jordan Rodriguez holding a large Yellowstone cutthroat trout caught through the ice at Henrys Lake

I’ll be honest—December has been a tough month for fishing. Admittedly (at least for me), that has a lot to do with the ice conditions (or lack thereof). As of this writing, there are precious few lakes available for ice fishing, especially on the western side of the state. As you plan your next outing, here are some ideas to get you started. Here’s hoping colder temperatures arrive soon!

Ice Fishing Update

Conditions for the following lakes are as of December 19. As always, use caution when ice fishing and bring the necessary safety equipment. Four inches of clear, hard ice is the recommended minimum.

  • Henrys Lake: This trophy trout fishery in eastern Idaho had fishable ice at the end of November. My friends and I made our annual trip over to fish early ice the first week of December, and the fishing was very good. IDFG survey data suggests fish density is lower than usual this year, but average size is bigger. Our results backed that up—we caught about 30 trout, with six fish over five pounds! White and pink were our most effective colors. Henrys slows down after the first couple weeks of ice, but folks are still catching some nice ones. Be prepared for lots of snow!
  • Chesterfield Reservoir: This southeast Idaho fishery has about 5 inches of ice and has been kicking out some really nice rainbow trout in the 17-to-22-inch range.
  • Lake Cascade: Much of the lake is open water, but ice is starting to build from the north. It will be a while before the lake is wholly fishable, but some intrepid anglers are already testing the Donnelly end. Perch fishing usually picks up in mid-to-late January.
  • Horsethief Reservoir: The lake is capped, but I have no confirmed reports of safe ice. It should be getting close, though. Horsethief is generously stocked with trout and typically provides a lot of action through the ice.
  • Magic Reservoir: Ice is building at the north end, and I have reports of anglers catching some nice trout. The main body of the reservoir remains open water for now.

Boise River (Trout)

With hardwater options limited, the Boise River is a reliable spot to get out and catch some fish, especially if you’re short on time. A recent jaunt to the river in town produced four decent rainbows and one brown. Rapalas, spinners, nymph patterns and drift fishing bait are all effective ways to catch fish. Some stretches of river also have decent populations of mountain whitefish, and there are some big, holdover steelhead from the fall stockings still being caught, too.

C.J. Strike Reservoir (Mixed Bag)

I’m hearing good reports on the trout fishing, especially from the trolling crowd. Rapala crankbaits, spoons and wedding ring spinners are good lures to try. Panfish action has been hit-of-miss. There are some decent schools of crappie and perch around—the fish aren’t big, but they top end of the size range are definitely keepable. Target them with panfish jigs or drop shot nightcrawlers. Bass action is slowing down, but fish will still take finesse presentations like drop shots and Ned rigs fished vertically.

Happy holidays, and tight lines!!