Winter came late this season, but it has finally arrived with a vengeance. Mid-January brought heavy snowfall and some frigid temperatures to our region, complicating many fishing options across southern Idaho. As you plan your upcoming trips, here are some locations and conditions to keep in mind:
Magic Reservoir (Ice Fishing)
After a few down, dry years, the north end of Magic Reservoir has water, and it has held safe ice since late December. Fishing has been fair for rainbow trout and occasional browns—the reservoir is well-stocked with 14-to-18-inch hatchery fish, and you can also bump into large, wild rainbows that fight much harder and have more vibrant coloring. Small tungsten teardrops, spoons and hair jigs in black, pink and white have been picking up fish in 8-to-15 feet of water. Try tipping with worms, shrimp of cut bait, and set up some dead sticks or Jaw Jackers to increase your catch rates. The bite can be relatively slow, but those who put in the time are usually rewarded with a number of quality fish. The main lake froze more recently, so use caution if accessing at West Magic or the dam. Bring a snow shovel and a high clearance vehicle—the entire region has been hit hard by the recent storms. Note: there isn’t a perch fishery at Magic—those fish were sadly lost during the drought years. It will take some time for Idaho Fish and Game to reestablish the population.
Horsethief Reservoir (Ice Fishing)
Horsethief froze in late December and has been, for the most part, it’s usual reliable self. Pan-sized rainbows are usually willing to hit a variety of small tubes, spoons and tungsten jigs tipped with mealworms or wax worms. The two main areas for access are the boat ramp, where the water is relatively shallow, and the dam, which drops off to 30 feet pretty quickly. The only downside with Horsethief right now is the slush/water layer on top of the ice due to heavy snow. High, waterproof boots are a must!
Lake Cascade (Ice Fishing)
Like many ice fisheries, it has been a strange year on Cascade. The lake took a long time to freeze, and as of this writing in mid-January, some areas have 8-plus inches and are supporting snowmobiles, while others are only an inch or two thick. Proceed with caution! The good news is perch fishing has been better than usual for the early part of the season. Anglers are catching lots of midsized perch (8-to-12 inches) along with the jumbos, which bodes well for the next several years. Trout are also showing up, usually as bycatch, and there are some nice ones. Depending on the mood of the fish, the go-to lures are small spoons and tungsten jigs tipped with small worm-type baits, or perch-colored minnow imitations tipped with perch cut bait. Dead sticking with shrimp and worms can pick up some bonus fish.
Other Ice Fisheries
Ben Ross has about five inches of ice, with lots of snow and slush on top. Fishing has been slow so far, but anglers are catching a few crappie, bass and trout…Warm Lake is frozen with LOTS of snow and slush on top. Access will be difficult for the foreseeable future, but fishing has been fair for a variety of trout species…Duck Valley Reservation still has open water as of this writing in mid-January…Payette Lake has open water and at this point looks questionable to freeze this season. Fingers crossed!
Boise River (Trout)
If ice fishing isn’t your thing, or if you’re tired of dealing with the snowy, slushy conditions, the Boise River has been a decent bet for open water fishing. Anglers are catching some nice rainbows, a few browns and occasional holdover steelhead on the river through town. Rapalas and other retrieve lures can produce a few fish, but drift fishing deeper holes with bait or nymph patterns is usually the most effective strategy this time of year. Tight lines!