Three anglers show off nice fish caught through the ice at Lake Cascade.

In the pale morning light, the ghostlike outline of Sugarloaf Island appeared, quickly vanishing into the mist as our snowmobiles sped by. I had ice fished Lake Cascade many times, but never like this—and I was looking forward to what other firsts this day might bring.

The maiden snowmobile ride of my ice fishing career came courtesy of Andy and Carol Minjares, owners of Cascade Ice Fishing Outfitters. When buddies Randal and Matt booked Andy for a day chasing jumbo perch, I happily tagged along to learn more about their operation.

Andy and Carol are avid anglers who love sharing their passion for catching jumbo perch through the ice. This season has been their first in business, and they are enjoying it despite a mild, challenging winter.  

“Of all the years to start a guide business, right?” Carol laughed. “But we love it. We love Lake Cascade, and we love taking people out to experience what a special place this is.”

After a chilly snowmobile ride, our group arrived at the fishing grounds. Our spot was similar to areas I’ve fished in the past, but Andy’s method was quite different. I usually spread out and fish five rods, but Andy directed us to a pop-up shelter that housed a secret weapon (and another first-time experience): a Garmin LiveScope.

I love my handy Vexilar flasher, but the LiveScope is a next-level fish-finding tool. Using it, all four of us could fish in (or just outside of) the shelter, monitoring seven lures on the screen at once. When fish came through, we watched them approach and react to our baits.

“This is wild!” Randal said as he caught and released the first perch of the day. “Look at them down there. It’s like a video game!”

Fishing side-by-side in the shelter created a more social experience, too. We bantered and joked as each round of real-life Frogger unfolded. Would the fish make it to my lure? Or would they get picked off by the gauntlet they had to swim through first?

The action was usually steady and occasionally furious. Randal and Matt used Andy’s tackle and found success with his go-to spoon patterns and rattle baits. I fished with my own gear and caught most of my fish on perch-colored Rapalas and spoons tipped with perch meat or spikes.

Between bite windows, Andy and I chatted like old friends. We both fish with the same StrikeMaster auger and share an affinity for 4-pound test (and mistrust of 2-pound) while perch fishing. He was a fan of my ultralight panfish rods with built-in spring bobber tips, while I admired his dropper chain modification for fishing Buck-Shot spoons. Every angler does things a little differently, and it’s always fun gleaning insight from a seasoned pro like Andy.

In typical Cascade fashion, my two biggest perch showed up minutes apart. The first jumbo crushed a Rapala after chasing it halfway up the water column—an exciting experience to watch on LiveScope. The second one ate a much subtler spoon presentation right on the bottom.

“Classic wolfpack behavior,” Andy chuckled. “No jumbos for a while, and then bam! You get two or three back-to-back.”

As usual, our bluebird day went by way too fast. Our four-man team landed 60-plus perch, including several jumbos, plenty of nice keepers, and a bunch of smaller fish we tossed back. Matt added a big trout that gave us an epic, line-tangling battle on ultralight tackle. In the late afternoon, we wrapped up and zipped back to Andy and Carol’s basecamp in Donnelly.

I came away from the trip with several key takeaways: Having a snowmobile is a real game-changer on a big lake like Cascade; fishing with LiveScope provides a nice mix of interactive fun and valuable insight; and, most importantly, Lake Cascade has another set of quality guides—and quality people—available to help anglers enjoy this one-of-a-kind trophy fishery. Tight lines!

Want to chase jumbos at Lake Cascade?

The perch bite has been hot, and Cascade Ice Fishing Outfitters still has openings this season. To learn more, call (208) 371-9815 or visit Andy and Carol also rent cabins in Donnelly, where their trips depart from each morning. My group stayed in a super cool “Barndominium” complete with a dart board, a kitchen, a hot tub and comfy sleeping arrangements. It was fantastic!