Ice fishing in Idaho

Ice fishers find Horsethief Reservoir a popular place to auger down for a day of fishing. 

Ice fishing is more than a fishing trip, it’s a way to get outdoors during winter, bring your family and friends, and hopefully catch a batch of tasty fish.

Ice fishing is a surprisingly easy activity to learn and enjoy, and aside from an ice auger and a slush spoon, you probably have everything you need if you own basic fishing gear. Even if you don’t, it’s pretty inexpensive to get started.

One of the fun things about ice fishing is a frozen lake, reservoir or pond can accommodate a lot of anglers, so there’s plenty of room for everyone. You can also bring a camp stove or grill, food, your favorite beverages (hot or cold), lawn chairs, heater, and maybe even an ice fishing tent. Don’t think of ice fishing as just a fishing trip, think of it as a picnic, or better yet, a tailgate party.

Ice fishing starts in the fall in some of Idaho’s chilliest locations, but it’s usually not until December or January that the ice is thick enough to fish in most parts of the state. Three to four inches of solid ice is the minimum to support a person, and thicker ice is needed for groups.

Because Idaho is so diverse geographically, when ice fishing starts, as well as how long it lasts, varies by location. Conditions can also change quickly, so use good judgment before heading out on the ice, and remember you’re responsible for your own safety.

Here are some of Idaho’s top spots for ice fishing in the southwest Region:

Lake Cascade

This lake has a surface area of 47-square miles, so there’s plenty of room and multiple access points for ice anglers. Fish and Game and Idaho Parks and Recreation work jointly to provide lake access for anglers in multiple places, including off Lake Cascade Parkway just west of town where there’s a plowed parking lot and boat launch. Cascade has a national reputation for producing trophy-sized perch, including numerous record fish, as well as trophy rainbow trout and a variety of other species. The lake can provide excellent ice fishing, but due in part to its large size, the fish can be unevenly dispersed. You can often spot anglers congregating in certain locations, especially on weekends, so that will give you a good hint where fish can be found.

Horsethief Reservoir

This is an ice fishing favorite in Valley County east of Cascade off Warm Lake Road. This reservoir is owned and managed by Fish and Game as mostly a rainbow trout fishery with some brown trout as well. The road to the reservoir is plowed during winter, and there is also an outhouse available in the parking area. Access to the reservoir is through a boat launch, which makes it easy to use snowmobiles and ATVs when ice conditions allow. Fish and Game personnel keep the reservoir well stocked with catchable rainbow trout. Idaho Youth Outdoors hosts one of the largest ice fishing events in the state at Horsethief, which will be Jan. 11, 2020.

C.J. Strike Reservoir

This large reservoir south of Mountain Home is a wild card for ice anglers because it’s inconsistent from winter to winter, and ice conditions can quickly change. But if there’s a prolonged cold spell in Southwest Idaho, it can be a fun place to fish for trout, perch and other species. In many years, the reservoir has open water in the center, but ice anglers still find places to fish in coves and other areas near shore. Be very cautious and don’t take risks to catch a few fish if there are other places available for ice fishing.

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