Unless you’re a hockey player or a margarita, ice can get a bad rap. It glass the windshield, covers the driveways and makes the roads smoother than slush. But when it comes to lake fishing in the winter, ice is a huge advantage.
One of the most attractive (figuratively speaking) fishing opportunities this winter is ice fishing. Fish and Game staff are optimistic about ice fishing conditions this year.
“Winter came a little early in many parts of Idaho this year, and that means ice fishing opportunities in different parts of the state are increasing every day,” said Nathan Tillotson, regional biologist for top snake fishing.
“Ice fishing for cold and warm water species can be spectacular during the early ice season, but always be sure to exercise caution when venturing out onto the ice. Ice conditions in all types of masses of water can be variable, and just because there’s safe ice in one area doesn’t mean it’s safe everywhere. Bring a loaf of bread, check the thickness of the ice often, and don’t go alone.”
ACCESS TO THE ICE AND SECURITY
When choosing a place to go ice fishing, pay close attention to access. You will need a parking area and an easy place to walk on the ice. If you have been to a lake or reservoir during the summer, these access points may be blocked by snow. Fish and Game partners with several agencies to help provide ice fishing access by maintaining winter parking lots at many locations.
Before taking to the ice like Apolo Ohno at the Olympics, anglers must ensure safe ice conditions: The ice must be at least 4 inches thick. It can be a bit of a challenge to check the ice status of your favorite lake or reservoir. Idaho is a diverse state in terms of climate and geography, so conditions could be hit or miss depending on when you want to go.
WHERE SHOULD IT GO?
Whether you’re in the Panhandle or hugging the Utah border in the Southeast region, the Jewel State has no shortage of destination ice fisheries. From world-record perch at Cascade to trophy rainbow trout at Henrys Lake, Idaho is home to such a wide variety of lakes and reservoirs that it can be a little daunting to pick one for a weekend. . Depending on where you’re going, be sure to check the fishing destination’s bag limits and check for seasonal closures.
Ice fishing is exactly what it sounds like: armed with nothing more than a beginner fishing rod, some basic bait and tackle, a valid Idaho fishing license, and a well-placed hole in the ice, anglers can find a relatively economical and exciting to keep busy. during the colder months. But anglers should also look for other gear they want to add to their line.
Whether you’re hiking, skiing, or snowmobiling to your ice fishing spot, having a small sled to store your gear can be very nice. This will help keep you mobile so you can move more around the lake as the fish move.
It’s a little difficult to ice fish when the fish are protected by 5 inches or more of ice. Augers and spoons don’t have to be fancy. Depending on the size of fish you’re targeting, you’ll need anywhere from a 5-inch hole to a 10-inch hole (10 inches is the maximum hole size in Idaho). Small hand drills are really light and easy to use, and many of them can be used with the help of a cordless electric drill. Some new gel bars run on lithium batteries, making them really light and reliable (as long as the battery is charged). Pro tip: Keep the lithium battery inside the jacket to keep it warm; otherwise, you may reach your destination and the battery is dead. Gas rods are another reliable option and are much less expensive than the new lithium products.
Add a slotted spoon or ice scoop to your tackle box. Having a tool other than your bare hand to scoop mud around an ice hole is a game changer. You don’t get caught without one.
Maps and electronics
Figuring out where the fish are is the most important aspect of ice fishing. There are two pieces of technology that can really up your game when it comes to finding fish. The first is a bathymetric map of the lake (contour map). Being able to locate shallow and deep areas of the lake, drop offs and underwater channels can be a game changer. There are several online companies that sell them. Do your research and find the best one for the lake you will be fishing.
The second piece of gear that will help you find fish is an electronic fish finder. The options are almost overwhelming when you look at all the different types of fish finders out there. Ranging in price from $200 to $1,000, the only similarity between them all is that they are not cheap, but they will greatly increase your chances of catching fish. Using a fish finder allows you to see if the fish are there or not, so you don’t waste time where there are no fish. After you find them, you’re in business, or whatever you’re using for bait or lures may not be working, so it’s time for a change.
SOME Ice Fishing TIPS
Now that you have your first ice fishing spot and have confirmed that the ice conditions are safe, here are some tips to keep in your back pocket.
- Bring some cushion. Unless you like having just a layer of polyester between your back and the ice, it would be a smart move to bring something to sit on. Not only will it keep you a little warmer, but it will be much more comfortable in the long run.
- Use electronic fish finders. Knowing where the fish are can save you a lot of time and headaches when looking for fish on thick ice.
- Dress warmly. This may seem obvious, but adding an extra layer or two to your pack can serve you well in unpredictable weather. Bring spare gloves in case your first pair gets wet.
- Don’t venture too far. Most anglers have the best luck in about 5 to 20 feet of water.
- And finally (and most importantly) stay mobile. If you don’t get a twitch after 10-20 minutes in one spot, keep moving. Just because a fishing spot is hot in the summer doesn’t necessarily mean winter is coming.
Be sure to check out Fish and Game’s Idaho Fish Planner for more information on each ice fishery, safety tips, access locations and seasons and regulations, and to plan your next weekend fishing trip. Be sure to check the Fish and Game ice fishing webpage for more details.