IDAHO – The recent cold weather across Idaho doesn’t mean the end of fishing until spring. For many, the best fishing of the year is just getting started.
Idaho offers some excellent ice fishing for trout and yellow perch, and at times, many other species including crappie, bluegill, kokanee and more.
Ice fishing is great for families looking to get outside and break up the wintertime doldrums. Plus, ice fishing has its advantages.
For one, ice fishing doesn’t require a large investment in tackle. Most of the equipment and tackle – pole, jigs, bait and ladle – can be carried in a five-gallon bucket, which doubles as a handy seat. The only specialized equipment needed is an ice auger. Augers are relatively inexpensive and available at most sporting goods stores. Generally, where ice fishing equipment is sold, someone can provide specific information about where to go, what to use and how to do it.
Another way for a novice to learn the sport is to respectfully approach other anglers fishing nearby. A few minutes of friendly conversation and observation can often be enough to get you started in the right direction.
Fishing methods vary, but jigging can be an effective technique. The slight movement created by slowly bringing the lure or bait up from the bottom about one foot then allowing it to settle back down sometimes entices fish to bite.
Try jigging near the bottom first, and then slowly try higher and higher in the water column until you find fish. If nothing bites, move to another hole. Mornings and evenings are often the most productive fishing times, with some slower periods in the middle of the day.
So when is ice safe? There is no absolute answer, but thickness is not the only consideration. Ice appearance, age, temperature, and snow or slush coverage all influences its strength.
Anglers should always decide for themselves if it is safe and never assume the ice is thick enough without checking it first. A general guide for proper ice thickness is a minimum of 4-inches of new, clear ice for individuals walking and drilling a hole, and 6 to 10 inches for groups and snowmobiles. It is very common for ice depth to be highly variable on a lake so be careful when exploring different fishing areas.
Rules for ice fishing are simple, yet slightly different than general fishing for public safety and crowding concerns. Fishing is allowed only through a hole up to 10 inches in diameter. This reduces the risk of someone falling through holes. There is one exception on Bear Lake in Southeast Idaho where anglers can dip net cisco through any size hole.
There are no restrictions on the number of holes, but an angler can fish with up to five poles or lines at a time, and up to five hooks per line. A two-pole validation is not needed and does not allow more than five lines while ice fishing. All lines must be attended by the angler.
Ice fishing is a terrific winter pastime for the whole family. Fresh air and spending time with friends is invaluable. Remember that a new license was required January 1.