Ice Fishing in Idaho

Ice fishing lets you catch fish throughout winter, and it’s a unique and fun way to go fishing with your family and friends. All you need is fishing gear, a few pieces of special equipment and a basic understanding of ice safety.

Three sisters dressed for ice fishing on Cocolalla Lake
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Ryan Hardy

Safety First!

Ice fishing is generally a safe activity if you pay attention to ice conditions and remember that they can change from day to day.

The best way to check ice thickness is to drill a test hole before venturing too far, follow these guidelines, and remember, it’s ultimately your responsibility to determine if it’s safe to be on the ice. 

General guidelines for ice safety are:

  • Three to four inches of solid ice is the minimum to support a person, and thicker ice is needed for groups.
  • 10 inches of solid ice are needed to support an ATV or snow machine.
  • Ice does not typically get thick enough to drive cars and trucks on Idaho's lakes and reservoirs.
  • Drill test holes to determine thickness, and remember thickness is not always uniform. Holes can be no larger than 10-inches in diameter for safety sake.
  • Beware of conditions that can create weak ice, such as inlets and outlets, springs, or near docks and other structures tha can absorb sunlight and weaken ice.

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IDFG

Places to Go Ice Fishing in Idaho...

Each region has waters where anglers commonly go ice fishing. This is not a comprehensive list, but ice fishing is popular at these places when ice conditions allow.  Click on each highlighted body of water for more information, which is also found in our Fishing Planner, including maps.

Panhandle Region

  • Fernan Lake is 423 acres near Coeur d'Alene and has a variety of fish.
  • Cocolalla Lake is 803 acres in Bonners County off U.S. 95 south of Sandpoint. It has trout, perch and a variety of other species.
  • Upper Twin Lake and Lower Twin Lake: These lakes are 525 acres adn 390 acres and in Kootenai County north of Rathdrum. They have trout, perch, kokanee, and other species.

Other places to consider if ice conditions allow: Spirit Lake, Avondale Lake, Hauser Lake, Hayden Lake and Round Lake.

Clearwater Region

  • Winchester Lake is 103 acres in Lewis County and part of Winchester Lake State Park, so a park entrance fee is required. the lake has trout, perch and other species.
  • Spring Valley Reservoir is 49 acres and near Troy in Latah County. Trout are the most likely fish to catch through the ice.
  • Elk Creek Reservoir is 87 acres and near Elk River in Clearwater County. Trout are the most likely fish to catch.

Southwest Region and McCall

  • Lake Cascade is 47 square miles and the fourth largest lake/reservoir in the state. It has a national reputation for producing large perch, including several state records, as well as trophy trout and many other species.
  • Horsethief Reservoir is 258 acres and owned by Idaho Fish and Game. It is about 6 miles east of Cascade, and frequently stocked with rainbow trout.
  • Mann Creek Reservoir is 269 acres and north of Weiser in Washington County. It has stocked and wild rainbow trout.

Magic Valley Region

  • Magic Reservoir is 3,577 acres and east of Fairfield and north of Shoshone. It's an ice fishing destination in Central Idaho and has abundant trout and perch.
  • Salmon Falls Creek Reservoir in Twin Falls County is 2,750 acres and has trout, perch, walleye and other species.
  • Little Wood Reservoir is 523 acres and northwest of Carey in Blaine County. It has rainbow trout and other species.

Southeast Region

  • Chesterfield Reservoir is 1,245 acres and east of Pocatello in Caribou County. It has rainbow trout, cutthroat trout, rainbow/cutthroat hybrids and brown trout.
  • Daniels Reservoir is 361 acres and west of Oneida in Oneida County. It has rainbow trout, cutthroat trout and rainbow/cutthroat hybrids.
  • Devils Creek Reservoir is 123 acres and in north of Malad City in Oneida County. It has rainbow trout, cutthroat trout and kokanee salmon.

Other places to consider if ice conditions allow: Deep Creek Reservoir, Twin Lakes and Bear Lake.

Upper Snake Region

  • Henrys Lake is 6,078 acres and located in Fremont County north of Island Park. The lake is world famous for its trophy trout, but it has special ice fishing rules to protect those fish It’s closed to fishing Jan. 2 through Friday before Memorial Day weekend..
  • Mackay Reservoir is 1,138 acres near Mackay in Custer County. It has trout, kokanee and perch. 
  • Ririe Reservoir is 1,414 acres and east of Idaho Falls in Bonneville County. It has trout, kokanee, perch, walleye, and other species.

Other places to consider if Ice conditions allow: Ashton Reservoir, Roberts Pond, Victor Kids Pond and Becker (Ryder Park) Pond.

Salmon Region

  • Jimmy Smith Lake is 47 acres in Custer County. It is stocked with rainbow trout.
  • Williams Lake is 180 acres in Lemhi County south of Challis. It is stocked with rainbow trout.
  • Stanley Lake is 185 acres near Stanley in Custer County. It has rainbow trout, cutthroat trout and kokanee salmon.

Boy Scouts jigging through the ice for perch
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Idaho Fish and Game

What you need for ice fishing.

  • An ice auger to drill holes. A manual auger is relatively inexpensive and can be bought for under $100. You can also buy a gas-powered auger, or an auger that attaches to a cordless drill.
  • A slotted ladle will keep your fishing holes free of ice.
  • A short jigging rod and/or ice-fishing tip-up rigs are handy, but you can also use a standard-sized rod. Because you can fish up to five rods, a combination of rods and tip-ups increase your odds of catching fish.

Targets, tackle and techniques

The two most common fish caught are trout and perch, but you might also catch bluegill, crappie, kokanee, and even bass. Considering you’re catching the same fish ice fishing that you would catch other times of year, you’d think fishing techniques would be the same, but ice fishing is a little different.

Here area some tips for ice fishing:

  • Try different depths to find fish. Generally speaking, perch like deeper water (10 to 40 feet) and are close to the bottom. Trout will often be found throughout the water column, and may be caught cruising within in a few feet of the ice. 
  • One way to measure the depth you’re fishing is to drop your bait to the bottom and count the revolutions of your reel handle as you reel your bait off the bottom. When you figure out where the fish are biting, you can return to that depth.
  • Jigging is effective. To jig, slowly bring the rig up about one foot then allow it to settle back down, and repeat. The movement of the bait attracts a fish’s attention. Some anglers prefer to just set the line and watch for a strike.
  • Perch, bluegill and crappie can be delicate biters and small hooks, small bobbers and a light touch are often needed to hook fish.
  • As a general guideline, trout are cruisers, but perch don’t move a lot. If you’re after perch, move around until you find them. Sometimes trout will find your bait without you having to find them, but not always.
  • If you’re not getting bites, move to a different location and drill new holes, especially if you’re see others catching fish.
  • Perch are a schooling fish. Once you find them, the action can be fast.

Three brothers in a perch-fest on Cascade Lake
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Idaho Fish and Game

Ice fishing rules

Ice fishing rules are slightly different than general fishing for public safety and general crowding. Be sure to check the official fishing regulations booklet for details.

  • An angler can fish with up to five poles or lines at a time, and have up to five hooks per line. All lines must be attended by the angler. A two-pole validation does not allow more than five lines while ice fishing. Some waters are managed under special rules that limit the number of poles or bait while ice fishing, so be sure to check fishing regulations for exceptions.
  • Statewide daily trout limit is six fish. There is no limit on perch, bluegill or crappie. Check the rules for the waters you are fishing for any special regulations that may apply.
  • Fishing is allowed only through a hole up to 10 inches in diameter.
  • There are no restrictions on the number of holes.
  • Gaff hooks may be used only to land fish through a hole cut or broken in the ice in waters that have no length restrictions or harvest closures for that species.
  • Anglers who use any enclosure or shelter for ice fishing and plan to leave it unattended overnight on the ice, must have the owner’s name, telephone number, and current address legibly marked on two opposing sides. Shelters must be removed from the ice before the spring thaw.

News

Videos

A Winter Fish Tale

This video playlist has a little bit of everything for the angler going ice fishing.

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Fishing Planner

The Fishing Planner is an advanced tool to explore fishing opportunities in Idaho