Free Fishing Day is June 13, and anyone can enjoy a day of fishing without a fishing license, but all other rules still apply.
Free Fishing Day is an Idaho tradition that usually includes Fish and Game employees and volunteers bringing fishing gear to various fishing spots and loaning rods, reels and tackle and helping people learn to fish. While that’s not an option because of COVID-19, it's still a great opportunity for novice anglers to experience some of the wonderful fishing opportunities Idaho has to offer. Be sure to practice appropriate social distancing and be safe when you're enjoying your time outdoors.
If you’re new to fishing, or new to fishing in Idaho, the state has thousands of places to fish, and you can catch a variety of species ranging from palm-sized bluegill to 9-foot sturgeon.
Fish and Game also stocks about 30 million fish annually for anglers, which includes millions of trout that are immediately available to catch, as well as millions of young salmon and steelhead destined for the ocean that will later return as adults.
“In the month leading up to Free Fishing Day, Fish and Game hatcheries stock over 400,000 catchable rainbow trout in waters throughout the state,” Fish and Game Hatchery Manager Bryan Grant said.
Catchable-sized trout ranging from about 10 to 13 inches are stocked statewide and in many easily accessible fishing spots, including community ponds, local reservoirs and nearby lakes. Those are all convenient places to go for Free Fishing Day that are close to home and provide a good chance to catch fish.
If you don’t have fishing gear, it’s fairly inexpensive to get started. You can get a basic rod/reel combo for about $25, and the only tackle you need at first is a few hooks, weights, bobbers and bait, which will costly only a few bucks more. It’s tough to beat live worms for bait because nearly all fish will eat them, but if you don’t want to deal with squirming live worms, there are many other bait options, and lures, flies and other tackle give you even more options.
If you’re unsure how to rig a rod for fishing, Fish and Game provides simple instructions on its Learn to Fish webpage. For information about bag limits and other rules, see the 2019-21 Idaho Fishing Seasons and Rules booklet, which is available in a printed booklet at Fish and Game offices and many license vendors and sporting goods stores.
Fishing is a fun family activity, and easy for kids to learn. Remember when taking young kids out to make sure they wear lifejackets and bring lots of snacks, a hat and sunscreen. Be patient with kids and enjoy your time outdoors with them, even if the kids decide they’d rather explore nature or do something other than fishing.
If you’re wondering where to fish, here are some suggestions for each region in the state, but this is a tiny sample of what’s available for anglers. You can learn about many more places to fish, as well information on when they were last stocked, by to going to Fish and Game’s Fishing Planner, which also shows exact location of each of the waters listed below.
This community pond next to the town of St. Maries features an upgraded fishing experience for 2020, thanks to water quality improvements for better rainbow trout habitat. Fisheries crews begin stocking Spicer in April, with thousands of catchable-sized trout planted since then. The well-maintained shoreline provides plenty of room for anglers to spread out with a cooler and lawn chair or practice casting before a trip on the St. Joe or St. Maries Rivers.
A short drive from Coeur d’Alene, Hauser Lake offers a scenic destination with a productive and diverse fishery. From the Sportsmen’s Access boat launch at the southern end of the lake, shoreline anglers can take advantage of a large dock and catch a variety of species like crappie, bass, catfish and bluegill. Hauser is one of four Panhandle lakes that is stocked with tiger muskie. The dock and boat ramp are connected to a county park, complete with picnic areas and a playground.
Post Falls Park Pond
Less than a mile from downtown Post Falls, this family fishing water is surrounded by a 22-acre park with paved trails, playground, picnic areas, and scenic overlooks of the Spokane River. During spring and summer, visitors can observe turtles, herons, ducks and osprey in and around the water. The pond is stocked with around 4,000 rainbow trout through April, May and June. A paved fishing bridge over the water makes access easy for everyone.
Deer Creek Reservoir
Deer Creek Reservoir is a beautiful mountain reservoir near Pierce that was built by Fish and Game specifically for trout fishing. It's stocked with trout and provides fishing opportunities for kids, families and avid anglers. Rainbow trout are stocked from spring through fall in this remote setting for high catch rates from shore or a boat. To add variety, this lake is also stocked with sterile brook trout and tiger trout, a sterile hybrid of brown trout and brook trout. Boaters, please observe the no-wake restriction.
Nestled amid farms and timber near Weippe, beautiful Deyo Reservoir provides a great family fishing experience. A maintained trail surrounding the entire reservoir features seven fishing docks and two large fishing peninsulas, making it easy to find a good place to fish. There is a boat ramp, picnic shelter, swimming beach, benches, and two handicap-accessible docks. Rainbow trout are stocked heavily spring through fall.
Moose Creek Reservoir
This shallow lake in rolling timbered hills near Bovill is on Idaho's Birding Trail, and it is ideal for kayaks and float tubes. A trail surrounds the lake, and nine fishing docks provide good shore fishing opportunities. There is a small developed boat ramp, but gas motors are not allowed on this lake. Rainbow trout are heavily stocked in the spring and fall. Other species found at Moose Creek include catfish, bluegill and bass.
Located on the outskirts of Emmett, Sawyers Pond has a long-standing reputation for providing a convenient fishery for bass, bluegill and trout. This large pond complex offers ample shore and dock fishing, but also has a boat launch and is the perfect fishery for small craft. Anglers use various species-specific techniques to catch their targeted species. Try fishing along vegetation beds and structure for bass and bluegill, while trout are best targeted in the deeper open water.
Lower Boise River
During most years, because of flood control and irrigation flows, the lower Boise River (the Boise River from Lucky Peak Dam downriver) flows too high to effectively fish in May and June. Typical flows for this time of year on the lower Boise River are around 2,000 cfs. But if the river is around 1,200 cfs, the river is fishable and is producing nice rainbow trout, brown trout and whitefish from Diversion Dam down to Star.
CJ Strike Reservoir
Known for its consistent bass and perch fishing, CJ Strike Reservoir is one of the more popular warm water fisheries in the Southwest Region. However, what really sets CJ Strike apart from other area fisheries is its crappie fishery. Crappie are cyclic in nature, producing large year classes so abundant that as they mature, they can prey on young fish until they reach maturity and eventually die. Then, there will be a lull until the next big year class comes through.
This cycle occurs in three to four year intervals. Currently, the CJ Strike crappie fishery is booming with a large quantity of nice-sized crappie. And because crappie are nearing shore to spawn, they can easily be caught from shore in numerous locations. Anglers should also not overlook the nice trout that can be found in the CJ Strike main pool.
Just a short drive from the Treasure Valley and upstream from Lucky Peak, Arrowrock Reservoir is known for both its rainbow trout and kokanee fisheries. While the kokanee fishery has been slow this spring, the trout fishery has been very productive. Both anglers trolling from boats and fishing from shore have been catching good numbers of trout. The northern shoreline from the dam to the boat launch is the most popular among shore anglers. Troll with spinners or flies, while using either lures or bait is an effective method from shore.
Treasure Valley Ponds
Fish and Game consistently stocks numerous valley ponds that provide unique urban fisheries. These popular ponds are a great place to take kids fishing, or for adults to try out a new skill like fly fishing. Boise ponds include Williams, Parkcenter, Esther Simplot, Sterling, and Riverside while McDevitt, Kleiner, and Hero’s are stocked in Meridian. Pond fishing is best in the mornings and evenings and numerous lures and baits can be used including spinners, flies, and bait. These ponds are popular, so please remember to be courteous to fellow anglers and always properly dispose of trash, including bait containers and used fishing line.
Magic Valley Region
Located at the Hayspur Fish Hatchery near Picabo, this spot received a significant make-over last fall. Crews deepened the lagoon, and contoured the banks making it easier to fish, especially for younger anglers. The lagoon gets stocked regularly with catchable rainbow trout. The hatchery grounds and campground remain closed to the public until further notice due to COVID-19.
Located on the Hagerman Wildlife Management Area near Hagerman, these lakes are always a favorite place for families to catch fish. Anglers can typically find rainbow trout, bluegill and largemouth bass at Oster Lakes. Riley Pond has been partially drawn down until early September. Anglers can still fish the pond, but the banks may be soft and muddy. The four Anderson ponds, Bass Ponds, Goose Pond and West Highway Pond will open by regulation on July 1.
This lake is conveniently located pond inside Shoshone Falls Park near Twin Falls. This scenic county park is a great place for families to try out fishing since the parks also features hiking, fishing docks, picnic areas, and a swim beach with other amenities nearby. Anglers can typically find rainbow trout, as well as bluegill and largemouth bass, and an occasional crappie.
Upper Snake Region
Ryder Park Ponds
Managed by the Idaho Falls Parks and Recreation Department, Ryder Park offers two ponds to double your fishing fun. Becker and Riverside ponds are located within 50 yards of each other and are stocked regularly with an abundance of rainbow trout and occasionally catfish. Ospreys take full advantage of the fishing bounty at Ryder Park and can be seen regularly as they skim the ponds to grapple a fish dinner in their talons.
Though close in proximity, the two ponds offer very different experiences. Becker pond is well manicured and surrounded by a walking path that leads to several picnic shelters and an ADA accessible dock, while Riverside pond offers a more undeveloped setting, but is often less crowded and offers anglers more elbow room. Small spinners are a good option when temperatures are cool, but worms seem to work well in both ponds during the warmer months.
Trail Creek Pond
Nestled at the base of Teton mountain range, this often overlooked pond is the perfect stop for families headed on vacation to Jackson Hole or the nearby Grand Teton Park. Restroom facilities, picnic tables and beautiful mountain scenery make Trail Creek an opportune place to stretch your legs and catch a few rainbow trout before continuing on your journey, or when camping nearby. Stocking began in early May, just in time for that summer vacation.
Due to its high elevation and cooler water temperatures, this pond fishes well all through the summer heat when other lower elevation ponds start to warm up and fishing tends to slow. Kids are not likely to get bored here as catch rates are usually high and the fish tend to bite on bait or lures equally. Several open areas make this a good place for beginners to learn how to cast a fly or throw a spinner without too much risk of hanging up in the brush.
Rexburg City Ponds
Young anglers can catch perch, catfish and rainbow trout at this urban fishery located within the Rexburg Nature Park. A fun network of trails and bridges make this a great place for families with young children to enjoy a fishing adventure without straying too far from paved trails and picnic shelters. A simple bobber and worm are a great setup for the abundant perch in these ponds, and by replacing the bobber with a sinker you can easily transition to catching catfish.
Anglers looking for trout will have better luck fishing in the early morning or late night hours when temperatures are cooler. Don’t forget to have a few quarters in your pocket to drop into one of the vending stations that dispense food for the ducks and geese that call this park home. No fishing trip to the Rexburg City Ponds is complete without being surrounded by a flurry of feathers!
Kid’s Creek Pond
This fishing hole near Salmon is a very popular fishing hole for youngsters. It is stocked with rainbow trout and has a fishing dock, restrooms, and pavilion with picnic tables, which makes this a convenient family fishing spot.
Hayden Creek Pond
This is a very popular family fishing hole with a picnic shelter, tables, grills and restroom – and it’s frequently stocked. The 1.7-acre pond is about 24 miles south of Salmon on Highway 28 and three miles up the Hayden Creek Road. Because of spring water that feeds the pond makes great habitat, the fish that don't get caught right away continue to grow, giving anglers an opportunity to catch some larger trout as the summer progresses.
Located only 30 minutes southwest of Salmon, this scenic, 180-acre lake provides good fishing for feisty wild rainbows in the 12 to 16-inch range. Good bank angling can be found on the northwest portions of the lake near the public boat ramp and day-use area. When the fishing fun wears off, a nearby hiking trailhead (about a half mile west of the boat ramp) leads to the south side of the lake and provides a great place for kids to explore.
Blue Mountain Meadow Pond
Kids will love this pond located adjacent to the Challis golf course, and the area provides good access for persons with disabilities. Anglers will enjoy fishing from the banks and having a family picnic at one of the pond's sheltered picnic tables.
Hyde Creek Pond
This small irrigation pond provides good bank fishing for beginning anglers. Usually heavily stocked in early May, this pond is located south of Salmon on the road to the Sunset Heights subdivision.
Squaw Creek Pond
This is a small seasonal pond usually stocked with rainbow trout in late May. Located about three miles west of Clayton, north of the Salmon River, this pond provides easy access, restroom, and plenty of bank fishing space. Recent deepening and improvements to the pond’s outlet makes this a great fishing location through early summer, when the water is usually drawn down for irrigation.
This urban fishing spot is part of the Portneuf Wellness Complex in Pocatello. It is about 6.5 acres and down to 35-feet deep and regularly stocked with catchable rainbow trout. The trout limit is two, and all other species are managed under general rules.
The Portneuf Wellness Complex is a large 80-acre, manicured, multi-use complex designed to serve team and individuals sports and activities. The complex has over 2 miles of paved walking trails, a mountain bike park, and offers a playground for the kids. The reservoir is divided into a swimming area complete with a sandy beach and a fishing area with docks and a rocky shoreline to accommodate anglers. Anglers can also bring their float tubes, and “beach bums” can bring kayaks and paddleboards. There are pavilions, bathrooms and plenty of parking.
Edson Fichter Pond
This 3-acre urban fishery is tucked inside Edson Fichter Nature Area in south Pocatello. Access is by paved trails from a paved parking lot. No boats or float tubes are allowed, but who needs that with all the bank fishing and two large docks that are available? This pond is also ADA-accessible.
Catchable rainbow trout are regularly stocked, just remember the two-trout bag limit. A smaller puppy pond is located near the fishery for those who wish to train or play with their four-legged friends, but this smaller pond is not stocked or open for fishing.
Edson Fichter Nature Area boasts 40 acres of natural landscape dominated by native plants and trees, and springtime wildflowers connected by looping trails that lead visitors to the Portneuf River, the ponds, and to other parts of the site. Paved trails maintained by the Portneuf Greenway Foundation border the Edson Fichter Nature Area and are a great way to get some extra exercise or nature watch after an afternoon of fishing. Visitors enjoy seeing wildlife such as cliff swallows, osprey, mule deer, foxes, waterfowl, and even an occasional bald eagle.
Upper Kelly Park Pond
This 1-acre pond is small in size but packs a large amount of fun for kids when the trout are biting, which is most of the time. Located within Arthur Kelly Park in Soda Springs, this community fishery is an easy quarter-mile hike from the paved parking lot. Don’t be “lured” to the lower pond by the parking area for fishing because it isn’t stocked, but is still a great place for kids to catch a frog or two.
The easy trail hike ends at a picturesque little pond-- perfect for kids to dunk a worm and have a picnic lunch. The upper pond is stocked regularly by Fish and Game and the bag limit is six trout per day. Besides a fishing pond, the park boasts a pavilion, restrooms and concession stand, two softball fields, two tennis courts, a playground, picnic tables, several miles of walking trails and a disc golf course.
Jensen Grove Pond
This 55-acre pond is located within Jensen Grove Park along the Blackfoot Greenbelt in the heart of Blackfoot. Bring your boat or fish from the bank—either way you can catch one of the thousands of rainbow trout stocked in this fishery every year. The trout limit is six per day. This large fishery is surrounded by extensive paved trails perfect for walking and biking, and many areas of this park and fishery are ADA-accessible. This is a seasonal fishery relying on irrigation water, usually from April through October.
Park amenities are numerous, including a skate park, playground, picnic areas, and restrooms. People use the large pond for everything from fishing to boating to jet skiing.