Summer is a favorite time for Idahoans and visitors to get out and enjoy the outdoors. It also happens to be an excellent time to go fishing, and Fish and Game wants to help anglers find places to fish.
We asked biologists, conservation officers and communications managers to come up with some good opportunities for Fourth of July weekend and summer fishing, and they provided some great options. These are a fraction of the fishing opportunities in Idaho, and to find more check out Fish and Game's Fishing Planner for lots more locations and details.
Many fishing waters are at or near their prime time for the season, particularly rivers and mountain lakes, but many other weekend getaways also provide excellent fishing.
The reason we point out rivers and mountain lakes is many rivers opened for fishing on Memorial Day weekend, but were running high and cold from snowmelt. Most rivers have now subsided and warmed a little, which tends to make fish more active and hungry.
Ditto for mountain lakes, but be forewarned, most Idaho mountains had big snowfall during winter, and some of that snow remains so not all lakes will be accessible.
That said, Fourth of July weekend is the typical kick-off for high country fishing, which is a great opportunity to get out and explore the backcountry.
Elsie Lake The lake provides a high mountain experience that can be visited as a day trip from Coeur d’Alene, but camping is recommended if you have the time. Over 1,200 10 to 12-inch rainbow trout are being stocked in June and temperatures should remain cool enough at this elevation to keep the fish biting and near the surface.
Bull Moose Lake This family fishing pond is on the east side of Priest Lake, north of Coolin. Easily accessible and stocked early summer, Bull Moose is a great spot to get kids catching fish before tackling the big waters of Priest Lake. And with the new State Park Fishing Equipment Loaner Program offered in conjunction with Idaho Parks and Recreation, anglers can borrow fishing gear at the nearby Indian Creek Visitor’s Center. Licenses can also be purchased from the visitor’s center for all anglers 14 years of age and over.
Antelope Lake Perched in the Cabinet Mountains above the Clark Fork River, this lake is regularly stocked with rainbow and cutthroat trout. As a privately-owned lake managed for public use by Avista Utilities, this lake tends to fly below the radar of many of the hikers and campers frequenting the National Forest. No formal camping facility is available, but hikers and anglers commonly camp along the undeveloped shoreline area. A float tube or kayak is ideal for accessing the fish that feed just beyond the shallow shelf running along the border of the lake. Note that a high-clearance vehicle is recommended for getting up the last mile of road.
Forage Lake This offers a complete backcountry experience and the chance to catch a golden trout. Anglers must hike challenging terrain approximately 11 miles from the Spruce Tree campground in the St. Joe National Forest. Neighboring Bacon Lake provides plentiful campsites and is regularly stocked with cutthroat trout. Plan extra time to fish the upper St. Joe River. The section you’ll traverse is designated Wild and Scenic River and flows should be dropping low enough to reach some pristine and productive pools.
North Fork Clearwater River This river has a variety of species, but is best known for its spectacular cutthroat trout fishing that reside in its deep pools. The North Fork provides some of the best dry fly fishing for cutthroat trout in the state. From Lewiston, it takes a little over two hours to get to the Aquarius Campground as you head west up Highway 12 through Orofino. Aquarius Campground hosts a nice beach, running water, picnic benches, and beautiful campsites near the river. Barbless hooks are required on the North Fork Clearwater upstream of Dworshak Reservoir.
Lochsa River This river is a 70-mile-long tributary of the Middle Fork of the Clearwater River in the Clearwater National Forest. It begins in the Selway Bitterroot Mountains and flows to Lowell, Idaho where it joins the Selway River to form the Middle Fork of the Clearwater River. The Lochsa River has a good population of westslope cutthroat trout along with some rainbows, and mountain whitefish. Cutthroats can average 12 inches and go up to 20 inches or more. Steelhead and Chinook salmon can be found in the lower part of the river. The word “Lochsa” means rough water. In addition to fishing, the Lochsa is also known for its whitewater rafting, and there are several Forest Service campgrounds along the river.
Deyo Reservoir Nestled amid farms and timber, beautiful Deyo Reservoir provides a great family fishing experience. A maintained trail surrounding the entire reservoir has seven fishing docks and two large fishing peninsulas, making it easy to find a good place to fish. There is also a developed campground, boat ramp, picnic shelter, swimming beach, benches, and two handicap-accessible docks. Campground reservations can be made by calling the Weippe Chamber of Commerce at (208) 435-4406. Rainbow trout are stocked heavily in the spring through fall. Bluegill, largemouth bass and pumpkin seed can also be found in Deyo Reservoir.
Deer Creek Reservoir This is a beautiful mountain reservoir located 11 miles north of the town of Pierce on Idaho 11 and was built specifically for trout fishing. 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. Boaters, please observe the no-wake restriction.
Elk Creek Reservoir The reservoir is bordered by a forested road along the entire west side for easy access to fishing areas, with four fishing docks and a boat ramp. The east side of the reservoir provides great boat fishing opportunities where foot access is difficult. This reservoir is stocked with thousands of rainbow trout from spring through fall to improve fishing success. Elk Creek Reservoir is near the town of Elk River, 55 miles east of Moscow, and at the end of State Highway 8. Drive to the eastern edge of the town of Elk River and signs will direct you to the reservoir. Other fish species found at Elk Creek Reservoir include bluegill, bullhead catfish, largemouth bass, brook trout, smallmouth bass, and white crappie.
Winchester Lake Located just south of the town of Winchester off of Hwy 95, this lake is in a beautiful forested setting with very easy access. Docks and fishing platforms enhance fishing opportunities for beginners and accomplished anglers. Facilities include a picnic shelter, fish cleaning station, swimming beach, benches and picnic tables, and a range of camping options. Many facilities are located in Winchester State Park, where an entrance fee applies. Thousands of rainbow trout are stocked in the spring and fall. Year round, you will find good fishing, plenty of recreation activities and wildlife viewing opportunities. Many other warm water fish species can be found at this popular fishing location. And with the new State Park Fishing Equipment Loaner Program offered in conjunction with Idaho Parks and Recreation, anglers can borrow fishing gear at the nearby Winchester Park Visitor’s Center.
Arrowrock Reservoir Fish and Game stocked this reservoir, about an hour east of Boise, with 10,000 catchable-sized trout in April. Bank anglers using bait can catch trout in the 16-inch range, and there's easy vehicle access to the shoreline along the reservoir. For boat anglers, kokanee fishing at Arrowrock is really starting to pick up. As the weather warms, down riggers will be needed to reach kokanee at greater depths. There is free dispersed camping at a few undeveloped sites around the reservoir, but outside of stone campfire rings, amenities are few.
South Fork Boise River If you’re looking for quality rainbow trout and whitefish, the South Fork of the Boise River is a good place to start. It’s typically a float trip because bank and wading access is limited, but this “blue-ribbon” water is full of big rainbow trout and a favorite destination for fly anglers. There is plenty of camping available in designated areas, but if you’re looking for plush campgrounds with reservations, flush toilets, paved parking pads, water spigots and other facilities, you won’t find them on the South Fork.
North Fork/Middle Fork Boise River While fish tend to be smaller and less abundant in these cold, relatively sterile mountain rivers compared with the South Fork Boise River, don’t sleep on these waters upstream from Arrowrock Reservoir — especially if you’re looking to get away from the crowds on July 4. In both the mainstems and the the two rivers’ tributaries, anglers can catch a variety of native fish, including redband trout, bull trout and whitefish, as well as nonnative brook trout, cutthroat trout and hatchery rainbow trout. There are a handful of designated Forest Service campgrounds along both rivers, as well as undeveloped areas.
Deadwood Reservoir — In addition to being one of the most crucial sources of early-run kokanee eggs for Idaho’s stocking program, this secluded, 4.5 square mile reservoir -- located high in the mountains north of Boise, about 25 miles southeast of Cascade -- is a popular and productive water for kokanee anglers. Depending on road conditions, access can be tricky, but both routes into Deadwood Reservoir are currently open. While the kokanee get much of the angling attention here, there are some trophy-sized trout and landlocked Chinook salmon that shouldn’t be overlooked. There are four Forest Service-managed campgrounds at the reservoir, which are available for reservations. Many campsites are located near the water, and most offer views of the water. Each is equipped with tables, grills, fire pits, and hand pumped drinking water. Other amenities include vault toilets. There is one boat ramp located at the Cozy Cove campground, and plenty of bank fishing access.
Sage Hen Reservoir — Located in the West Mountains of the Boise National Forest between Boise and McCall, this reservoir is situated in a forest of towering Ponderosa pine, Engelmann spruce, Douglas fir, and Grand fir. Sagehen provides good fishing for stocked rainbow trout fishing in a picturesque setting. Fish and Game stocked a total of about 4,800 fish in May and June. Five campgrounds, which include vault toilets and hand-pumped drinking water, are located adjacent to the reservoir and are managed by the Forest Service. Campsites include picnic tables and campfire rings, must be reserved ahead of your trip, and cost $16 per night. There is a boat ramp and dock, as well as a four-mile trail that loops around the water, which provides great access for bank fishing.
Horsethief Reservoir This reservoir is wholly owned by Idaho Department of Fish and Game, so it’s well stocked with trout and very angler friendly. The dam provides excellent shoreline fishing and there’s also a boat launch. The reservoir is 258 acres and suitable for all types of small craft, so you can kick the shoreline with a float tube or troll across the middle in a motorboat. Horsethief was stocked with more than 20,000 rainbows in the fall of 2018, many of which were likely caught during ice fishing season, but it should have plenty of hold overs as well, and it typically gets weekly stocking of rainbow trout during spring, summer and early fall, and there are occasional brown trout as well. The campgrounds will be open for Fourth of July weekend.
Lost Valley Reservoir This reservoir is like a hybrid between a mountain lake and a lowland reservoir. It’s tucked away in the trees and has a secluded feel, but it’s easily accessible and within short drive of U.S. 95 near the small town of Tamarack south of New Meadows (not to be confused with Tamarack Resort near Donnelly). The reservoir has been stocked with about 14,000 rainbow trout since June, and it also has a resident brook trout population. There's good camping around the reservoir at a Forest Service campground and also in undeveloped areas.
Boulder Meadows Reservoir/Boulder Lake These two waters provide different fishing experiences within a short distance of each other. You can drive to 61-acre Boulder Meadows Reservoir and enjoy fishing for stocked rainbow trout from shore or a small boat. Another option is to hike 1.5 miles to the larger (155 acres) Boulder Lake and have excellent wild cutthroat trout fishing. Both are located southeast of McCall, and the reservoir and trailhead to Boulder Lake (and nearby Louie Lake) are a short drive from town.
Brundage Reservoir This scenic mountain reservoir is located a few miles past the popular ski resort of the same name. It's easily accessible by passenger cars, but the gravel road can get a little rough in spots so beware. The reservoir offers excellent cutthroat and rainbow trout fishing. At 432 acres, it's fairly large for a mountain lake, but still a great place to fish in a small boat or a float tube. There's also good shore access and a boat launch. Special rules apply: no bait, two- fish limit and no fish over 14 inches may be kept.
Granite Lake This is another option for mountain lake fishing in the Brundage area. Granite Lake is north of Brundage Reservoir via Granite Creek Road. The road is suitable for most vehicles, and the last few miles are on a steep, curvy dirt road. This beautiful mountain lake is stocked with rainbow trout and provides good access for shore anglers and boaters, but parking is very limited. There is no boat ramp, but small, portable boats can easily be launched from shore. There are a few camping spots near the lake, but they will likely be filled on Fourth of July weekend and on peak summer weekends.
Magic Valley Region
Silver Creek This classic spring creek is a mecca for anglers wanting to ply their skills against the creek's wily rainbow and brown trout. The creek has many access points, but the Nature Conservancy Preserve west of Picabo is one of the favorites and among the picturesque setting for trout anglers. The stream's abundant and predictable insect hatches frequently bring trout to surface, but these fish have grown up with real and artificial flies drifting over their heads and learn to separate the real from the imitators. Part of the fun is trying to fool those cagey fish, and even if you can't, the scenery alone make this spot a worthy fishing destination. Fishing rules vary throughout the creek, so be sure to double check them before you fish.
Oakley Reservoir The reservoir received 26,000 rainbow trout last year, and it has a reputation for fast-growing fish. Last year's hold overs and this year's stocking of 12-inch rainbows should provide good fishing for shore anglers and trollers and a nice mix of sizes. The reservoir also has walleye fishing that typically gets going in later in spring.
Sublett Reservoir Many anglers fish for brown and rainbow trout from float tubes, and there are also remnant cutthroat trout, so you can go out and catch three different species at this reservoir. Situated in the southeastern portion of the Magic Valley Region, about 15 miles south of Raft River, this reservoir is a great destination for Pocatello and Magic Valley residents. Sublett Reservoir has three tributaries — Lake Fork, Sublett Creek, and Van Camp Creek — where the fishing can also be good. Dispersed camping is available around the reservoir, in addition to a developed campground managed by the Forest Service that sits about two miles from the reservoir. There are no fees, and it’s a first come, first served campground. Amenities include toilets, tables and grills, and a boat ramp. It’s suitable for both tent and trailer camping.
Big Wood River (upstream of Magic Reservoir)— A big snow year has made for high flows in the mainstem Big Wood River, which have so far rendered it unfishable this summer. That could be changing soon. The flows on this popular fly fishing destination -- which is typically more forgiving for the novice fly angler than Silver Creek (a tributary of the Big Wood) -- could be suitable for fishing for the first time this summer, just in time for the Fourth of July. Before heading out, anglers should keep an eye on river flows. There are many access points, and you can camp along the banks of the Big Wood or fish within walking distance of downtown Ketchum, catching and releasing big rainbow and brown trout, or head further upstream in search of a more “off-the-grid,” backcountry fishing experience. Be sure to refer to the 2019-21 Idaho Fishing Seasons and Rules, because rules vary throughout the river.
Anderson Ranch Reservoir There aren't many better places to fish for kokanee salmon in Idaho right now than Anderson Ranch, a 7.4 square mile reservoir located about 35 miles northeast of Mountain Home. Kokanee are starting to move to deeper water with the warmer weather, so downriggers will help. Anglers trolling for kokanee may also encounter landlocked Chinook salmon and rainbow trout. Sometimes overlooked is the reservoir's smallmouth bass fishery. There are four major boat launches and more than a dozen Forest Service campgrounds, although they will likely be filled on Fourth of July weekend and other peak summer weekends.
American Falls Reservoir This massive, 87-square mile reservoir located next to the town of American Falls offers 100 miles of shoreline. When completely full, the reservoir is the largest reservoir on the Snake River, and it has a variety of fish, including yellow perch, cutthroat trout, brown trout, rainbow trout, and both largemouth and smallmouth bass. Rainbow trout and bass are by far the most popular fish with anglers during the summer in American Falls Reservoir, and there are some real lunkers in there. The state record rainbow was pulled from this reservoir. Bass limit is two (any size), and the trout limit is six of which only two can be cutthroats. Numerous access sites with ramps and docks make it easy to use for boaters and shore anglers. There are three boat ramps at the southwest end of the reservoir, and one north of the dam. Parking, docks and fuel are available at the Seagull Bay Boat Club (208-226-2086), which is a fee ramp. Parking, docks and camping are available at Willow Bay (208-226-2688) and at the West Side. Sportsman’s Park (208-397-3000) in Aberdeen has fee camping, picnicking, boat ramp day use and walking paths.
Snake River Below American Falls Dam Though this section of the river is open to fishing year round, harvest of game fish is only allowed from Saturday of Memorial Day weekend through Oct. 15. This section of river holds plenty of smallmouth bass, rainbows, cutthroats, and browns —and catching rainbows pushing 10 pounds is not unusual. Bass fishing gets really good this time of year. Bass limit is two (any size), and the trout limit is six of which only two can be over 16 inches and only two may be cutthroats. Don’t have a boat? No worries. There are access points for some bank fishing. Bring your trailer or camping gear— nearby Massacre Rocks State Park has camping by reservation through the Idaho Parks and Recreation website at parksandrecreation.idaho.gov.
Blackfoot Reservoir The reservoir is located approximately 20 minutes north of Soda Springs. With access to extensive shoreline, docks and boat ramps, this 18,000-acre reservoir can be fished whether you have a boat or not. It is home to yellow perch, rainbow trout, cutthroats and carp. Limit for trout is six, though there is no harvest of cutthroats allowed. There is a BLM campground located on the very southern end of the reservoir on Dike Road offering full hook-up camp spots, picnic tables, fire rings, drinking water, restrooms, boat ramp, and parking. There are also six day-use sites available. Campsites are on a first-come, first-served basis. For more information, go to blm.gov/visit/blackfoot-reservoir-campground or contact the BLM office in Pocatello at 208-236-7500.
Blackfoot River For some great summer river fishing, check out the Blackfoot River and its associated creeks and tributaries. This river and associated tributaries open for fishing July 1, so Fourth of July will be almost opening day. In these waters you will find various species of fish, but anglers most often seek out rainbow trout and cutthroats. Limit for trout is six, with no harvest of cutthroats. No bait is allowed and barbless hooks are required. Along the Blackfoot River, there are five campgrounds managed by the BLM. Visit blm.gov/visit/blackfoot-river for more information.
Glendale Reservoir Whether you’re dunking a worm or wetting a fly, your chances of getting bites from crappie, bluegill, or bass at this reservoir over the Fourth of July are good. You may even hook a rainbow trout. Bass limit is two, though none under 16 inches can be kept. Access is best using a small boat, but docks and limited shore access are available. Keep in mind that there is a $20 launch fee for boats charged at the site by the water managers. Camping on a first-come, first-served basis is available, and there are ADA- accessible restrooms. This 200-plus acre reservoir is located about 4 miles northeast of Preston on Idaho 36.
Upper Kelly Park Pond Looking for a true kids’ pond perfect for the youngest of anglers? Look no further than Upper Kelly Park Pond at Arthur Kelly Park located at 325 North Kelly Park Road in Soda Springs. This fishery is managed by the City of Soda Springs. Anglers must be 13 years old and younger, and youth under the age of 8 must be accompanied by an adult. This small pond is stocked regularly with rainbow trout, and catch rates are usually excellent whether fishing with worms, dry flies or wooly buggers. Fish limit is three per youth. There is a short hike (quarter mile) to the upper pond from the Kelly Park parking lot. When kids get tired of fishing or exploring the trails, take them down into town for ice cream or to check out the world’s only captive geyser at Geyser Park.
Iron Bog Lake and Fishpole Lake If you are looking for a high mountain adventure with easy access and beautiful vistas, these two lakes are the place for you. The trailhead for Iron Bog and Fishpole lakes begins at the end of the Antelope Creek Road located North of Moore. The hike to Iron Bog is just under 2.5 miles from the trailhead. The first part of the trail gains elevation quickly and may look a bit daunting. After the initial elevation gain, the trail becomes relatively straight and climbs slowly and gradually to Iron Bog Lake. Fishpole Lake is another mile up the trail and well worth the trip for anglers as it tends to produce larger fish. Both lakes are popular destinations to spend the night for a quick backpacking trip. The views around the lakes are magnificent and both lakes offer an abundance of tree cover uncommon among lakes at this altitude. Flies and hopper patterns seemed to be the ticket for sealing the deal with the 10 to 20-inch cutthroat that patrol the edges of these two lakes.
Mill Creek Lake This is a great place to fish for those seeking an opportunity to catch Arctic grayling. A rustic forest service campground can be found at the trailhead with a 2-mile non-motorized trail leading to the lake. Grayling have small mouths, so using smaller lures is key to getting them to bite. Young anglers can also have great success with a fly tied to the end of a long cane pole or cast with a bobber for weight.
Palisades Creek This creek is easily accessed along the trail to Upper and Lower Palisades lakes. While the trail to the lakes is quite popular for people looking to escape the summer heat, you are unlikely to find many anglers fishing the creek. This tributary to the South Fork Snake River is closed to fishing during the month of June to protect spawning cutthroat, but opens back July 1, just in time for a Fourth of July excursion. Mountain goats are common in the vicinity of the creek for those paying attention to the rocky slopes above. Anglers can keep all the rainbow trout they catch, no harvest of cutthroat trout is allowed.
Green Lake One of Idaho’s hidden gems, Green Lake is relatively accessible for those with a high-clearance, four-wheel drive vehicle or off-road vehicle. The motorized vehicle trail begins in Muldoon Canyon and winds upward along a historic mining road. Several stops along the trail offer beautiful vistas and a look into Idaho’s mining heritage with railcars and mine tailings still present. The last stretch of trail to the lake requires a short but steep hike up a rocky slope along the outlet of the lake. Green Lake is teaming with fish, but anglers will need to switch it up to figure out what they are biting on.
Williams Lake Located southwest of Salmon, Williams Lake provides good fishing until water temperatures increase later in the summer. Quality rainbows in the 12-to-16-inch range are readily caught on bait, lure and flies. Float tubes and boats provide anglers access throughout the lake and are recommended but not required. Good bank angling and easy angler access can be found on the northwest portions of the lake near the recently improved public boat dock.
Jimmy Smith Lake and Herd Lake Some hiking is required to access these lakes in the East Fork of the Salmon River drainage, but anglers will be rewarded with good catch rates and exciting fishing for rainbow trout. The daily bag limit in both lakes is 25 trout, and anglers should do well using worms, corn, eggs, mealworms, Power Bait, or fly fishing gear. Anglers can access the south end of Jimmy Smith by horse, motorcycle or a short ATV ride. From there, an unimproved trail along the north side of the lake is open to foot or horses only. At Herd Lake, a 1-mile trail starts at the single-unit campground below the lake and provides non-motorized access to the water.
Mosquito Flat Reservoir This mountain lake northwest of Challis offers a beautiful place for a weekend fishing retreat. Known for plentiful rainbow trout, Mosquito Flat has also been stocked with sterile kokanee, some of which have now grown to over 14-inches. Anglers will find good catch rates whether fishing from shore or a small boat. Currently, the best route to the lake is the Garden Creek-Challis Motorway, as a landslide has damaged the Challis Creek Road and full-size vehicle travel is not advised.
Wallace Lake Anglers looking for another fish to add to their “Bucket List” may want to cast a line at this small alpine lake west of Salmon. Tiger trout, a sterile hybrid between brook trout and brown trout, lurk here. They are uncommon in Idaho and stocked in a limited number of locations. Anglers are limited to two trout daily, but should do well fishing with bait, lure or fly from the bank, or a small raft. Because of heavy snows, stocking trout has been delayed here, and is planned for early July. Motorists are advised that the road is rocky and steep and not recommended for trailers or RVs.
Other popular drive-to lakes, including Bayhorse, Little Bayhorse, Iron, and Meadow lakes, offer great fishing. However, because of snow and road conditions, these high-elevation lakes have not been stocked and may still be inaccessible by the holiday weekend. But conditions change fast, so for the latest on driving to Bayhorse and Little Bayhorse lakes, contact Land of Yankee Fork State Park at 208-879-5244. For information on the other waters listed, contact the Salmon-Challis National Forest at (208) 756-5100.