Summer is almost here, and Memorial Day weekend for many Idahoans is the unofficial kick off to the summer camping and fishing season. If you’re doing the first and not the latter, you’re missing out on a fantastic opportunity. May is among the best months for Idaho’s ponds, lakes and reservoirs, and some rivers will also be good for fishing, although many will be running high and cold with snow-melt run off.
Fish and Game personnel from each region have highlighted some of the best bets for anglers and tried to keep an eye toward places with good camping, too. These spots offer a wide variety of fishing opportunities, and many are stocked with trout before the holiday weekend and well into summer.
This is only a fraction of the great options anglers have for the Memorial Day weekend and into summer. For a full list of Idaho’s fishing waters, check out our Idaho Fishing Planner and find places near you, or where you will be traveling this summer.
Here are some select spots for your to consider for the weekend and beyond, and if you don’t have your fishing license yet, and if you arrive to your fishing spot without one, here’s a handy tutorial on how to buy a fishing license with a smart phone.
To get more information about these fishing spots, including maps, click on the links for each body of water, which will take you to the Idaho Fishing Planner.
Rose Lake Located at the upstream end of the popular Chain Lakes along the Coeur d’Alene River, Rose Lake should be any angler’s first stop looking for warmwater fish like bass, bluegill, or northern pike. This lake is typically the fastest of the Chain Lakes to warm up in the spring and provides ample access to shallow spawning grounds and weedy shoreline fringes.
Priest Lake Late spring is often one of the best times to fish for lake trout on Priest Lake. These fish are notoriously good eating, with pink flesh caused by a diet of freshwater shrimp. Anglers do well trolling plugs and dodgers/hoochies or flies in 100-200 feet of water in the mid-sections of the lake. Jigging and drop shot type setups at similar depths are also popular. New for 2019, Upper Priest Lake now has no bag limit for lake trout. Note that anglers returning to the main lake may not continue fishing if they’ve harvested six or more fish in order to stay in compliance with the Priest Lake bag limit.
Round Lake: During May, 2,500 catchable-size rainbow trout will be stocked in Round Lake. With an electric motors only restriction and surrounded by state park land, Round Lake provides a peaceful fishing experience on the busy Memorial Day weekend and beyond. As part of Round Lake State Park, other recreation options like hiking and camping are available all in one place, with easy access from both Coeur d’Alene and Sandpoint.
Fernan Lake F&G has ramped up stocking in this popular lake with 12,000 trout stocked in April and 6,000 more trout each month during May, June and September. Aside from trout, there are also perch, crappie, bass and catfish. Boat ramps and docks are available at both the east and west ends of the lake. There is also abundant shoreline access for bank anglers along the road that follows the northern shoreline. If bank fishing for trout, start at the east side of the lake where Fernan Creek empties in to the lake. Several pullouts are available along the shoreline. Arrive early to find parking.
Winchester Lake Located in a beautiful forested setting, Winchester Lake offers 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.
Spring Valley Reservoir Surrounded by rolling hills and trees, Spring Valley Reservoir's fishing opportunities are favored by local anglers as trout are stocked heavily spring and fall. A maintained trail surrounds the reservoir and fishing docks and platforms increase shoreline access. Amenities include a picnic shelter, swimming beach, benches, picnic tables, handicap fishing access, and a developed boat ramp, but gas motors are not allowed.
Moose Creek Reservoir A shallow lake in rolling timbered hills on Idaho's Birding Trail, Moose Creek Reservoir 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.
Elk Creek Reservoir A forested road parallels the entire west side of Elk Creek Reservoir 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.
Dworshak Reservoir Kokanee salmon and smallmouth bass fishing starts to turn on as the water warms in the spring. Kokanee fishing typically provides bigger fish later in the summer. The shallow bays and creek mouths of Dworshak tend to be where bass fishing first picks up. Bank access is limited, but the boat fishing can be productive.
C.J. Strike Reservoir This is a popular fishery because of its mild climate and variety of fish. C.J. Strike is most famous for its bass and panfish, including perch, crappie and bluegill, and crappie fishing has been exceptional this year. Strike also has abundant trout that are targeted by trollers and bank anglers. Boaters with fish finders can often find and target schools of fish, but shore anglers have access to much of the reservoir's south shoreline and can find good fishing from there. The reservoir also has several campgrounds on its south shoreline, and there’s also unimproved camping at nearby Crane Falls Reservoir.
Arrowrock Reservoir Fish and Game stocked this reservoir with 13,000 trout in October, and many of those trout cruise the shorelines in early spring. Bank anglers using bait can catch trout in the 16-inch range, and there's easy vehicle access to the shoreline along the reservoir. Arrowrock also has kokanee salmon and smallmouth bass.
Brownlee Reservoir Hit the weather right and Memorial Day weekend can feel like Fourth of July, but better. The low elevation and mild climate can make perfect camping with cool evenings and mornings followed by warm, sunny days. This large reservoir (13,000 acres and more than 50-miles long) is nearly unrivaled for variety. There’s about a dozen (or more) game fish commonly found there, but Brownlee is most famous for its smallmouth bass, crappie and catfish fishing. In addition, it’s scenic – especially in the spring when hillsides are green and snow-capped mountains loom above – and there are well-developed campgrounds with boat launches, picnic areas and other facilities, as well as unimproved shore-side camp spots.
South Fork of the Boise River Check the flows before you head down there because depending on snowmelt and dam releases this river can be flowing high and fast in the spring. It’s typically a float trip because bank and wading access is limited, but it’s also full of big rainbow trout and a favorite destination for fly anglers. There’s also 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. But catch this river during its stonefly hatch when trout are aggressive and voracious, and chances are good you will forget all about those creatures of comfort.
Mann Creek Reservoir This mid sized (270 acres) reservoir doesn’t attract huge crowds, but it offers good fishing for rainbow trout and bass and is at a nice “Goldilocks” elevation for spring fishing. It’s big enough for powerboats, but not too large to paddle or row in your small craft. Fish and Game crews stock it with catchable rainbow, and there’s also a self-sustaining population of wild redband rainbow trout. If you want to camp for the weekend, there’s a Forest Service campground at the north end of the reservoir.
McCall sub region
Lake Cascade This is a big reservoir with lots of shore access for bank anglers and plenty of boat ramps for boaters, as well as shore-side campgrounds for those looking to spend the weekend on the water. Lake Cascade has a variety of game fish, but trout and perch are the most common targets for anglers. But don’t overlook the lake’s smallmouth bass because it’s known to produce some big fish. Cascade can be a little fickle, so if you don’t catch something, try some other bait, lure, or fishing tactic and maybe be prepared to move around if needed.
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 will get plenty more before the Memorial Day weekend and throughout the summer.
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 south of New Meadows. The reservoir is stocked with rainbow trout and also has brook trout. If conditions are good, this can provide some nice trout. Check with the Forest Service on access to the reservoir if you’re planning to go for Memorial Day weekend because snow can block some roads in the area of the reservoir.
Meadow Creek Pond If you’re looking for a quick, easy fishing trip in a nice location this is worth a look. The pond is part of the Meadow Creek Golf Resort just north of New Meadows off U.S. 95. The pond is on private property, but public fishing is allowed. The 7-acre pond is typically stocked once or twice per month during summer.
Rowland Pond (aka Scout Pond) This 3.6-acre treasure is tucked away in the trees next to Little Payette Lake near McCall. There’s nothing fancy or complicated about it. It’s just a good place to take kids, family or others to an easily accessible pond with rainbow trout. The pond typically gets stocked twice per month during the summer.
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, and the stream reopens for fishing on Saturday of Memorial Day weekend. 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 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, and part of the fun is trying to fool those cagey fish.
Salmon Falls Creek Reservoir Like many other southern Idaho reservoirs, this one offers a variety of warmwater fishing and trout. Rainbow trout fishing heats up in the spring with the weather, especially for shore anglers. The fishing also gets good for boat anglers as we get further into spring. The reservoir has some of Idaho's best walleye fishing, as well as perch, crappie and other panfish that can provide lots of action and great eating.
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.
Mormon Reservoir Jury is still out on how well this reservoir will fish this year. It's off to a slow start, but it has had some fantastic trout fishing in the last two years. Fish and Game has stocked it heavily in the last five years, and it has produced some trophy-sized rainbow trout. There's no evidence of a winter kill, so hopefully this reservoir will return to form shortly and continue to produce good trout fishing and some lunkers for lucky anglers.
Little Camas Reservoir This reservoir has been stocked with rainbow trout and is ready for anglers. Spring is typically the best time to fish this reservoir because it's often drained by late summer. The reservoir is located in a scenic location and is a good size for small craft, such as float tubes, canoes, kayaks and small motorboats. Anglers can find ample pan-sized rainbows, but those looking for trophy-sized trout might want to try other locations.
Bear Lake This beautiful lake is a great place to catch a trophy native cutthroat trout, some of which can grow up to 15 pounds! Wild cutthroat trout caught in Bear Lake must be released, but about 170,000 hatchery cutthroat trout are stocked annually for those interested in keeping some to eat. Hatchery fish can be identified by a clipped adipose fin. Bear Lake also provides an opportunity to catch trophy-sized Lake Trout— some exceeding 20 lbs! Experienced anglers know that a jig tipped with a chunk of cisco is the way to go if you want to increase your chances of hooking up with one of these beautiful fish. Bear Lake State Park is located on the North and East Shores and provides camping opportunities. Nearby Cache National Forest also provides camping opportunities. When you are not fishing Bear Lake, you can sunbathe on the sandy beaches or paddleboard on the turquoise water. Jump on in… the water is fine.
Snake River Below American Falls Dam Though this section of the river is open to fishing year round, harvest of game species is only allowed from Saturday of Memorial Day weekend through October 15. This section of river holds plenty of smallmouth bass, rainbows, cutthroats, and browns—and catching rainbows pushing 10 pounds is not unusual. Don’t have a boat? No worries. There are access points for some bank fishing, just be careful as water levels can be a bit high for wading this time of year. Bring your trailer or camping gear— nearby Massacre Rocks State Park has camping.
Lamont Reservoir Located about three miles east of Preston, Lamont Reservoir is great fishing for bluegill, largemouth bass, perch, and rainbows. Fish from the ADA-accessible docks, from the shore, or from your boat or float tube. Spinner baits fished slowly work well for bass this time of year while small plastic jigs tipped with a piece of worm are the ticket to fast and furious bluegill action.
Winder Reservoir This water body which is located 6 miles north of Preston holds rainbows, largemouth bass, perch, and bluegills. This is a great place for spin fishing or flyfishing, however, it must be done from shore or float tube. There are no boat ramps or docks. No motorized boats allowed. is a wonderful place to take the family fishing. During late spring, the bluegill bite is phenomenal, and young anglers have no problem catching plenty of fish. The shoreline near the road is very kid friendly and provides plenty of unobstructed casting lanes for inexperienced anglers. For bass this time of year, fish spinner baits slowly. A small plastic jig tipped with a piece of worm is the way to win over a bluegill. The opportunity to catch a trophy fish here is pretty limited. There are a few large bass lurking around but they are not in abundance.
Twin Lakes Not much goes together better than kids and bluegill fishing. Located approximately 15 miles northwest of Preston, Twin Lakes is the perfect spot for reeling in the fun with these plentiful pan fish, whether from a boat or from the shore. Anglers can also find largemouth bass, perch, rainbows, and crappie. Bring your RV or your tent; there are 57 camping sites available. Reservations are recommended, especially for holiday weekends. Other amenities include boat ramps, docks, bathrooms, and ADA-accessible fishing spots. There is no water or electricity. Twin Lakes Canal Company charges for camping, and boats must be inspected for Quagga mussels at an inspection station located onsite: $15 for motorized watercraft over 10 feet and $5 for non-motorized watercraft under 10 feet. For more details about camping and boat inspection fees or to make a reservation for camping, visit twinlakescanalcompany.com.
Upper Snake Region
Warm River This river is a tributary to the world class Henrys Fork and has a beautiful Forest Service campground near the confluence. Warm River is renowned for its scenic vistas and offers great access via the Yellowstone Branch Line Railroad Trail. Small flashy lures tend to work well on this stretch of river, but fly anglers can take advantage of the recent caddis fly hatch. Rubber leg stonefly nymphs also tend to perform this time of year and can be a nice addition to your fishing arsenal. Beginning on Saturday of Memorial Day weekend, Warm River changes from catch-and-release to a six trout limit with no harvest of cutthroat trout.
Sand Creek Pond #1 will be stocked with 3,500 rainbow trout the week before Memorial Day weekend making this a great location to take the whole family. A free first-come, first-served campground managed by the Idaho Fish and Game is located right next to the ponds and offers a new interpretive trail system to add to your experience. Wildlife viewing opportunities also abound at this location as the ponds are a crucial water source for migrating animals. Anglers should try using worms beneath a bobber for the best results. Fishing along the edges of the water lilies can be a great way to pull out the larger fish the ponds are known for.
Trail Creek Pond A popular year-round fishing spot for kids, this pond has recently received an additional 1,100 rainbow trout from the South Fork of the Snake River. Many of these fish are over 16 inches and have been eager to bite. There are several Forest Service campgrounds close to the pond, as well as lodging and dining opportunities in the nearby town of Victor. Its location near the Teton Pass Highway also makes this pond a great place to stop on the way to Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks. Slowly dragging a weighted worm on the bottom of the pond has proven to be a successful method for anglers at this location.
Birch Creek Camping option are numerous on this stretch of river and offer a great place for family gatherings. Heavy stocking from Fish and Game hatcheries increases the likelihood of young anglers seeing fish on the end of their line. Anglers seeking rainbow trout will have more luck fishing downstream while those seeking brook trout will find them more abundant upstream.
Kids Creek Pond Regularly stocked with rainbow trout, this 0.6 acre pond located near downtown Salmon provides a convenient fishing hole, especially if you’re limited on time. Picnic tables, a covered picnic table area, restrooms and outdoor grills make it a perfect, easily accessible family fishing spot.
Hayden Creek Pond This 1.7-acre pond is about 24 miles south of Salmon on Hayden Creek Road. This popular fishing pond is stocked with trout monthly through spring and summer. Because of spring water that 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. This area also has a picnic shelter, grills and restrooms.
Blue Mountain Pond This 0.7-acre pond overlooks the golf course in Challis. Kids will enjoy fishing for stocked rainbow trout from the banks and having a picnic in one of the sheltered picnic tables arranged around the pond.
Squaw Creek Pond This small seasonal pond is stocked with rainbow trout and is located about three miles west of Clayton, north of the Salmon River off the Squaw Creek Road. Recent deepening and improvements to the pond’s outlet structure will make this a great fishing location through early summer, when the water will likely be drawn down for irrigation.
Hyde Pond This small irrigation pond provides ideal bank fishing for beginning anglers and those who want to practice casting techniques. Heavily stocked in May, this pond is located south of Salmon on the road to the Sunset Heights subdivision.
Williams Lake Located southwest of Salmon, this 180-acre lake provides good fishing for feisty wild rainbows in the 12-to-16-inch range. Float tubes and boats provide anglers access throughout the lake. Good bank angling can be found on the northwest portions of the lake near the recently improved public boat ramp and day-use area. A nearby hiking trailhead, which leads anglers to the south side of the lake, can be accessed a half mile west of the boat ramp. Campers will also find an 11-site BLM-managed campground located about a mile east of the lake.
Jimmy Smith Lake The half-mile hike or ride to Jimmy Smith Lake is rewarded with scenic views and wild rainbow trout. Located in the East Fork Salmon River drainage southeast of Clayton, this 47-acre lake is accessed by foot, horse, motorcycle or ATV ride from the trailhead on Big Lake Creek. Anglers should do well fishing for rainbows with worms, corn, eggs, mealworms, Power Bait, or fly-fishing gear. Rainbows in excess of 14-inches can be found here, and the daily bag limit is currently 25 trout. Camping is limited to two dispersed sites along the access road from the East Fork Road and at the trailhead parking area.
Mosquito Flat Reservoir Both novice and expert anglers alike will enjoy Mosquito Flat Reservoir near Challis. This 49-acre irrigation reservoir is known for beautiful scenery, camping, plentiful rainbow trout, and luckily - not many pesky mosquitoes. The reservoir is now filling with water, and was recently stocked with 1,000 rainbows. Fish and Game has also stocked 13,000 sterile kokanee into Mosquito Flat the last few years, some of which have now grown to over 14-inches. Prized for their hard fight and excellent table fare, a fresh kokanee fillet off the grill will make a Memorial Day highlight. A Forest Service day-use picnic area, 11-unit campground and boat ramp is available. Currently, the best route to the lake is the Garden Creek-Challis Motorway, as a landslide has damaged the Challis Creek Road and two wheel-drive vehicle travel is not advised. For more on the road condition and campground, contact the Challis-Yankee Fork Ranger District at (208) 879-4100.