Press Release

Panhandle can still have ice fishing opportunities in a mild winter

The cold weather is on its way! Even though your favorite lake may not have enough ice just yet, there are still some opportunities to do some ice fishing.

Few winters in the Panhandle of Idaho are the same. Some are cold and snowy, while others are warm and wet. Mild and relatively dry seems to be the pattern for the winter of 2020-21. Current conditions are somewhat discouraging for those hardy anglers who look forward to the winter months and the unique fishing opportunities they can provide.

Ice fishing is a favorite winter pastime for many anglers, but it does require one key component, ice. In winters like this one, many Panhandle lakes just don’t get cold enough to freeze over and provide safe ice for anglers. 

Ice Fishing in the Panhandle Region
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Rob Ryan

If you are feeling down because this year’s ice isn’t shaping up at your favorite lake, don’t despair! Ice angling opportunities can often be found in the Panhandle during a warmer winter if you know where to look. Here are some tips for finding these locations:

  • Look north – In many years small lakes in the northern portion of the region may freeze up when few other places do. Boundary County lakes such as Bonner, Perkins, Dawson, or Smith can provide good fishing opportunity for panfish, largemouth bass, and rainbow trout.
  • Find the cold pockets – temperatures can and do vary across the region. Often temperatures are colder in small protected basins. In Bonner County water bodies like Mirror and Kelso lake can freeze and provide safe ice conditions when other locations may not. Mirror Lake provides fishing opportunities for rainbow trout, brook trout, and kokanee. Yellow perch, bluegill, largemouth bass, and rainbow trout are all common species in Kelso Lake.
  • Size matters – small lakes often freeze first. In Kootenai County, Avondale Lake is one of the first to freeze when a cold snap passes through. While Avondale Lake is small, it provides a mixed opportunity for panfish, largemouth bass and rainbow trout.

IDFG Ice Thickness Chart
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Safety is always important when ice fishing. Ice conditions can and do change quickly, so be sure to take precautions when venturing out on the ice. Drilling test holes as you travel across the ice is a good way to measure ice thickness. At a minimum three to four inches of solid ice is necessary to hold a person. Check out our "Safety Tips" for ice fishing. 

You can find more information about ice fishing rules in our Fishing Seasons and Rules Booklet . Please call the Panhandle Region at (208)-769-1414 for more information.