If your Memorial Day weekend doesn’t include some fishing, you’re missing a lot of fun. Spring is among Idaho’s best time of year for angling because water conditions are ideal in many places, and Fish and Game is stocking thousands of trout for anglers to catch.
Fish and Game offers a variety of fishing opportunities, so while this list is far from exhaustive, it’s a way to focus on some of the highlights of the fishing that's available for the holiday weekend, and beyond, and here are places where you can catch them.
Remember when packing for the weekend to load your fishing gear, and if you haven’t already bought your 2018 fishing license, do it at one of the many license vendors throughout the state. Then you can try your luck at catching some of these fish, and for more information, check out our Fish Planner, which provides maps, descriptions, amenities, rules and more each body of water in the state.
Idaho’s number one fish when it comes to fishing effort and numbers caught each year. Fish and Game will stock about 1.7 millions catchable rainbow trout (8 to 14 inches) in 2018, and that’s in addition to resident rainbows that already live in Idaho waters. Considering how fun these hard-fighting fish are to catch, and that they’re available statewide, they’re a can’t-miss fish.
Great fishing spots: Horsethief Reservoir, Deyo Reservoir, Moose Creek Reservoir, Fernan Lake, Chesterfield Reservoir.
These scrappy panfish are equally fun to catch and eat. They’re the honored guest at many fish fries and beloved by young and old anglers alike. Crappie move into the shallows of lakes and reservoirs to spawn during spring, and if you find a school of them, they can lead to some fast and exciting fishing. They’re also highly prolific fish, so you can take plenty home to eat without worrying about putting a dent in the population. You should take only as many as you plan clean and eat, but if you want to fill a freezer, they’re a good fish to seek out.
Great fishing spots: Brownlee Reservoir, Hayden Lake
These are a favorite target for boaters who like to troll on large and medium-sized reservoirs. Kokanee are land-locked sockeye salmon, and they often run in big schools that can easily be spotted with electronic fish finders. Find the school, match the depth, let your tackle do its job and reel in the fish. Kokanee are also a great fish to eat, so you can enjoy your catch on the grill while hanging out at camp or lounging on the patio.
Great fishing spots: Ririe Reservoir, Anderson Ranch Reservoir, Lake Pend Oreille.
They’re known as “king” salmon for a reason. They’re big, strong and put up a vicious fight, especially in snowmelt-swollen rivers. Spring chinook season is currently underway, but things can change fast because river sections close to salmon fishing at different times, so keep an eye on the Chinook fishing rules to stay current. This has been an atypical year for Chinook with the fish showing up later than usual, but when they arrive, they always provide some exciting fishing.
Great fishing spots: Clearwater River, Snake River, Salmon River, Little Salmon (Riggins).
Smallies, as they’re commonly known, may have a Napolean complex due to their name because they always fight above their weight class. They’re an exciting fish to catch, and they’re found in a surprising variety of waters. The Snake River and its chain of reservoirs is among the best smallmouth fishing in the state, and it also encompasses a lot of places to fish. But other reservoirs provide excellent smallmouth fishing as well, and these fish are fairly predictable. When the water temperature climbs above 50 degrees, the fish get active and provide great action for anglers.
Great fishing spots: CJ Strike Reservoir, Dworshak Reservoir, Lake Walcott, Lake Pend Oreille.
Here’s a bit of a wild card for you. Northern pike aren’t widespread throughout Idaho, which in itself makes them an interesting fish to target. But there’s more to pike fishing than they’re scarcity compared to more common fish. Pike grow big. The state record is a 40-pounder, and it’s common to catch pike that are at least as long as your arm. They’re also an aggressive predator, which means savage strikes and reel-stripping runs. You may want to invest in some wire leader before tackling these fish. Like many other fish, spring is a prime to fish for pike, so get out and give them your best shot.
Great fishing spots: Coeur d’ Alene Lake, Coeur d’Alene River Chain Lakes.
People love to catch yellow perch through the ice during winter, and it should come as no surprise that they don’t disappear when the ice melts. Large schools of perch are still available in many Idaho reservoirs, and they’re a fun fish to catch and tasty fish to eat. Like crappie, you can catch them by the bucketful. Perch can be very kid friendly because when you get on a school during a hot bite, kids can catch a bunch by simply dropping a baited hook and reeling them in.
Great fishing spots: Lake Cascade, C.J. Strike Reservoir.
Catfish are among the most overlooked fishing opportunities in southern Idaho. They’re plentiful in the Snake River, reservoirs and elsewhere, and they rarely get harvested in any substantial numbers. They often average several pounds each, and they’re hard fighters. You can catch them on nightcrawlers, or buy baits especially formulated for cats.
Great fishing spots: Snake River (SW Idaho), Brownlee Reservoir, Milner Reservoir.
Despite their popularity elsewhere in the country, largemouth fishing is another overlooked fishing opportunity in many places in Idaho. May is among the best time to fish for them because they’re in the shallows for the spawning season. If you’re new to largemouth fishing, don’t overthink it. They can be caught on a variety of tackle, but a standard rubber worm (aka soft plastic bait) used with a jig hook or a hook and a bullet weight will get the job done most of the time.
Great fishing spots: Lake Lowell, Coeur d’ Alene Lake.