Frequently Asked Questions

We get a lot of questions. We post here answers to questions we're being asked frequently. If you have a question not answered here, please contact us. Urgent questions should be directed to your nearest office. Some answers change over time; please take note of the "answered" date.

Displaying 151 - 175 of 198 questions

Q: at Hayden lake there is a runoff what are the rules for getting the fish there

during the summers i have seen lots of fish get trapped in the fields and runoff is there any rules of the number of fish you can keep even if they do have limits in the main lake, just wondering cause most of the fish die in the field behind the dike road there. i also heard you can go into there and net the fish, spear them, even snag them. i see lots of catfish, bass (large and small mouth), perch, trout mainly rainbows and some cutthroats, pike, crappies,


General rules apply to the water below the Hayden Lake outlet, so snagging, spearing, and netting are not allowed and limits do apply.  It's relatively uncommon to have so much outflow (like we had this year) that large numbers of fish actually leave the lake through the outlet, so we have not established separate "salvage" rules for the area.  Also, the land below the dike is private property, so developing special salvage rules for that field would like create a problem for the landowner.

answered 8/6/2012

Q: I recently spent about 24h at Forage Lake and only saw one fish rise the entire time. Nor did I see any fish cruising. A 2009 IFG report indicated there grayling and golden trout of 30 cm. Are the fish gone or in deep water?

I hiked into Forage Lake on August 2, 2012 and camped. I expected there to be grayling and golden trout of size and numbers based upon a scientific survey published in 2009 by IFG. Observing the lake from multiple vantage points during the morning, afternoon, and evening, did not indicate that there were any fish present, other than one large rise was noted. I encountered a similar situation in 2003, although I did see and hook one fiish on a fly ( which was lost before landing). Is it possible the fish are no longer present, or that they are holding in very deep water out of sight?
I would also note that the main campsite was heavily trashed in 2003 and 2012. In 2012, I bundled together about 30 lbs of garbage and assorted debris into some decaying plastic tarps and Tyvec plastic sheeting that were found at the site. The garbage included fishing line and an unopened bottle of salmon eggs. unfortunately, I was unable to backpack out this large amount of garbage.


Forage Lake was stocked with golden trout last year as well as 2004 and 2006, so it should have fish in it.  It is possible that they were simply in deeper water and you just weren't able to see them, but usually if fish are in a mountain lake, they're fairly obvious.  It's very possible that some or most of the fish died in a winterkill.  Winterkill can definately happen if a shallow lake is covered by ice for an unusual length of time -- which could have happened this year.  Sorry to hear about the garbage.  Unfortunately, some people can be real slobs.

answered 8/5/2012

Q: Bull Trout Policies

I was under the impression that it is illegal to intentionally target bull trout when fishing, but I came across a post on a fishing forum where members discussed their strategies for targeting Idaho bull trout. The forum members are of the opinion it is perfectly legal to target bull trout, as long as you do not kill them.
What is Fish & Game's official policy on this?


Although, bull trout are listed under the federal Endangered Species Act as "threatened" anglers can still actively fish for them in Idaho.  Catch-and-release fishing for bull trout can be great sport given the size bull trout can achieve and their aggressive nature. 
With that said, before an angler targets bull trout, they need to understand the ramifications of accidentially killing a bull trout while fishing.  You could not only be subject to a misdemeanor violation for illegal "take" under Idaho law but proscution in federal court for violation of the Endangered Species Act.

answered 8/4/2012


There are several reasons for rainbow trout being the most stocked resident fish in Idaho.  *1)  surveys show the majority of anglers that fish in Idaho prefer catching rainbow trout; 2) rainbow trout eggs are readily available for commercial/conservation, large-scale production; 3) our fish hatcheries are located on water sources that are conducive to growing coldwater fish species such as rainbow trout; and 4) we have ways of creating sterile rainbow trout in our hatchery system that won't genetically compete with wild trout species where we stock rainbow trout.
*2011 IDFG Random Angler Opinion Survey.

answered 8/3/2012

Q: What are the non game fish I can spear/bow fish?

There is no where on the IFG that I can find a non game fish identification chart. I see the game fish identification guide but that does not help me be 100% confident I am hunting non game fish. Please help so I know I am not breaking any laws.


It's easier if I first list the game fish.  They are all the trout species, all the salmon species, grayling, whitefish, cisco, crappie, perch, bass, all catfish/bullheads, sunfish, sturgeon, northern pike, tiger muskie, walleye, sauger, burbot, bullfrogs, and crayfish.  That essentially leaves you with suckers, carp, minnows, and chub.  Suckers and carp are probably the only nongame fish you see in shallow water in substantial numbers.  Look on the internet to see pictures of both species.
I strongly suggest that before striking out on your own fishing with a spear or bow, you go with an experience archery fisherman.  They can show you where you're most likely to find carp and suckers, what they look like under water, and how to aim (water distorts your view of fish seen from the surface).  This can be a fun way to prepare for the fall archery season.

answered 8/2/2012


Please contact the Regional Fisheries Manager at the Southwest Regional Office via phone 208-465-8465 ext. 301

answered 8/2/2012


There is a extremely small probability, but it is highly, highly unlikely. Tiger musky have been stocked in Little Payette Lake and Lake Cascade. For a tiger musky to make it to Horseshoe Bend, it would have to pass through a dam and move downstream through several class IV-V rapids. Furthermore, tiger musky are ill-equipped to live in high gradient rivers.
The Payette River in this area more likely in inhabitated by rainbow trout, whitefish, northern pikeminnow, and other native fishes.

answered 7/30/2012

Q: How can an angler tell the difference between a steelhead planted in lake cascade and other rainbow trout?

I noticed that A-run steelhead have been planted in lake cascade along with other trout. Will the steelhead have a clipped adapoise fin or some other telltale sign? Are steelhead tags required? Do you target the steelhead with the same kind of fishing gear you would kamloops or other trout? Is IDFG going to continue stocking cascade and other lakes with stellhead in the future? Detailed info would be great


Rainbow trout and steelhead are the same genus and species.  Essentially, a steelhead is an ocean-going rainbow trout.  There will be a slight color variation - depending on the time of year, but the only sure-fire way tell a hatchery produced rainbow trout from a steelhead is to check the adipose fin.  If the adipose fin is missing, then its one of the steelhead smolts (juvenile steelhead ready to migrate to the ocean) we stocked in Cascade.
The number of steelhead smolt released for migration to the ocean are regulated to reduce competition with wild fish.  When we have better than average survival at our steelhead hatcheries, this produces excess steelhead.  We typically stock excess steelhead in reservoirs where they can't migrate to the ocean.
No steelhead card is needed to fish for and keep juvenile steelhead stocked in Cascade.  They count in the trout bag limit, so you can keep 6 fish regardless of the size.

answered 7/26/2012

Q: Why did you put clipped hatchery trout in the south fork of the clear water. This is considered a trash fish to a lot of fisherman and damaging to our native rivers.

We found that we were forced to only keep hatchery trout on what was a very expensive outing to the south fork river this past week. This is a fish we could have fished for a few miles from home. We also found that while fishing for trout in the south fork, it was very hard to find a native fish. The native fish we did catch were small and a lot were foul hooked. I have fished this river for years and have never foul hooked as many fish. I feel that this was a bad addition to south fork or any river. I think the hatchery fish will starve out the native fish.


Every year we release over one million hatchery steelhead smolts into the South Fork Clearwater River (no hatchery rainbow trout catchables are released into this river).  Two years later, many of these steelhead smolts will return as 12-16 pound steelhead that attract anglers from all over the country.   Releasing over one million steelhead smolts may seem like a lot, but survival during this two year trip is not that great (less than 2% make it).  As such, if we want to create a good steelhead fishery in the future, we need to release a lot of fish.  A portion of these steelhead smolts don’t migrate to the ocean and remain in the river (we call this residualizing).  Even if only 1% of these fish remain in the river, that leaves over 10,000 hatchery rainbow trout for anglers to harvest.  For this reason we encourage the harvest of these fish (they have a clipped adipose fin) and allow a 6 fish limit.  We do not allow the harvest of wild fish (fish with an adipose fin) because many of them are actually wild juvenile steelhead that will eventually migrate to the ocean.  These fish are listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act and that is why we don’t allow any harvest on them.  We also don’t allow the harvest of cutthroat trout in this river as their numbers are very depressed due to habitat degradation and overharvest.  Our hopes are that having a catch-and-release season on them will help bolster their numbers.  I’m not sure why your fishing experience was different this year than in past, but I can assure you that we have not changed the number of fish we stock into this river. 

answered 7/3/2012


IDFG does in fact have a stocking program in Dierkes Lake.  Rainbow trout between 8-10 inches are stocked primarily in the spring when water temperatures are cool enough to provide suitable stocking conditions.  Additionally, the Departement has intermittently stocked channel catfish.  The resident bass and bluegill population provide the bulk of the fishing opporutnity during summer and fall months when water temps force rainbow trout into the deep water.  Stocking records can be found on the IDFG website if you would like historical stocking information.  Feel free to contact the Magic Valley Region anytime for managmenet concerns or if you just want to have a conversation about the Dierkes Lake fishery.

answered 6/25/2012


Yes, there are fish in Long Tom and Mountain Home reservoirs.  Mountain Home Reservoir is typically stocked with rainbow trout in the early spring.  Fish will survive all year if adiquate water remains in the reservoir over the winter.  If conditions are right, this can be a very nice ice fishery.
Long Tom Reservoir is mostly on private property The owner has stocked it with rainbow trout in the past and there have been hatchery rainbow trout wash down to the reservoir with high-water events.  There are also wild rainbow trout that are caught in the reservoir that were produced in the tributaries.

answered 6/19/2012

Q: Where is a good place to camp and fish in idaho?

Im looking for a place somewhere in the mountains, preferrably a lake or reservoir, with good fishing where i can camp. I want a place away from towns and cities and away from a lot of people. It should be within 3 hours of boise. Also im looking to catch some bigger fish, trout for sure, but if it has other species that would be great. Thanks in advance.


From the Boise area, a great place to camp and fish is along the Middle Fork of the Boise River. This area is accessed via Highway 21. Just past the high bridge over Mores Creek, turn right onto the Middle Fork Road and drive past Lucky Peak and Arrowrock Reservoirs. The Middle Fork offers a number of great fishing holes as well as both established campgrounds and impromptu campgrounds all the way to Atlanta.

answered 6/16/2012


No, you can't. On page 46 of the Fishing Rules Book:
Sale of Fish: Fish harvested by anglers cannot be bought or sold without a commercial license except as provided by Idaho Code.

answered 6/12/2012

Q: Did you know there are wild trout in the sandhallow creek?

There is a stream that runs from the southeast of Emmett,id to Notus Idaho,and then dumps into the Boise river near the Dixie river. It fallows Market Rd from Oasis Rd. to Sand Hallow Rd from Were i live. It then goes to the Boise river in Notus Id. and dumps into the Boise river. I wish it could be protected some how? Its not very common that a stream has wild trout in it around them parts.
Rodney B


According to our records, we did not know that there were wild trout in Sand Hollow Creek. I certainly didn't know.  A couple of other sampling sites surveyed in this creek during 2001 came up as no fish present.  We appreciate the information. I would like to talk with you on the phone about your observations.  Please call the Nampa Regional Office and ask for the Fisheries Manager. Thank you.

answered 6/5/2012


Most brook trout fishing opportunities within the Magic Valley involve smaller headwater streams.  Places such as upper South Fork Boise River, Upper Littlewood River, Upper Rock Creek (Twin Falls County), Upper Cassia Creek, and various tributaries feeding into the Upper Big Wood River.  All of these brook trout populations are wild and self-sustaining. There are no brook trout hatchery supplementation programs in the Magic Valley Region.
We hope this information helps you find the fishing experience you're seeking.  Feel free to contact the Magic Valley Region directly if you require more detailed information.

answered 6/5/2012


Northern pikeminnow (squawfish) are a native specie to Idaho.  They are highly predatory once they reach 8 - 10" and tend to prey more on soft-ray fish such as rainbow trout, cutthroat, salmon and steelhead smolts (juveniles).  This makes sense when you consider that all of these species are native to Idaho and they've evolved together through the years.

answered 5/29/2012

Q: What game fish can be caught on the Salmon River below North Fork to the Middle Fork with spinners after the steelhead season closes in the spring?

My family owns property in this segment and we use it year-round. I've never been able to really tell my older grandkids if they can fish and what they can keep. ( Or is it catch and release for all species?) This question assumes using non steelhead gear.


Rainbow trout (can only be kept if their adipose fin is missing), cutthroat trout, and there may be an occasional brook trout.  You can keep 6 trout (e.g. 4 rainbow, 2 cutthroat; 3 rainbow,, 3 cutthroat; etc.), 25 whitefish, and 25 brook trout.  You can also catch bull trout but you can’t keep them.

answered 5/12/2012

Q: Musky & Pike fishing

First, thank you for all the work you do for us - I really do appreciate all of it.
Now my questions:
-Are there any waters for Pike fishing South of CDA?
-Are there any waters for Musky fishing in the South West Region?
-Where are the best Musky waters in Idaho?
Thanks in advance,
B. King


We are using a few pike in mountain lakes in south-central Idaho to reduce brook trout numbers, but we really don’t want them to be harvested (some lakes have less than 10 pike stocked).  In the Southwest part of Idaho the best place to find Tiger muskies is Dog Creek Reservoir near Gooding or Carey Lake.  Tiger muskie were recently stocked in Little Payette Lake to control nongame fish.  They probably aren’t big enough to catch, yet.
Check the fish stocking records on our webpage at:; Fishing; Fish Stocking Records.

answered 5/7/2012

Q: What are the fishing seasons on Upper and Lower Palisades Lake?

I was wondering if the fishing season on South Fork Tributaries applied to the Palisades lakes as well. The only exception listed for the lakes is a trout limit of two, so is the season open year-round or not? If the lakes are open year round, what is the season on Palisades creek above the lower lake.


Both are open all year.  The trout limit is 2.

answered 5/5/2012


At the present time, cutthroat trout are considered part of the “trout” bag limit in most of the state.  This means you can catch and harvest 6 cutthroat trout per day over most of Idaho.  The Magic Valley, Southeast, and Upper Snake restrict cutthroat harvest in rivers and streams to 2 cutthroat.  You can still catch and  keep 6 cutthroat in lakes and ponds.  So, if I want to go catch and keep 6 cutthroat in a lake in the Upper Snake Region, that’s currently legal and will remain legal for the foreseeable future.

answered 4/23/2012

Q: steelhead fishing size

how big to keep


Steelhead are rainbow trout longer than 20 inches in length in the Snake River drainage below Hells Canyon Dam, the Salmon River drainage (excluding lakes and the Pahsimeroi and Lemhi rivers), and the Clearwater River drainage
(excluding that portion above Dworshak Dam and lakes).
Rainbow trout longer than 20 inches in length with the adipose fin clipped, as evidenced by a healed scar, are defined as steelhead in the Snake River from Hells Canyon Dam upstream to Oxbow Dam and in the Boise River from its
mouth upstream to Barber Dam, during steelhead seasons.
Only steelhead with a clipped adipose fin as evidenced by a healed scar, may be kept. These are hatcheryfish that had their adipose fin removed as juveniles. All naturally produced steelhead with an intact adipose fin must
be released because they are listed as “Threatened” under the Endangered Species Act.  Some hatchery steelhead are not adipose fin-clipped and must also be released.

answered 4/23/2012

Q: Is it true they are dropping trout into the Boise river?

I called the other day because your website is not being kept up, I wanted to take my children somewhere they stocked so they would have a good chance in catching a fish. The lady told me that F&G dropped over 2000 fish into the Boise river. The river is running extremely high, why would you drop hatchery fish somewhere thats not fishable? Wouldn't it make more since to drop them in the ponds where people are being forced to fish due to the river running so fast? ( a good place would be either settlers park pond or the eagle pond off of Eagle and Macmillan.)


We do not stock trout in rivers when they are at flood stage. Instead, these fish remain at their respective hatchery until flow conditions improve or we reallocate them  to ponds or reservoirs.  

answered 4/18/2012

Q: What fish are illegal to catch here in Idaho? What guidelines should 4-H kids know?

I am a 4-H Leader in Ola, ID and I am in need of information of restrictions of all kinds to teach my 4-H kids. Any information is appreciated.


The list of game fish (copied below) is found in the Fishing Rules Book.
Game Fish: Brook, brown, bull, cutthroat, golden, lake (Mackinaw), rainbow (including steelhead), splake and Sunapee
trout; trout hybrids; Chinook, coho, Atlantic, and kokanee (blueback) salmon; grayling; whitefish; cisco; crappie; perch;
bass; catfish; bullhead; sunfish; sturgeon; northern pike; tiger muskie; walleye and sauger; and burbot (Ling). Bullfrogs and
crayfish are also defined as game fish.
Nongame Fish: Any fish not specifically defined as a “game fish.”
Protected nongame fish are Shoshone, Wood River, and Bear Lake sculpin, sand roller, northern leatherside chub and Pacific lamprey (you cannot fish for these)
The fishing rules are divided into information for each region of the state.  There are general seasons that apply to all waters in one region but a few lakes, rivers and reservoirs have special rules.  These are listed by region.  You will also find  pictures of Idaho fish on pages 56-59 of the rules book.

answered 4/7/2012


A decision has not yet been made regarding the future of Priest Lake and the lake trout fishery.  IDFG is currently in the “scoping” phase of developing a new statewide fisheries management plan for 2013-2018.  The plan will set direction for Priest and Upper Priest lakes, as well as other fisheries throughout Idaho.  The current management plan states IDFG will manage for lake trout (mackinaw) in Priest Lake, while we try restore native fish populations in Upper Priest Lake by yearly removal of lake trout with nets.  We’ve learned over the past six years that trying to manage the lakes as two independent systems is neither practical nor feasible in the long-term.   This means the Department, with input from the public, must make a decision on whether we manage both lakes for lake trout and abandon efforts to maintain cutthroat and bull trout in Upper Priest Lake or; alternatively, we begin a large-scale effort to suppress lake trout and restore the native trout and kokanee fisheries in Priest Lake.  Because a decision hasn’t been made, it’s premature to say how we’d go about implementing a suppression effort.  Given the progress we’ve seen with lake trout suppression on Lake Pend Oreille (which utilizes both commercial netting equipment and an angler harvest incentive),  we would certainly look to that program as a potential model.

answered 2/11/2012


Technically the brook trout is a char, more closely related to bull trout than to rainbows or cutthroats. They are not a native species in Idaho. The limit is high because brook trout are very prolific and tend to out-compete and interbreed with the other trout species, including the native bull trout, a federally listed species. Brook trout can be a significant threat to fishing opportunity for native cutthroat trout. They also tend to become stunted when over-crowded in lakes, and they are difficult to remove once established.

answered 5/22/2011