By Jordan Rodriguez
Special to the Idaho Statesman
Lake Cascade (Ice Fishing)
It’s hard to complain about 60-degree weather in February, but ice fishing season might come to an early end as a result. It has been in the 40s most days in Cascade, but cold nights are keeping the ice intact for at least one more weekend. I fished near Blue Heron last weekend and enjoyed 8 inches of solid ice, not nearly as much slush as I had expected and a beautiful day in the high 30s. The bite was slow but steady — it seemed like fish came through about once every hour or so. We wound up catching a huge 16-inch perch and a handful of nice rainbow trout. Lines baited with worms and marshmallows seemed to get almost all of the action. I only had a few bites on jigs, and even those came on “dead sticks” that weren’t being actively jigged. The Perch Assault tournament is happening this weekend, so it might get a little crowded on Cascade. If you’d rather have the lake to yourself, Horsethief and Warm Lake east of town should still have safe ice and decent trout fishing.
Getting there: Take Idaho 55 north to Cascade. Popular access points include Poison Creek on the north end of the lake and Blue Heron closer to town. For the latest lake conditions and fishing reports in the Cascade area, call Tackle Tom’s at (208) 382-4367.
Salmon and Clearwater Rivers (Steelhead)
Steelhead fishing has been great this month on both the Salmon and Clearwater. I am seeing lots of big fish getting caught on crankbaits, jig-and-bobber setups, streamers and roe. According to the latest Fish & Game harvest data, catch rates have been averaging 3-6 hours per fish on the Clearwater, which is outstanding! The Salmon is a little more volatile, but catch rates are as low as two hours on the stretch between the Middle and North Forks, and in the low teens elsewhere. As an added bonus, the usual snowpack and ice floes are a non-issue, and you can comfortably fish in a hoodie. Grab your 2018 steelhead tag and give it a shot. Remember to freshen up on the modified harvest rules before you go.
Getting there: Visit the Idaho Fish & Game website for a complete list of fish counts, seasons and rules, and the latest fishing reports.
Lucky Peak Reservoir (Kokanee, Trout)
It has been a fabulous winter for the trolling crowd, and I’m seeing some nice hauls of Kokanee and trout continuing to come out of both Lucky Peak and Arrowrock. Downriggers or leaded line are the key to getting wedding rings, spinners and squid jigs tipped with shoe peg corn, salmon eggs or worms down to the fish, which are appearing anywhere from 40 feet down to just beneath the surface. If you are marking fish but they aren’t biting, try swapping out lure colors until you start getting hit. Trout tend to be less fickle than the Kokanee, and they’ll be found a bit shallower on most days. Landlocked Chinook also might crash your party on occasion. If you are fishing from shore, look for sandy bottoms with a gradual dropoff and throw worms, marshmallows or Power Bait fished on a slip sinker setup. Spinners and spoons also might attract a few bites from shore.
Getting there: Take Idaho 21 northeast of town to Lucky Peak. Several boat launches are available. To fish Arrowrock, continue past Lucky Peak and follow the dirt road past the dam.
Brownlee Reservoir (Catfish, Crappie)
I’ve had some of my best days on Brownlee in February, and the bite should turn on soon thanks to warm weather and favorable water conditions. Channel and flathead catfish soon will become more active, which means they’ll happily gobble cut bait, worms or large crankbaits. Crappie will be schooling up in 20 to 40 feet of water. It can be maddening casting to huge schools of fish that don’t want to eat, but when it turns on, you can rack up big numbers in a hurry. Small jigs in red, pink, yellow, orange and white seem to work best for crappie at Brownlee. It’s probably a bit early for bass, but you could snag a couple if you fished slow and put in your time. Once the water temperature gets into the 50s, bass fishing will pick up.
Getting there: Brownlee is located about two hours from Boise on the Idaho-Oregon border. Fish out of Steck Park on the Idaho side, or go through Huntington, Ore., and launch a boat from Spring Marina. There is plenty of bank access, too.
JORDAN RODRIGUEZ HAS BEEN FISHING IDAHO WATERS SINCE HE WAS A TEEN. SHARE YOUR FISH STORIES, ADVENTURES, TIPS AND TRICKS AT OUTDOORS@IDAHOSTATESMAN.COM.