Fish & Game offers fishing options
With many Idaho waters open to fishing year round, anglers can make the most of the year by focusing on times when fishing is at its best for certain waters, according to the Idaho Fish and Game Department.
For those who aren't shy about braving unpredictable weather in late winter and early spring, there are many places to catch fish and a surprising variety of them, said Roger Phillips, a fish and game spokesman.
With daylight savings time now in effect, there's also enough time for after-work or after-school fishing trips to a local fishing spot.
Idaho Fish and Game stocks trout year round but expands its operations as more waters open in March and become suitable for trout. Typically, ponds are the first places followed by small lakes and reservoirs, then larger reservoirs and streams.
This year, Idaho Fish and Game is stocking 1.6 million catchable rainbow trout measuring 10 to 12 inches, which are stocked strictly for anglers to catch. They are typically stocked where they are easily accessible to anglers, and there's high probability they will get caught, Phillips said.
There are also lots of steelhead available in the spring, and Chinook salmon start arriving in Idaho in April. At some lower elevations, warmwater fishing gets started in March and typically improves as we get further into spring.
The fish and game department offered a number of tips for early season fishing.
* Watch the weather -- Fishing is typically better when temperatures are warming and the barometer is stable. A temperature drop or a storm typically slows fishing.
* Take it slow -- Fish can be sluggish in cold water. Air temperature warms much faster than water, so even on a warm, spring day, the water is probably chilly. Bait is a good option, and a slow retrieve usually works better for those using lures or flies.
* Don't overlook warmwater fish -- These species of fish become active sooner than people might think. However, fishermen should expect subtle strikes and the fish to be in different places than where they were found last summer.
Bass fishing can be good. Catch rates tend to be low, but the biggest fish are often the first to become active, Phillips said. Smaller, shallower waters typically warm faster than larger bodies of water.
Ponds and small reservoirs are good options, and the same goes for shallow coves, bays and flats in larger lakes and reservoirs, he added.
* Get the latest information -- Check fish and game stocking reports at http://fishandgame.idaho.gov/public/fish/stocking/ for good places to catch rainbow trout and other fish.
* Watch for hatches-- Fly anglers can find good early season bug hatches, which are typically chironomids (midges) or baetis (blue-wing olives). There are usually trout feeding on them.
* Fish locally -- This is especially true if the weather forecast looks iffy, Phillips said.
"You don't want to drive several hours and then find unfavorable weather and water conditions," he said. "Spring is a good time of year to explore local ponds and reservoirs that you may have overlooked in the past."
Idaho Fish and Game's regional fish managers suggested several spots to try for early spring fishing in the southwest corner of the state.
* C.J. Strike Reservoir -- This remains 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 perch fishing has been exceptional this year, officials said.
Strike also has abundant trout that are targeted by trollers and bank anglers. Boaters with fish finders often find and target schools of fish in the early season, but shore anglers can also catch fish if they concentrate on areas of the reservoir that warm early. Shore anglers can find trout by fishing where streams empty into the reservoir, or near the dam.
* South Fork of the Boise River -- This remains a popular fishery in early spring thanks to consistent flows out of Anderson Ranch Reservoir, which keeps the water temperatures stable and warmer than other rivers in the area. When that water starts warming, trout become more active and so do the insects upon which they feed.
Fishing season closes between Anderson Ranch Dam and Neal Bridge on April 1 and reopens May 28, but fishing below Neal Bridge is open year round.
* Snake River -- Fish and game officials report a "sweet spot" in early spring when the water warms enough to get fish active but before the big spring run off hits. Thanks to its low elevation, warm spring weather usually comes early but can also be windy, which makes fishing tough.
There's plenty of bank access, but a river-worthy boat is a preferred option for those wanting to cover lots of water. Bass will typically take anything that resembles a crawdad. Channel catfish are plentiful and will take worms, chicken livers or commercial catfish baits.
* 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 limits of fish in the 16-inch range.