BOISE – Old man winter is finally hitting the bricks, and as the temperatures creep up, fish get a little more active and Idaho Fish and Game stocking trucks start delivering more fish across the state.
Maybe ol’ Saint Nick delivered a new fishing pole to a kid during Christmas, or your trusty old fishing rod has been stuck in the rafters since last year, but either way, the time is here to get out on the water and try to catch some fish.
Spring fishing is an exceptional opportunity for new or seasoned anglers wanting to get back on the water with their friends or families.
Trout are a favorite quarry in early spring because they remain active year-round, but they perk up as water starts to warm after the cold winter. Fish and Game stocks tens of thousands of trout for anglers every month, and spring and early summer are the busiest time of year for hatchery crews.
But trout aren’t the only type of fishing available. Warmwater fishing can bounce back remarkably fast with a streak of warm, sunny weather, and many other species, such as perch, crappie and bluegill, become very active during spring.
A good rule of thumb is fish like warming or stable weather during spring, but fishing tends to fall off when there’s a cold spell. With so many fishing opportunities near Idaho’s cities and towns, spring is a good chance to check out your local waters.
Not sure where to go fishing? Check out these easily accessible and regularly stocked lakes and ponds around the state.
If you’ve never tried your hand at catching a northern pike, maybe this is the year to give it a go. April is a great month to get after them, especially for anglers without a boat looking to fish from the shoreline. Pre-spawn pike can be targeted early in the season simply using a bobber and bait. Catch rates typically aren’t very high during this time of year, but it is certainly when some of the biggest fish get caught.
This time of year, northern pike will actively chase lures making them well-suited to be targeted from a boat. Pike typically take up residence in shallow bays, so check out the Chain Lakes or any of the shallow bays in Coeur d’Alene Lake to hook up with one this year.
Not into pike fishing? No problem. Any of the 10 Chain Lakes offer good opportunity for bass, bluegill, crappie and even channel catfish in Rose Lake.
Fernan Lake lies only a stone’s throw away from Coeur d’Alene city limits, and it offers anglers the chance to catch perch, crappie, bluegill, bass, channel catfish and rainbow trout. Beginning in early-April and ending in October, Fernan Lake is stocked with a total of 25,000 to 30,000 catchable rainbow trout. As water temperatures warm throughout the spring and into early-summer, fishing for the assorted warmwater fish in the lake gets even better.
To sweeten the pot, docks and boat ramp access are abundant at the east and west ends of the lake and from the road that runs along the north side of the lake. Fernan Lake is a great place to cast spinners or soak bait under a bobber from the shoreline.
Lowland Lakes & Ponds
The Panhandle is home to plenty of lowland lakes, many of which offer great opportunities for folks looking to fish from the shoreline. Here are a few to consider:
- Post Falls Park Pond (Kootenai County)
- Spicer Pond (Benewah County)
- Shepherd Lake (Bonner County)
- Brush Lake (Boundary County)
- Kelso Lake (Bonner County)
- Round Lake (Bonner County)
- Hauser Lake (Kootenai County)
- Dawson Lake (Boundary County)
Each of these lakes has great access and offers anglers the chance to land a variety of warmwater fish species including largemouth bass, bluegill and yellow perch among others. In addition, with the exception of Shepherd and Gamble lakes, you might find a hatchery-stocked rainbow trout tugging at the end of your line. For any of these lowland lakes, you can never go wrong flinging spinners or simply soaking a worm under a bobber. To find maps to these lakes and more, use Fish and Game’s Fishing Planner.
Looking for a big body of water in the heart of Clearwater country? Dworshak Reservoir in central Idaho along the North Fork of the Clearwater River offers anglers both picturesque mountain views and chances at hooking several species of fish, most notably smallmouth bass and kokanee.
Fish and Game biologists are anticipating good bass fishing this spring due to the high abundance of kokanee in the reservoir. Young kokanee are a primary food source for bass, and with roughly 10 million kokanee estimated to be in Dworshak, one might call it a smallmouth bass heaven.
In addition to stocked rainbow trout as well as crappie, cutthroat trout and bull trout, kokanee are a fun game fish to target in the reservoir. With a daily bag limit of 25, fishing for kokanee is a great way to spend a day out on the water surrounded by the wooded mountains of the Clearwater National Forest.
Mann Lake – well, technically a reservoir – is 137-acres holding a number of game fish, including catfish, perch, bass, bluegill and you guessed it, rainbow trout. Fishing at Mann Lake is usually a good option early because it is a lower-elevation lake that hits prime temperatures quickly when things warm up.
Mann Lake is easily accessible and close to the city of Lewiston, making for the perfect getaway. The reservoir was recently stocked with over 4,500 rainbow trout in April and is typically bolstered with more trout (and, on occasion, channel catfish) sporadically throughout late spring and summer.
Middle Fork Clearwater and Lochsa Rivers
Middle Fork Clearwater River is a great spot for springtime fishing. Whether you’re fly fishing, spinning or baitcasting, your chances of getting a bite here are good. There’s a large variety of fish species including the chance to catch a bass, whitefish or trout. So grab your favorite fly fishing rod and reel and head out to the Middle Fork Clearwater River this season.
The Lochsa River is known for excellent trout fishing on an easily accessible river as it follows portions of Highway 12 through this scenic river corridor. It draws avid anglers and novices alike and is home to native trout species as well as mountain whitefish. Springtime conditions can produce high flows, yet when the water level drops, this can be an excellent place to find good spring fishing access.
This huge impoundment of the Snake and Bruneau rivers is no stranger to early season anglers, and for good reason. C.J. Strike Reservoir provides a variety of fishing and boating access sites and a grab bag of species to choose from. Anglers at C.J. Strike have enjoyed some of the best crappie fishing that Idaho has to offer in recent years, and while we are probably nearing the tail end of the crappie boom that got its start in 2017, there is still good fishing to be had in 2022.
In addition to crappie, perch, bass and trout that Strike is typically associated with, kokanee enthusiasts might remember that the reservoir was stocked with kokanee for the first time in 2020 — a one-time event made possible by a statewide size-at-release study and a surplus of kokanee fingerlings.
Those same kokanee are just now reaching catchable sizes, and biologists have observed some good growth rates for kokanee in the reservoir. Due to low numbers of kokanee fingerlings stocked (90,000) relative to the sheer size of C.J. Strike, catch rates are not likely to be as high as some of the region’s more renowned kokanee fisheries, but it’s another “bonus” opportunity for anglers to keep in mind for this spring.
Fish and Game stocked this reservoir with 20,000 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, and there’s easy vehicle access to the shoreline along the reservoir. Idaho Fish and Game fisheries managers are expecting kokanee fishing to be good this year at both Arrowrock and Lucky Peak Reservoir.
Speaking of Lucky Peak, this large reservoir is just a quick drive out of the Treasure Valley, and it provides opportunities for anglers to catch trout near shore and lots of trolling for kokanee salmon for boaters. The reservoir can actually fish better in the early season during cooler weather because warm, sunny weather can melt the snowpack and make the reservoir cold and murky.
Treasure Valley Ponds
There are almost too many to list, but safe to say it’s easy to find one near all the communities in the Treasure Valley where trout are stocked, and there are often warmwater fish available. Here is a list of waters that were stocked in late March and early April.
To learn more about Treasure Valley Ponds, see this 2021 article highlighting many of the favorites.
This large, high-desert reservoir is about 35 miles south of Twin Falls and is probably best known for its walleye and rainbow trout fishing. In early April, Fish and Game is scheduled to stock 18,000 catchable rainbow trout (10-12 inches) in the reservoir.
The walleye population is strong as well, with the majority in the 12-14 inch range with limits of six per day (one only over 20 inches). Depending on late-winter conditions, anglers may find some ice on the reservoir, so caution is especially important when venturing out on the ice.
The area surrounding the reservoir is managed by the Bureau of Land Management, which provides camping and boating access facilities, such as the Lud Drexler Park and campground near the dam.
This high-desert reservoir is fed by the waters of the Big Wood River and because it was constructed to provide irrigation for local agricultural operations, the water levels fluctuate throughout the summer and reservoir was hit hard by drought in recent years, but it still provides good fishing opportunities during spring. The reservoir is stocked by Fish and Game and received 7,500 catchable rainbow trout in early April.
It can be accessed through several points, the easiest being Highway 75, turning onto East Magic Road. There are several launch and load ramps available to boaters.
This 5-acre family-friendly pond is located near Springfield. Last fall, the pond was mostly drained to reduce the presence of dense nuisance vegetation, which made fishing difficult. Most of the fish survived in the nearby outlet until the pond was refilled, and recently 500 rainbow trout were stocked. There are docks for fishing and a paved pathway around the pond.
Located on land managed by the Bureau of Reclamation, this pond was once a series of eight smaller water bodies but is now one connected water body occupying more than 8 acres.
Anglers can reel in rainbow trout, bluegill, sunfish, largemouth bass, bullhead and channel catfish. Though the site is dominated by willows and cottonwood trees, there are plenty of openings along the banks to plant a camp chair and cast a line. This is a great fishery for the kids, too!
There is a nearby camping area and vault restrooms available. Visitors have been treated to sights of moose, deer, pheasants, beaver and a variety of waterfowl species.
Whether you are after bass, rainbows, cutties or browns, this fishery has something for everyone! Who knows, you might even reel in some crappie or perch. Looking for a place to catch a sturgeon? You can do that along this stretch of river, too.
If you don’t have a boat, don’t worry — there are places to fish from the shore. But, keep in mind this section of river has some special rules. From the downstream side of the Gifford Springs boat fishing zone (western boundary) upstream to Eagle Rock, the bass limit is 2, any size. Trout limit is 6; only two may be cutthroat trout. From Eagle Rock upstream to American Falls Dam, trout limit is 0 this time of year (catch-and release only). From the Saturday before Memorial Day, the trout limit is 2 until Oct. 15.
Managed by the Idaho Falls Parks and Recreation Department, Ryder Park has two ponds for double the fishing fun. Becker and Riverside ponds are within 50 yards of each other, and both are stocked with rainbows.
Becker Pond is well manicured and surrounded by a walking path that leads to several picnic shelters and an ADA-accessible dock. Riverside Pond offers a more primitive setting, giving anglers some elbow room. Small spinners are a good option when temperatures are cool, but sinking a worm or other bait close to the bottom seems to work well in both ponds.
Camping options are numerous on this stretch of river and offer a great place for family gatherings. Heavy stocking from Fish and Game hatcheries increases the likelihood of young anglers seeing fish on the end of their line.
Anglers seeking rainbow trout will have more luck fishing downstream while those seeking brook trout will find them more abundant upstream. Birch Creek falls under the general fishing regulations with a 6 trout limit.
South of Idaho Falls, Gem Lake Recreation Area is a slow-moving body of water between the Upper and Lower Gem State Dams. About 12,000 rainbow trout are stocked in Gem Lake every year beginning in March. Long stretches of shoreline are open to anglers from both the Gem Lake north boat launch and the Gem Lake Recreation Area on Township Road.
Relative to some other water, rainbow and brown trout can grow a little larger here, but will need a slow presentation to tempt a bite in the early spring. Try a slow retrieve jig or good-sized worm to produce results.
Located in Salmon, Kids Creek Pond features a fishing dock, restrooms and pavilion with picnic tables, making this a convenient fishing hole for those short on time. Kids Creek Pond is stocked with rainbow trout, and kids can sometimes land a hatchery steelhead. In some years, hatchery steelhead or Chinook salmon returning to Pahsimeroi Hatchery are released in the pond for a rare fishing opportunity.
Hyde Creek Pond is a small irrigation pond that provides good bank fishing for beginning anglers. This pond is on private property south of Salmon on the road to the Sunset Heights subdivision. Remember to be respectful and clean up any litter before you leave.
Hayden Creek Pondis another popular family fishing hole with a picnic shelter, tables, grills and restroom. The 1.7-acre pond is about 24 miles south of Salmon on Highway 28 and 3 miles south on Hayden Creek Road. Because spring water feeds the pond, thus creating good habitat, the fish that don’t get caught right away continue to grow, giving anglers an opportunity to catch some larger trout as the season progresses.
Remember to keep it simple when fishing with kids. Using simple setups like worm and marshmallow combinations or Power Bait near the bottom or below a bobber will usually do the trick.