Trout, salmon, bass and walleye – if you love to fish, it’s time to pack up your gear and head to Idaho. From fly-fishing to ice fishing or simply spending a lazy afternoon casting a line off a pier, the state’s reservoirs, lakes and dams are teeming with fish waiting to gravitate to your hooks like magnets.
Idaho? Really? Don’t let the potato state fool you; it’s considered one of the top spots in the world for trout. So, whether you’re a first-timer or a professional angler, Idaho is a prime destination for your next fishing vacation (just don’t forget your fishing license).
Here are seven must-fish destinations in Idaho.
CJ Strike Reservoir
Looking for an accessible fishing spot that’s great for the whole family? Well then, CJ Strike Reservoir is for you. It’s located in southwestern Idaho and is known for its thriving population of rainbow trout, salmon, catfish, and largemouth and smallmouth bass. The 6,760-acre reservoir offers great bank fishing, but don’t pass up the opportunity to put a boat in the water and explore other spots closer to the dam and along the arm of the Snake River. On land, you’ll find plenty of campsites to set up a home base (with bathrooms), so pack up your car or RV and settle in for a weekend.
With over 27,000 acres of water, Lake Cascade gives you space to be alone with nature and experience top-notch fishing. The lake has healthy populations of perch, kokanee salmon, and rainbow trout. In the warmer months, it’s a haven for fishers, boaters, and outdoors enthusiasts, but as the cold comes in, Lake Cascade turns into an excellent ice fishing destination. You can take snowmobiles out to the best spots, cut a hole, drop a line, and reel in the fish – guided experiences are available if you’re new to the ice fishing scene.
Lake Lowell’s fishing scene officially kicks off in mid-April, and anglers flock to the lake for largemouth bass and bow-fishing carp (other species like sturgeon, trout, and salmon are also found here). The 9,800-acre reservoir is home to 28 miles of shoreline featuring docks and boat ramps. Beyond fishing, you’ll find crowds swimming, boating and tubing during the summer months. There are also campsites available if you want to pitch a tent and cook up your catch of the day.
Swan Falls Dam
Swan Falls Dam is a small reservoir (a mere 470 acres) in the canyons just outside of Kuna. Surrounded by the rocky cliffs and crags of the canyons, it’s a picturesque spot for bass fishing, but don’t be surprised if you pull in a catfish or panfish. Keep your eyes peeled for owls, hawks, eagles, and falcons that nest near the river. For a fishing getaway, you’ll find a camping area with fishing docks as well.
Boise River (South Fork)
Excellent fly fishing and a seemingly endless supply of rainbow trout make the 101-mile South Fork of the Boise River a fisherman’s dream. Besides being an outstanding spot to fly fish for trout, whitefish, and smallmouth bass, the surrounding area has incredible hiking trails along the South Folk Boise River Scenic Byway. Hike to Shaw Mountain or explore the Macks Creek Trail when you take a break from fishing. Keep an eye out for bald eagles, elk, or deer. If you plan to camp in the area, be sure to book in advance–campsites here are known to book up during peak season.
Lower Goose Creek Reservoir
Over in the Magic Valley Region, the 1,000-acre Lower Goose Creek Reservoir (also known as Oakley Reservoir) is one of the state’s few places to catch walleye; you can also find perch and rainbow trout. You’ll want to schedule your trip based on the fish you’re looking to hook; trout are common in the spring, walleye in the summer, and perch in the fall. Both motorized and paddle boats are allowed out on the water, so bring all your toys for an amazing getaway. Lower Goose Creek is also a prime ice fishing spot in the winter–just be wary of snow and road conditions.
Coeur d’Alene Lake
Coeur d’Alene Lake is the state’s second-largest lake (28,000 acres) and is home to year-round fishing. Anglers come to the lake looking to snag westslope cutthroat trout, kokanee salmon, bull trout, and the rare Chinook salmon. Boats and kayaks are available to rent, and there are wonderful parks and trails to explore. Whether you’re hoping to stay at a campsite, lakeside resort, or cozy rental home, you’ll have no problem finding it at Coeur d’Alene Lake.