Best Fishing Spots in Idaho

Clear blue lake surrounded by lush pine trees. Fishing boats dot the water, with fishermen casting lines from the shore. Snow-capped mountains in the distance
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Idaho offers a diverse range of fishing experiences that appeal to anglers of all skill levels. This Western mountainous state is home to an impressive array of serene lakes, winding rivers, and fertile fishing holes tucked within its rugged landscape. When you venture out to the Gem State for your next fishing trip you’ll discover waters generously stocked with a variety of fish species—from bass and trout to kokanee and crappies. Your fishing adventure could begin at the renowned Lake Lowell, known for its bass population and advantageous early season warming, or perhaps along the banks of the Owyhee River, a fishing haven celebrated for its abundance of large trout.

The landscapes surrounding these waters are as breathtaking as the fishing is rewarding, ensuring that your time spent in Idaho is both peaceful and productive. Whether you’re casting your line into the expansive stretch of Brownlee Reservoir or seeking the thriving kokanee in Lake Pend Oreille, your success in these waters is as much about the serene environment as it is the catch of the day.



Henry’s Lake

When you seek an angling experience in Idaho, Henry’s Lake stands out as an exceptional choice. Located in Fremont County, your fishing adventure here is elevated at approximately 6,472 feet above sea level. Covering around 6,076.9 acres, the lake’s vast expanse offers abundant opportunities to land a catch.

Varieties of Trout:

With nutrient-rich waters, the lake supports rapid fish growth, resulting in the possibility of catching impressively large trout. You won’t be disappointed by the common catch size, with 18-inch trout being a standard encounter. However, much larger specimens are frequently found, making your fishing trip all the more exciting.

Take note of the surroundings as you fish; the lake is nestled within the captivating backdrop of the Caribou-Targhee National Forest and the Centennial Mountains. Its proximity to Yellowstone National Park—only about 15 miles away—makes it an easy addition to any trip itinerary in the region.

Fishing Tips:

  • Check local fishing reports for current conditions and hatches.
  • Consider the season, as ice fishing is popular in the winter months.

Whether you’re an avid angler or you’re just looking for a serene spot to cast your line, Henry’s Lake provides a memorable experience with each visit.

Snake River

The Snake River offers a bountiful and diverse fishing experience across its path through Idaho. Known for being rich in fish populations, it’s a go-to destination for anglers of various skill levels.

Best Fish to Catch:

  • Some of the top catches include the prized native Yellowstone cutthroat trout, renowned for their eagerness to bite on a dry fly.
  • You can also cast for trophy-sized brown trout and rainbow trout.

When planning your trip, consider these notable fishing spots along the river:

  • Moose Wilson Road Access:
    Located in Grand Teton National Park, this spot is both picturesque and ideal for getting your line in the water.

  • South Fork Snake River:

    This is a 128.9-mile stretch revered as one of the top trout rivers nationwide.

Fishing Techniques:

  • Bank fishing and boat floating are both popular methods here. A drift boat can be particularly effective for accessing prime fishing areas.

Seasonality:

  • While fishing can be enjoyed year-round, the peak months range from June to early October.
  • Autumn is excellent for wading when the water levels are lower.

Access Points:

LocationAccess TypeNotes
Moose Wilson RoadBank & Boat AccessHeart of Grand Teton National Park
South ForkBank & WadingHome to classic dry fly fishing

Priest Lake

Renowned for its exceptional lake trout fishing, Priest Lake in northern Idaho is a premier destination for anglers. The lake has been a focal point for trout enthusiasts for many years, offering consistent catch rates. Here, you typically find lake trout ranging from 16-24 inches in size, providing a sustainable harvest opportunity.

When fishing at Priest Lake, depth plays a significant role in your strategy:

  • In the summer, you’ll want to target depths of 100 feet or more using techniques like downriggers and jigging.
  • During the fall and early spring, you can expect success in shallower waters as Mackinaw trout move closer to the surface.

Here’s a quick look at the fishing specifics:

SeasonTarget DepthTechniqueNotes
Summer100+ feetDownriggers, Leaded linesDeep water fishing
Fall to Early SpringVariableJigging, WirelineShallow for Mackinaw

The lake is not only known for its fishing but its serene beauty as well. It’s easily accessible as well, with various entry points including the area around Coolin and East River Road.

Keep in mind that the daily bag limit for lake trout is six with no size restrictions, ensuring that you can enjoy your day to the fullest. Motor restrictions are in place in certain areas, such as Chase Lake, emphasizing the region’s commitment to preserving the natural habitat and quality of fishing for years to come.

For a well-rounded experience, visiting Priest Lake combines the serenity of the great outdoors with the thrill of freshwater fishing.

Lake Pend Oreille

Idaho’s largest lake, Lake Pend Oreille, offers you a top-tier fishing experience. Spanning 92,764 acres with depths reaching into the hundreds of feet, this lake is one of the deepest inland lakes in North America. Its extensive 144-mile shoreline, enveloped by mountains and forests, provides diverse habitats for various fish species.

Notable Fish Species:

  • Lake Trout (Mackinaw): These large, slow-growing fish inhabit the deeper waters and can reach impressive sizes, featuring dark bodies with distinctive light spots.
  • Walleye: Especially active in early summer, walleye move around the lake and provide an exciting opportunity for anglers.

Fishing Tips:

  • For ice fishing enthusiasts, the shallower areas near the lake’s outlet are recommended during winter.
  • In the summer, walleye tend to be on the move, making it a prime time to catch them.

Access Points:

  • Multiple access points around the lake are available for your convenience, including public boat launches and shoreline access spots.

With such a variety of fishing opportunities throughout the year, Lake Pend Oreille stands out as a premiere destination for both casual and serious anglers. Whether you’re casting from the shore or venturing out onto the water, the lake’s abundant fish populations and scenic beauty make every trip worthwhile.

South Fork of the Boise River

Nestled in the scenic landscapes of Idaho, the South Fork of the Boise River offers a premier fishing experience. Known for its high-quality trout fishing, this destination should be high on your list if you’re an angler pursuing rainbow and bull trout.

Seasonal Regulations to Note:

  • December 1 – March 31: Catch-and-release, no trout may be kept.
  • April 1 – Friday before Memorial Day weekend: Closed to fishing.
  • Saturday of Memorial Day weekend – November 30: Trout limit is two, with none under 20 inches in length.

When fishing, you’re allowed to use only artificial lures and fly fishing techniques. Remember to equip your hooks properly – no bait is allowed, and each fly or lure must be fitted with a single barbless hook.

Access Points:

Start your journey north from Mountain Home on U.S. 20. You’ll want to find your way to Anderson Ranch Dam Road:

  • Anderson Ranch Dam to Neal Bridge: This is the most heavily fished stretch, featuring 26 miles of river.
  • Below Neal Bridge: The river is managed under general regulations until it becomes Arrowrock Reservoir.

River Identity & Features:

The South Fork offers diverse fishing environments. The river maintains its character up to the point it feeds into Arrowrock Reservoir. Here, you encounter both calm stretches and more challenging waters that may test your skills.

Your adventure on the South Fork Boise River is sure to be memorable. With thoughtful planning around regulations and seasons, you’ll maximize your chances for a successful catch.

Clearwater River

A calm, winding river. Lush green trees line the banks, casting dappled shadows on the water.

When you’re seeking a premier fishing location in Idaho, the Clearwater River is an outstanding choice. With its origins in the Bitterroot Mountains, this river offers a variety of fishing experiences as it flows westward and merges with the Snake River at Lewiston.

Prime Fishing Opportunities:

  • Steelhead Fishing: Renown for its ‘B-run’ steelhead, which are often larger due to their two years at sea, the steelhead season begins with catch-and-release in September followed by catch-and-keep from October through April.
  • Salmon: The river boasts excellent opportunities to catch chinook salmon, especially Idaho Clearwater Spring Salmon, noted for their flavor.
  • Trout: While less known for trout, there are chances to catch native cutthroat trout during summer months.

Fishing Techniques:

  • Trolling: Effective methods include trolling with herring, eggs, or plugs.
  • Back-bouncing Eggs: This technique is particularly successful along the river.

Key Locations:

  • The stretch between Orofino and Lewiston is characterized by classic riffles and pools, offering more engaging fishing structures.
  • Communities such as Lenore, Peck, and Orofino are known stops with access to the river.

Remember to stay updated with local fishing regulations and ensure you have appropriate permissions and licences before you cast your line in these waters. Making the most of the Clearwater River’s abundant offerings could make for an unforgettable Idaho fishing adventure.

Payette Lake

Your fishing adventure can reach new heights at Payette Lake, a stunning natural lake nestled in southwestern Idaho. You’ll find the pristine waters encompassing 5,330 acres and reaching depths of up to 392 feet. Sitting at an elevation of approximately 5,000 feet, the lake offers remarkable clarity and scenery, especially with its surrounding ponderosa pine forests.

Fish Species

Fishing Spots

  • Mile High Marina (1300 E Lake St, McCall, ID 83638)
  • Southern Shoreline (accessible via Ponderosa State Park)
  • Northern Inlets (quieter waters, ideal for fly fishing)

Fishing Tips

  • Kokanee Salmon: Trolling is a successful technique; maintain a slow pace to mimic their natural prey.
  • Trout: Early mornings or cooler evenings are ideal for casting your line, as trout are more active during these times.

To make the most of your trip, consider hiring local guides from establishments like Fish and Fur Outfitters, who can provide valuable insight into the lake’s hotspots and techniques. Remember to procure an Idaho fishing license before you set out. If you’re looking to extend your stay, camping facilities are available to immerse you fully in the natural beauty of Payette Lake. Enjoy your fishing experience at one of Idaho’s true gems.

Henry’s Fork

Henry’s Fork of the Snake River, referred to locally as “the Hank,” stands as a premier destination for anglers in Idaho. Offering exceptional fishing for substantial rainbow and brown trout, this Eastern Idaho river has earned a legendary status.

When planning your visit, consider these insights:

  • River Access: Henry’s Fork is best navigated via drift boat. Popular access points like Island Park, Ashton, and St. Anthony allow you to embark on your fishing journey with ease.
  • Fishing Conditions: As of the latest report from March 2024, stream levels are normal with a flow rate of 375 cubic feet per second (cfs) and a water level at 2.80 feet at various check stations along the river.

Here’s a quick overview to guide your trip:

  • Fishing Tackle: A five or six weight rod is ideal. In addition a spinning rod is also ideal.
  • Licenses: Ensure you have the necessary fishing permits.

Whether you’re in pursuit of sizeable trout or simply seeking a serene fishing experience, Henry’s Fork delivers both challenge and reward for every angler.

Coeur d’Alene Lake

Coeur d’Alene Lake in Idaho is renowned for its exceptional fishing opportunities. As you plan your fishing adventure, here’s what you should know about this destination:

  • Location: Situated in Idaho’s Panhandle region, Coeur d’Alene Lake offers a stunning backdrop for anglers.
  • Fish Species:
    Type Notable Information
    Sturgeon Catch-and-release only; targeted fishing is illegal.
    Tiger Muskie Minimum length of 40 inches for keeping; limit of 2.
    Trout Varieties Including Rainbow, Brown, and Cutthroat. Limit of 6.
  • Bass Fishing: The lake has received accolades from Bassmaster magazine, featuring both Largemouth and Smallmouth bass.
  • Beauty: Expect not just a fruitful outing, but also an enchanting natural environment.

Make sure to check local regulations before you cast your line; these are in place to ensure a sustainable fishing future for Coeur d’Alene Lake. With its diverse fish population and breathtaking vistas, your experience at Coeur d’Alene Lake will be both rewarding and memorable.

Salmon River

Idaho’s Salmon River offers you numerous fishing opportunities, from fly fishing to lure fishing, with species such as trout, steelhead, and salmon thriving in its waters. The Salmon River stretches over several hundred miles, and it is affectionately known as “The River of No Return” for its historically challenging navigation.

When aiming for Chinook salmon, the spring run, starting around April, is a time of plenty, with fishing peaking in June and July. Steelhead fishing is best in the colder months, especially from winter into spring. If you’re a trout enthusiast, summer offers productive fly fishing experiences, while smallmouth bass present an engaging challenge.

Recommended Fishing Methods:

Target Species:

  • Steelhead (Best in Winter/Spring)
  • Chinook Salmon (Peak Season: June/July)
  • Trout
  • Smallmouth Bass (Summer)

Guided expeditions can enhance your experience, as local experts know the best spots and the right techniques for different species and seasons. Gear and tackle are typically provided on these trips, simplifying your preparation.

Exploring Species and Seasons

In Idaho, you’ll find a diverse range of fish species to target, each with peak seasons that vary throughout the year. Understanding these seasonal patterns is key to successful fishing.

Target Fish Species in Idaho

Idaho offers a rich tableau of fish species:

  • Trout: Including Rainbow Trout, Cutthroat, and Bull Trout
  • Salmon: Such as Chinook Salmon and Kokanee
  • Bass: Predominantly Smallmouth and Largemouth Bass
  • Panfish: Like Crappie
  • Catfish: Including several species found in Idaho’s warmer waters
  • Steelhead: A prized migratory form of Rainbow Trout

Best Seasons for Fishing in Idaho

Spring:

  • Ideal for Chinook Salmon starting in April.
  • Rivers are popular for trout fishing as they come alive with hatches; catch Rainbow Trout in the South Fork of the Boise River.

Fall:

  • Rivers are abundant with trout and bass; the Snake River is particularly known for its bass fishing.
  • Fall marks excellent opportunities for fishing Kokanee as they spawn.

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