As of Wednesday, March 9, 2016
Many Idaho waters are open to fishing year round, so anglers can make the most of the year by focusing on times when fishing is at its best for certain waters.
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. With daylight savings time starting March 13, 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, but it depends on many factors.
This year, Idaho Fish and Game is stocking 1.6 million catchable rainbow trout between 10 and 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.
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.
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 if you’re using lures or flies, a slow retrieve usually works better.
Don’t overlook warmwater fish: They become active sooner than you might think, but expect subtle strikes, and the fish to be in different places than where you found them last summer. Bass fishing can be good. Catch rates tend to be low, but the biggest fish are often the first to become active. Smaller, shallower waters typically warm faster than larger bodies of water. Ponds and small reservoirs are good options. Same goes for shallow coves, bays and flats in larger lakes and reservoirs.
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: Especially if the weather forecast looks iffy. You don’t want to drive several hours and then find unfavorable weather and water conditions. Spring is a good time of year to explore local ponds and reservoirs that you may have overlooked in the past.
South Fork Clearwater River: The South Fork is known for its world-class, B-run steelhead, and March is often the best time to fish for them. The South Fork of the Clearwater parallels Idaho 13 and 14 highways, which provide easy access to both fly and spin cast anglers. Early in March anglers, tend to focus their efforts in the lower 10 to 15 miles of the river, then they follow steelhead as the fish continue their migration upriver.
Mann Lake: This reservoir near Lewiston is stocked in March with 12-inch “magnum” rainbow trout. Mann Lake tends to be the region’s warmest lake due to its low elevation, so it’s often among the first places where anglers can find good fishing for warmwater fish, such as largemouth bass and crappie. Fishing can be at its prime toward the end of March. Bank fishing is limited to about half the reservoir, but anglers should be able to find good places to fish. This spring, anglers should be able to fish from the large dock at the boat ramp, or in many locations around the shoreline.