Free Fishing Day is June 13, and anyone can enjoy a day of fishing without a fishing license, but all other rules still apply.
Free Fishing Day is an Idaho tradition that usually includes Fish and Game employees and volunteers bringing fishing gear to various fishing spots and loaning rods, reels and tackle and helping people learn to fish. While that’s not an option because of COVID-19, it’s still a great opportunity for novice anglers to experience some of the wonderful fishing opportunities Idaho has to offer. Be sure to practice appropriate social distancing and be safe when you’re enjoying your time outdoors.
If you’re new to fishing, or new to fishing in Idaho, the state has thousands of places to fish, and you can catch a variety of species ranging from palm-sized bluegill to 9-foot sturgeon.
Fish and Game also stocks about 30 million fish annually for anglers, which includes millions of trout that are immediately available to catch, as well as millions of young salmon and steelhead destined for the ocean that will later return as adults.
“In the month leading up to Free Fishing Day, Fish and Game hatcheries stock over 400,000 catchable rainbow trout in waters throughout the state,” Fish and Game Hatchery Manager Bryan Grant said.
Catchable-sized trout ranging from about 10 to 13 inches are stocked statewide and in many easily accessible fishing spots, including community ponds, local reservoirs and nearby lakes. Those are all convenient places to go for Free Fishing Day that are close to home and provide a good chance to catch fish.
If you don’t have fishing gear, it’s fairly inexpensive to get started. You can get a basic rod/reel combo for about $25, and the only tackle you need at first is a few hooks, weights, bobbers and bait, which will costly only a few bucks more. It’s tough to beat live worms for bait because nearly all fish will eat them, but if you don’t want to deal with squirming live worms, there are many other bait options, and lures, flies and other tackle give you even more options.
If you’re unsure how to rig a rod for fishing, Fish and Game provides simple instructions on its Learn to Fish webpage. For information about bag limits and other rules, see the 2019-21 Idaho Fishing Seasons and Rules booklet, which is available in a printed booklet at Fish and Game offices and many license vendors and sporting goods stores.
Fishing is a fun family activity, and easy for kids to learn. Remember when taking young kids out to make sure they wear lifejackets and bring lots of snacks, a hat and sunscreen. Be patient with kids and enjoy your time outdoors with them, even if the kids decide they’d rather explore nature or do something other than fishing.
If you’re wondering where to fish, here are some suggestions, but this is a tiny sample of what’s available for anglers. You can learn about many more places to fish, as well information on when they were last stocked, by to going to Fish and Game’s Fishing Planner, which also shows exact location of each of the waters listed below.
Upper Snake Region
Ryder Park Ponds
Managed by the Idaho Falls Parks and Recreation Department, Ryder Park offers two ponds to double your fishing fun. Becker and Riverside ponds are located within 50 yards of each other and are stocked regularly with an abundance of rainbow trout and occasionally catfish. Ospreys take full advantage of the fishing bounty at Ryder Park and can be seen regularly as they skim the ponds to grapple a fish dinner in their talons.
Though close in proximity, the two ponds offer very different experiences. Becker pond is well manicured and surrounded by a walking path that leads to several picnic shelters and an ADA accessible dock, while Riverside pond offers a more undeveloped setting, but is often less crowded and offers anglers more elbow room. Small spinners are a good option when temperatures are cool, but worms seem to work well in both ponds during the warmer months.
Trail Creek Pond
Nestled at the base of Teton mountain range, this often overlooked pond is the perfect stop for families headed on vacation to Jackson Hole or the nearby Grand Teton National Park. Restroom facilities, picnic tables and beautiful mountain scenery make Trail Creek an opportune place to stretch your legs and catch a few rainbow trout before continuing on your journey, or when camping nearby. Stocking began in early May, just in time for that summer vacation.
Due to its high elevation and cooler water temperatures, this pond fishes well all through the summer heat when other lower elevation ponds start to warm up and fishing tends to slow. Kids are not likely to get bored here as catch rates are usually high and the fish tend to bite on bait or lures equally. Several open areas make this a good place for beginners to learn how to cast a fly or throw a spinner without too much risk of hanging up in the brush.
Rexburg City Ponds
Young anglers can catch perch, catfish and rainbow trout at this urban fishery located within the Rexburg Nature Park. A fun network of trails and bridges make this a great place for families with young children to enjoy a fishing adventure without straying too far from paved trails and picnic shelters. A simple bobber and worm are a great setup for the abundant perch in these ponds, and by replacing the bobber with a sinker you can easily transition to catching catfish.
Anglers looking for trout will have better luck fishing in the early morning or late night hours when temperatures are cooler. Don’t forget to have a few quarters in your pocket to drop into one of the vending stations that dispense food for the ducks and geese that call this park home. No fishing trip to the Rexburg City Ponds is complete without being surrounded by a flurry of feathers!
This urban fishing spot is part of the Portneuf Wellness Complex in Pocatello. It is about 6.5 acres and down to 35-feet deep and regularly stocked with catchable rainbow trout. The trout limit is two, and all other species are managed under general rules.
The Portneuf Wellness Complex is a large 80-acre, manicured, multi-use complex designed to serve team and individuals sports and activities. The complex has over 2 miles of paved walking trails, a mountain bike park, and offers a playground for the kids. The reservoir is divided into a swimming area complete with a sandy beach and a fishing area with docks and a rocky shoreline to accommodate anglers. Anglers can also bring their float tubes, and “beach bums” can bring kayaks and paddleboards. There are pavilions, bathrooms and plenty of parking.
Edson Fichter Pond
This 3-acre urban fishery is tucked inside Edson Fichter Nature Area in south Pocatello. Access is by paved trails from a paved parking lot. No boats or float tubes are allowed, but who needs that with all the bank fishing and two large docks that are available? This pond is also ADA-accessible.
Catchable rainbow trout are regularly stocked, just remember the two-trout bag limit. A smaller puppy pond is located near the fishery for those who wish to train or play with their four-legged friends, but this smaller pond is not stocked or open for fishing.
Edson Fichter Nature Area boasts 40 acres of natural landscape dominated by native plants and trees, and springtime wildflowers connected by looping trails that lead visitors to the Portneuf River, the ponds, and to other parts of the site. Paved trails maintained by the Portneuf Greenway Foundation border the Edson Fichter Nature Area and are a great way to get some extra exercise or nature watch after an afternoon of fishing. Visitors enjoy seeing wildlife such as cliff swallows, osprey, mule deer, foxes, waterfowl, and even an occasional bald eagle.
Upper Kelly Park Pond
This 1-acre pond is small in size but packs a large amount of fun for kids when the trout are biting, which is most of the time. Located within Arthur Kelly Park in Soda Springs, this community fishery is an easy quarter-mile hike from the paved parking lot. Don’t be “lured” to the lower pond by the parking area for fishing because it isn’t stocked, but is still a great place for kids to catch a frog or two.
The easy trail hike ends at a picturesque little pond — perfect for kids to dunk a worm and have a picnic lunch. The upper pond is stocked regularly by Fish and Game and the bag limit is six trout per day. Besides a fishing pond, the park boasts a pavilion, restrooms and concession stand, two softball fields, two tennis courts, a playground, picnic tables, several miles of walking trails and a disc golf course.
Jensen Grove Pond
This 55-acre pond is located within Jensen Grove Park along the Blackfoot Greenbelt in the heart of Blackfoot. Bring your boat or fish from the bank — either way you can catch one of the thousands of rainbow trout stocked in this fishery every year. The trout limit is six per day. This large fishery is surrounded by extensive paved trails perfect for walking and biking, and many areas of this park and fishery are ADA-accessible. This is a seasonal fishery relying on irrigation water, usually from April through October.
Park amenities are numerous, including a skate park, playground, picnic areas, and restrooms. People use the large pond for everything from fishing to boating to jet skiing.