Fish and Game provides millions of acres of access for hunting

Hunting season is here, and a question commonly asked is “Where can I go hunting?”

There’s a lot of good answers to that question in Idaho, starting with nearly two-thirds of the state is public land, and most of it is open for hunting.

Idaho Fish and Game also provides more access for sportsmen and women. The department owns, manages and keeps open to the public about 370,000 acres at its wildlife management areas, and provides literally millions more acres through its various agreements and lease programs with various state and private lands.

Money for access comes from multiple Fish and Game funds, including Fish and Game’s access/depredation fee that requires a $5 surcharge for residents and a $10 surcharge for nonresidents when they buy their first annual license of the year.

All told, the agreements and leases provide statewide access to excellent wildlife habitat and places for people to hunt, fish, trap and enjoy other wildlife-based recreation.

Here are some of Fish and Game’s programs that support public access:

Wildlife Management Areas

Fish and Game has 31 Wildlife Management Areas totaling about 370,000 acres and located in six of its seven regions. WMAs range from 275 to 85,000 acres and address specific priorities based upon the needs of wildlife in the surrounding area.

Fish and Game’s WMAs provide lots opportunities for hunting, fishing, trapping and other wildlife recreation. Some WMAs are in wetland or grassland/sage areas to provide important habitat for waterfowl and upland birds and other wildlife. While others — such as Craig Mountain near Lewiston, Tex Creek near Idaho Falls and Boise River near Boise — offer tens of thousands of acres of mixed habitats and elevations inhabited by a variety of big game animals, small game and upland birds.

Fish and Game’s pheasant stocking program also includes WMAs, giving hunters the opportunity to pursue a popular quarry that otherwise usually requires a person to have access to private lands in order to find pheasants.

Access Yes!

This access program is a revolving collection of properties where Fish and Game leases land from private owners to provide public access. Each property may be managed differently, so it’s important for the user to do a little homework and know the rules for each property. Hunters should be aware some properties require landowner notification, and others have restrictions on how many people can use the property at once, so some advanced notice may be required to hunt on these parcels. You can see the full list of properties and details on the Access Yes! webpage.

Through this program, Fish and Game typically provides about 350,000 acres annually, as well as a legal means to cross private property to reach hundreds of thousands of acres of public land that might be otherwise difficult to access.

Access Yes! properties are unique because they’re selected annually by panels of sportsmen throughout the state, who sift through applications submitted by landowners and select the leases that give sportsmen and women the best value for their money.

Because these properties may change annually, hunters should beware that properties they used in the past may no longer be enrolled. People can see the maps of Access Yes! properties on Fish and Game’s website, and also pick up printed booklets at regional offices that show Access Yes! locations and guidelines to use the property.

Idaho endowment lands

In 2018, the Idaho Fish and Game Commission and Idaho State Board of Land Commissioner approved an agreement to continue public access for hunting, fishing, trapping and other wildlife-based recreation on about 2.3 million acres of state endowment lands.

More than 96 percent of endowment lands are accessible by foot, watercraft or vehicle. You can view accessible endowment lands on Fish and Game’s Hunt Planner Map Center.

While most Idaho endowment lands have traditionally been open to the public, endowment lands are managed to provide revenue, typically from timber sales and grazing leases, to fund for public schools, universities and state hospitals.

Fish and Game’s payments to the Department of Lands ensure those lands remain open to public access for hunting, fishing, trapping and other recreation. In other states, state-owned lands have been closed or leased to private parties for hunting access. Fish and Game renews the lease annually and gets credit for in-kind, law-enforcement services provided by Fish and Game conservation officers on endowment lands.

Endowment lands are working lands that provide vital revenue, and hunters are reminded that fire season typically lasts into fall, so some fire restrictions may occur during hunting season. If campfires are allowed where you plan to hunt, make sure your campfire is cool to the touch before leaving so you do not start a wildfire. Also, protect state lands from damage by keeping off-highway vehicles on established roads and designated trails.

Hunters are also reminded free camping is allowed on state endowment lands for no more than 14 consecutive days. If you would like to camp longer than 14 consecutive days, contact a Department of Lands office to find out if a permit can be obtained.

Large tracts corporate timberland leases

Fish and Game has partnered with timber companies to provide public access to their lands. Currently, Fish and Game has a contract with PotlatchDeltic to provide public access to about 550,000 acres of private land for hunting, fishing, trapping, wildlife viewing, hiking, and recreational travel on open full-sized roads.

People should beware these are working timberlands, and some areas may be closed for logging activities and other work. Some restrictions apply, such as additional permits are needed for camping and ATV/OHV use. People can see specific rules through these links.

A separate lease includes more than 300,000 acres belonging to the North Idaho Forest Group in Bonner, Boundary, Benewah, Shoshone and Kootenai counties that include Stimson Lumber Co., Hancock Forest Management and Molpus Woodlands Group and others.

Five principles for responsible land use

Whether you’re on public land or private land (with permission), consider these guiding principles for being a responsible user:

1. Treat all lands with respect. Leave them as good or better than you found them.

2. It’s your responsibility to know whose land you’re on, and follow the rules for that property.

3. Be careful with fire, and respect burn restrictions when they’re in effect. Never leave a burning or smoldering campfire. It should always be completely extinguished.

4. Do not damage roads and trails, and abide by travel restrictions, such as closed roads, non-motorized trail restrictions, vehicle restrictions, camping restrictions, etc.

5. If you see someone damage lands or violate travel restrictions, be a good witness. Get a vehicle license number, vehicle description or other information. Report them to the county sheriff’s office or other law enforcement agency. Avoid a direct confrontation with the violator.

Dead jackrabbits found near Boise Airport confirmed to have rabbit hemorrhagic disease

On Thursday, Idaho Fish and Game and Idaho State Department of Agriculture confirmed the presence of rabbit hemorrhagic disease, a fatal and highly contagious disease that affects animals in the rabbit family, which includes domestic and wild rabbits, hares and pikas. RHD does not infect humans or non-rabbit species.

The two RHD positive jackrabbits were part of a larger group of rabbits found dead southwest of the Boise Airport in Ada County in early March. This is the first known case of RHD in Idaho. Testing was conducted in coordination with the U.S. Geological Survey National Wildlife Health Center and the United States Department of Agriculture Foreign Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory.

Anyone encountering a dead wild rabbit is asked to leave the carcass in place and report it online, or by calling Fish and Game’s Wildlife Health Laboratory at 208-939-9171 or a regional Fish and Game office, which can be found at

RHD symptoms can include sudden death, bleeding from the eyes and bloodstained noses caused by internal bleeding. Infected rabbits may develop a fever, respiratory distress and lack of appetite. RHD can be transmitted between rabbits by contact with infected carcasses, blood, excrement or contaminated surfaces, which may include cages, clothes, food and water.

If you suspect your domestic rabbit may have RHD, contact your veterinarian immediately and notify ISDA. RHD is a mandatory reportable disease in Idaho and should be reported to the Idaho State Department of Agriculture at 208-332-8540. Owners of domestic rabbits should also never handle dead wild rabbit carcasses.

To help prevent the spread of RHD in the wild, people should take the following precautions in addition to reporting dead rabbits to Fish and Game:

— Do not touch any dead rabbits you may see near the area where the disease has been found.

— Do not release domestic rabbits into the wild.

More information on RHD can be found on the USDA APHIS website at

Ice fishing means winter fun, and here’s how (and where) to get started

We have good news for anglers: There’s no off season for fishing in Idaho, and we don’t believe in cabin fever when there are so many outdoor activities during winter. Ice fishing provides a fun way to get out of the house for a day or a weekend and catch fish.

Ice fishing is pretty self explanatory, and all you need aside from your regular fishing tackle is an ice auger and a slotted spoon to keep slush out of the ice hole. Anglers should also know basic ice safety, which is 3 to 4 inches of clear ice for one person and more for a group.

Anglers looking for places to go ice fishing can probably find one within a couple hours’ drive and find some interesting fishing opportunities.

When choosing a place to go ice fishing, pay close attention to access. You will need a parking area, and an easy place to walk onto the ice. If you visit a lake or reservoir during summer, those access sites could be blocked by snow. Fish and Game has partnered with various agencies to help provide ice fishing access and many locations.

If you’re new to ice fishing, or have never fished at all, don’t be discouraged from trying it because it’s easy to get started.

Bring basic tackle, such as hooks and weights, some bait (worms work for nearly everything), and give it a try. You will quickly learn what works and what doesn’t and adapt accordingly, and you will also quickly learn why it’s a fun and unique way to go fishing, as well as a great way to get outdoors during winter.

But a quick word of caution. Idaho is a very diverse state when it comes to climate and geography, so be sure to check local conditions before you go ice fishing. Idaho’s prime ice fishing season typically runs December through February, but conditions can vary dramatically from place to place.

It’s also home to some very good ice fishing locations that offer fun, unique and interesting experiences. Here, in no particular order, are a few places to check out this winter.

Lake Cascade

Arguably Idaho’s best ice fishing destination thanks to a massive restoration effort conducted by Fish and Game in the early 2000s. The reservoir’s perch population rebounded and flourished and produced numerous state and world’s records, which has attracted anglers from throughout the country seeking its “jumbo” perch. While perch are the main attraction, the reservoir also has lots of rainbow trout, many of which are trophy sized, as well kokanee salmon and a variety of other fish.

Quality fishing is the obvious attraction, but a big bonus for anglers is its proximity to the town of Cascade, which offers full services for visitors. Fish and Game partners with Idaho Parks and Recreation and the US Bureau of Reclamation to ensure there’s easy access during winter at various points around the lake.

Lake Cascade is massive at 21 miles long and up to 4.5 miles wide, and due in part to its large size, the fish can congregate in certain areas while others are nearly barren. You will often see anglers gathered at favorite fishing spots, especially on weekends, so that gives you a good hint where the best ice fishing is happening.

Magic Reservoir

This reservoir has provided a popular ice fishing destinations for decades thanks to a combination of good fishing, reliable ice and nearby services that cater to ice anglers. The reservoir produces perch, rainbow and brown trout for ice anglers. The reservoir’s surface area varies from year to year depending on how much water is left after summer. This winter the water level is extremely low, so fishing is primarily near the dam, but there is a silver lining. The fish are congregated in the main channel, making for good catch rates. Anglers are catching plenty of perch up to 10 inches, trout up to 20 inches, and an occasional bass.

It is best to access Magic Reservoir through the township of West Magic, but watch weather patterns, as the road is not plowed consistently.

Soldiers Meadow Reservoir

This ice fishing destination is a best kept secret for local kokanee fishing. It is located 20 miles southeast of Lewiston off County Road P2.

Soldiers Meadow is a 124-acre reservoir with 4 miles of shoreline and administered by the Lewiston Orchards Irrigation District. Available species include rainbow trout and kokanee. Fish and Game crews stocked nearly 25,000 kokanee in the reservoir in 2020, and it also has rainbow trout available for ice anglers.

Visitors are encouraged to check snow conditions before heading up to this location as the roads are not routinely maintained throughout the winter. Parking can be found in the lot adjacent to the dam along the county road. A restroom is available at the reservoir during winter.

Ririe Reservoir

The Upper Snake region’s chilly climate and accessible lakes and reservoirs gives it a long ice fishing season. In fact, for the last two years, ice anglers have started ice fishing at Henrys Lake around Halloween. Henrys is a great opportunity for anglers with lots of trophy trout, but it also closes on Jan. 2, so Ririe has a longer ice fishing season, as well as good fishing for perch, trout and kokanee.

Based on trends over the last four years, biologists expect anglers will have plenty of kokanee over 12 inches, and perch populations are looking healthy with some fish reaching about 10-inches with lots of slightly smaller perch.

“Anglers can expect ice fishing for kokanee and perch on Ririe to be excellent this winter,” says Fisheries Biologist John Heckel.

Ririe Reservoir is easily accessible at the Juniper Access located near the dam. This access is plowed and maintained through the winter by Bonneville County. There is a $5 access fee for this county site. Ririe Reservoir is located minutes from Idaho Falls and provides some great ice fishing opportunity for much of the winter season.

Bear Lake

Large and unique are two simple words to describe this Southeast Idaho destination. It’s about 20 miles long and 8 miles wide and roughly divided in half between Idaho and Utah, but you can fish with a license from either state.

The lake is unique because it boasts four “endemic” species of fish, which means they exist nowhere else on earth, including Bear Lake whitefish, Bonneville cisco, Bonneville whitefish and Bear Lake sculpin.

Anglers are drawn to the lake for its trophy Bonneville cutthroat trout, lake trout and whitefish. In addition, there’s a unique cisco fishery where fish are dipnetted through the ice during the fishes’ winter spawning season.

Ice anglers need to be aware of special rules, which include:

• One line only when ice fishing. Two-lines permitted when ice fishing with a two-pole permit.

• Trout limit is two; only Cutthroat Trout with a clipped adipose fin, as evidenced by a healed scar, may be kept.

• Cisco limit is 30; dip-netting permitted Jan. 1 through Feb. 15. Dip nets no larger than 18 inches in any dimension. Any size hole may be cut through the ice to catch cisco.

• Whitefish limit is 10.

The lake is a vacation destination, so there’s a wide range of services and various accommodations from motels to vacation rentals.

Williams Lake

Williams Lake is probably the most popular and easy to access ice fishing water in the Salmon Region. There’s parking and nearby restrooms at the Forest Service boat ramp on the west end.

The 180-acre lake has naturally reproducing rainbow trout that can reach in excess of 20 inches. The trout in Williams Lake tend to suspend in the water column and favor Power Bait, worms or eggs. As winter progresses, fish closer to the surface because oxygen levels in the lake tend to become depleted, thus confining fish to the upper portions of the lake. Move around if you are not finding fish and change your bait often.

Williams Lake is about a 30- to 45-minute drive from Salmon depending on road conditions, so bring what you need on your fishing trip.

Visit Idaho’s Great Lakes for some of the ‘best of the best’ fishing

Idaho is world-famous for its quality fishing, which includes not only a wide variety of species, but different types of waters. Those include Idaho’s “Great Lakes,” which are not only large in size, but also provide excellent and unique fishing opportunities for trophy-sized fish. In most cases, they also provide a user-friendly experience because services and accommodations are typically on the lakes or close by. Many also offer guided fishing trips and boat rentals for people who don’t have all the equipment they need.

Lakes also offer a serene summer (or fall) getaway where you can enjoy sparkling waters and gentle lapping of waves against the shore. You have a variety of ways to catch fish ranging from trolling in open water to casting or trolling near the shoreline in a canoe or kayak, to casting bait or a lure from a dock or from the bank.

Not to pit Idaho’s famed rivers against its lakes, but on average, fish tend to grow larger in lakes and reservoirs, and you have the opportunity to catch some of the biggest fish found in the state.

Idaho’s Great Lakes are well distributed around the state, so whether you want a day trip, weekend outing or vacation, there’s likely one fairly close, but they can also provide a good destination for a road trip and a chance to experience someplace new.

This list of destinations is hardly comprehensive. There are many other Idaho lakes worthy of your time and fishing efforts, and you can find more information at Idaho Fish and Game’s Fishing Planner, but here are a few lakes and reservoirs that are among the best:

Lake Pend Oreille

While this list isn’t in order of importance, it’s still fitting to start with Lake Pend Oreille because it’s Idaho’s largest lake, and you couldn’t consider listing the Great Lakes of Idaho without it. Lake Pend Oreille boasts some impressive stats: it’s 43 miles long and 6 miles wide with 111 miles of shoreline, not to mention 1,158 feet at its deepest spot, making it the fifth-deepest lake in the U.S.

The backbone of Lake Pend Oreille’s fishing is its kokanee population, which is thriving after Fish and Game launched one of the largest fishery restoration projects in its history to bring those fish back to abundance.

Fish and Game crews recently surveyed the lake and found more kokanee than they’ve seen in 20 years. That’s great news for kokanee anglers, but many other anglers benefit because kokanee also support the lake’s trophy rainbow trout, bull trout and lake trout populations, allowing them to grow to massive sizes. The lake has produced numerous state record fish, as well as the current world’s record for bull trout (which can no longer be harvested) and the former world-record rainbow trout.

The lake also hosts a variety of other gamefish, including cutthroat trout, brown trout, largemouth and smallmouth bass, black crappie, northern pike, and walleye.

Lake Pend Oreille is also a full-service lake with many marinas, boat rentals, guides, charters and other services, not to mention a multitude of options for lakeside accommodations.

Coeur d’Alene Lake

Being in the shadow of Lake Pend Oreille is a tough spot to be, but Coeur d’Alene Lake still shines with a combination of size, quality and variety. While roughly half the size of Lake Pend Oreille at 26 miles long and about 1 to 3 miles wide, it’s still Idaho’s second largest lake (Bear Lake is larger, but divided between Idaho and Utah).

Its native fish include Westslope cutthroat, bull trout and mountain whitefish, but throughout its history, Coeur d’Alene Lake has had many other fish introduced that now provide good-to-excellent fishing opportunities. Game fish include kokanee and Chinook salmon, largemouth and smallmouth bass, northern pike, yellow perch, black crappie, brown and black bullheads, and more.

Coeur d’Alene Lake also boasts lots of quality fishing nearby, including the Coeur d’Alene River and its chain lakes, and the North Fork of the Coeur d’Alene River and St. Joe River, all of which feature more quality fishing opportunities. The lake has not only its namesake town on its shore, but also several smaller communities, all of which provide accommodations, guides and services for a fishing destination.

Priest Lake

As if Northern Idaho didn’t have enough to brag about, Priest Lake adds another big lake with postcard scenery and quality fishing. Unlike lakes Coeur d’Alene and Pend Oreille that are located near cities, Priest Lake is more rural and less developed, but still has the all the services you need for a day trip, weekend outing or extended vacation with campgrounds, resorts, charters, boat rentals, accommodations, and more.

Priest Lake is about 19 miles long and about 4 miles wide, but it is different from other big lakes and reservoirs because it’s actually two lakes. It’s connected to Upper Priest Lake by a short, narrow channel that’s passable for most boats. The upper lake has no road access and is mostly undeveloped, but it does feature shoreline campsites.

Priest Lake’s main sport fish are lake trout, cutthroat trout, smallmouth bass and kokanee salmon. Lake trout and smallmouth bass offer the best catch rates. 

The lake’s abundant lake trout population has taken its toll on the kokanee population, so catch rates for kokanee are much lower than in Lake Pend Oreille where the population is much larger. If you’re seeking a more backcountry atmosphere, Upper Priest Lake is an excellent opportunity to find it, but don’t expect to be alone because it’s a popular area for anglers, campers and boaters. 

Dworshak Reservoir

If you want a big reservoir with lots of elbow room, Dworshak is a great opportunity to find solitude and good fishing. The reservoir is created by Dworshak Dam and creates a backwater on the North Fork of the Clearwater River and several tributaries stretching about 16,500 acres across miles in the heart of the Clearwater backcountry.

Anglers can catch kokanee salmon, trout and smallmouth bass. Dworshak is the current state record holder for smallmouth bass and continues to produce trophy-sized fish.

Most people access the reservoir and launch boats via Dworshak State Park at the reservoir’s south end, near the town of Ahsaka and a few miles west of Orofino.

But another option if you want more seclusion is boat-in campsites with no road access that are managed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. There are 96 of them located throughout the reservoir, and all are equipped with vault toilets, picnic tables and fire rings. Use is first-come, first-served, and there are no camping fees.

Services are limited once you’re on the lake, so stock up in nearby communities before you get there.

Lake Cascade

While technically a reservoir, this lake is among the largest in the state at 21-miles long and up to 4.5-miles wide. Despite its size, it’s relatively shallow with a mean depth of 26 feet, but it’s extremely productive and has produced numerous state and world-record fish. Lake Cascade’s perch fishery is a great success story thanks to a multi-year effort by Fish and Game and partners to reduce predatory, nongame fish, transplant perch from other waters and let them naturally spawn and flourish.

While perch may be lake’s current marquee species, it has at least 10 species of game fish and produces trophy sizes for many of them. Other species include trophy-sized rainbow trout and smallmouth bass, as well as kokanee salmon and tiger muskie.

Lake Cascade is a year-round fishery, and summer is an excellent time to visit because its 4,760-feet elevation means temperatures aren’t too hot and the lake is rimmed by numerous developed campgrounds. Lake Cascade State Park offers shore-side camping around the lake, as well as boat ramps and picnic areas. It’s well-suited for RV camping and fishing with numerous paved RV pads around the lake with nearby boat launches.

Trolling is a productive way to fish, but because of its relatively shallow nature, bank fishing with bait, or pitching lures, will likely get you into fish. But beware, the lake has a well-earned reputation for being fickle, so don’t be discouraged if you don’t catch fish immediately. 

American Falls Reservoir

This is another Snake River reservoir that doubles as a “Great Lake” because of its large size and trophy fishing opportunities. It’s the largest of Idaho’s Snake River reservoirs, but unlike others that tend to favor warmwater fish, American Falls is kind of a hybrid because it also supports a trophy trout fishery that includes rainbows, browns and cutthroat.

And hybrid is an apt description in other ways because although it’s a large reservoir at 55,000 acres, its shoreline has a variety of bays, inlets and coves that provide a fishing experience similar to smaller waters, which anglers in small craft can enjoy.

The lake has lots of catchable trout thanks to regular stocking by Fish and Game. About 400,000 trout have already been stocked in 2020, which thrive in the productive waters and grow to large sizes. That productivity also applies to naturally spawning smallmouth bass, which are plentiful and also grow large, and there’s also yellow perch.

The town of American Falls is at the southwest end of the reservoir, where there are also several boat launches and fuel available. There’s also services and a boat launch available near Aberdeen, midway up the reservoir on the westside. Camping is available at Massacre Rocks State Park, as well as several private RV parks and campgrounds on or near the reservoir.

Bear Lake

Large and unique are two simple words to describe this Southeast Idaho destination. Large is pretty self explanatory, and to be specific, it’s about 20-miles long and 8-miles wide. The lake is roughly divided in half between Idaho and Utah, and you can fish with a license from either state.

The unique part deserves more details. First, its clear, aquamarine color has earned it the nickname of “Caribbean of the Rockies” and the lake boasts four “endemic” species of fish, which means they exist nowhere else on earth. They include: Bear Lake whitefish, Bonneville cisco, Bonneville whitefish and Bear Lake sculpin.

Anglers are drawn to the lake for its trophy Bonneville cutthroat trout, lake trout and whitefish. In addition, there’s a unique (there’s that word again) cisco fishery where fish are dipnetted through the ice during the fishes’ winter spawning season.

The lake’s size and large fish that favor deeper water mean it’s best fished from a boat, but there are some shore fishing opportunities as well.

The lake is a destination for many people, so there’s a wide range of services available, including full-service camping at Bear Lake State Park, various accommodations from motels to vacation rentals, boat and other recreation rentals, and more.

Brownlee Reservoir

This reservoir is in upper end of Hells Canyon and is predominantly a warmwater reservoir fishery. People travel from far away to catch its abundant bass, crappie, catfish, sturgeon, bluegill and more. But what makes this reservoir fun and exciting for anglers is that regardless of what you’re targeting, there’s a good chance you will catch something else as well.

While most anglers use boats so they can reach areas that are not accessible by road, there are many coves, bays and areas that provide good shore fishing. Rocky points are typically hotspots for smallmouth bass and crappie. Catfishing for channel cats can also be excellent, especially in the upstream end where the river transitions into the reservoir.

Brownlee has a well-deserved reputation for its trophy fish, having produced several state records. 

Unlike other destinations that are located along or near major highways, Brownlee requires a little more effort to reach, and most anglers access it through the small town of Cambridge along U.S. 95 midway between Weiser and Council. Supplies and service are limited at Brownlee, so make sure you bring what you need.

Henry’s Lake

Henry’s Lake is smaller than most of its fellow great lakes, but is still a respectable size at about 8 square miles. It’s also unique among them because it is located at about 6,500-feet elevation, and the panoramic peaks of the Centennial Mountains and Henry’s Lake Range provide a breathtaking backdrop.

Equally breathtaking are the trophy fish the lake produces. Henry’s Lake is a destination for anglers trying (and often succeeding) to catch its large Yellowstone cutthroat trout, sterile rainbow/cutthroat hybrids, and sterile brook trout. Sterile is notable because sterile fish tend to be fast growing and achieve large sizes.

Henry’s Lake produced the state-record brook trout, an 8-pound behemoth by brookie (or any other trout’s) standards. Cutthroats and hybrids semi-regularly top the 10-pound mark, and 20-inchers are so common they barely raise an eyebrow, unless of course, one is on the end of your line.

Due to its high elevation, Henry’s has a fairly short fishing season for open water (non-ice) and summer and early fall are both prime times for anglers. 

Camping is available at Henry’s Lake State Park, and at other developed and dispersed camping areas on public land managed by the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management. There are various other accommodations around the lake, as well as most services.

C.J. Strike Reservoir

This is another bountiful reservoir created by a dam on the Snake River in southern Idaho. But C.J. Strike is a little different than others because C.J. Strike Dam is a “run of the river” dam, so its levels remain relatively constant. Why is that important? Because it provides a relatively stable environment and a very productive place to grow fish.

Like other Snake River reservoirs in Southern Idaho, warmwater fish are its main attraction, but there are some trout as well. Smallmouth bass, largemouth bass, perch and crappie are among the most common species caught in C.J. Strike, but you can also catch bluegill, sturgeon, channel catfish and bullheads, as well as a variety of nongame fish.

While boats have a clear advantage for reaching prime fishing spots, most of the south shoreline of the reservoir is accessible by roads and offers lots of place for those without a boat to catch fish. It’s also relatively friendly to small, human-powered boats, such as kayaks, canoe and small pontoon boats, but beware the reservoir can get windy, especially in the afternoons.

The reservoir has several developed campgrounds on the south shoreline, and ample places for dispersed/undeveloped camping. You can find supplies at each end of the reservoir in the towns of Grandview and Bruneau.

Free Fishing Day is June 13, and here’s what you need to know for a fun day of fishing

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!

Salmon Region

Southeast Region

Bannock Reservoir

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.

Yes, you can hunt and, yes, you can fish

Idaho Fish and Game has not closed any fishing or hunting seasons in response to COVID-19, and the department is providing guidelines in accordance with the governor’s orders for social distancing at least 6 feet apart, including while fishing and at access sites and boat ramps.

“Fishing lends itself to social distancing,” Fish and Game State Fisheries Manager Jim Fredericks said. “In fact, for most types of fishing, general etiquette says if you’re fishing within 6 feet of the next person, you’re way too close.”

Lakes, reservoirs and streams are vast places where anglers can easily put space between themselves. During the statewide COVID-19 order, it’s extremely important that people recreating on the water make extra efforts to maintain social distancing at the access sites, boat ramps and in the parking lots.

Anglers are advised to launch boats quickly, minimize dock time, maintain space between people and don’t gather in crowds.

“Please help ensure our boat ramps and other public access sites remain open,” Fredericks said. “Maintaining opportunities to enjoy outdoor recreation will depend on people doing it safely. Enjoy your time outdoors — responsibly.”

Travel guidelines for hunters and anglers

Because hunting and fishing may require some travel, the Governor’s Office has provided some additional guidelines for all recreationists:

  • Minimize your travel distance from your home and spread out. If a trailhead or other access site is congested, consider finding another one, or go during off-peak hours.
  • Check before you go. Many campgrounds and trails may be closed.
  • Bring all supplies you will need from home to avoid putting unnecessary strain on local grocery stores or convenient stores that serve the local population. Make sure you pack out all your trash and leave your space clean.

For more information about COVID-19 related to Fish and Game, see F&G’s COVID-19 information page on the website:

Bird feeding is a way to see birds up close and help them get through winter

Feeding birds is enjoyable and mutually beneficial because you can watch nature from the warmth of your home, and birds get much-needed nutrients.

Idaho Fish and Game discourages people from feeding most wildlife because they can become habituated to hand outs, but birds are an exception. They typically don’t become dependent on feeders, but instead add them to their daily food searches and seek out other sources when feeders are empty.

Winter feeding helps our feathered friends survive a challenging season, and you will likely see local and migratory birds from as far away as Canada and Alaska.

When feeding, remember to offer food at different levels to meet the needs of different types of birds. A ground feeder will attract quail, dove, song sparrow, white-crowned sparrow, dark-eyed junco and others.

Hanging feeders, or hopper feeders, will attract songbirds, such as house finch, chickadee, jays, nuthatches and others. Thistle feeders will bring goldfinches, siskins and house finches. Suet can attract woodpeckers, chickadees and nuthatches.

Many kinds of bird seed are available. Black-oil sunflower seed is a favorite of many species. Millet and cracked corn are favorites for many ground-feeding birds. Finches and siskins love nyjer thistle.

Buying bird seed from a reputable source ensures the seed is free of dust, insects and weed seeds.

Birds are also attracted to water. While maintaining bird baths during winter may seem odd, ice-free water attracts more birds than feed alone. Not only will birds drink, they will also bathe and keep their feathers clean, boosting their insulating power against the cold.

While feeding provides obvious benefits to birds, dirty feeders and baths can also harm them.

Rita Dixon, Idaho Fish and Game wildlife program coordinator, says diseases, such as Salmonella and Avian Pox, are easily spread when birds are crowded at dirty feeders and watering devices, but a few simple steps can reduce the spread of disease.

“Simply disinfecting feeders and baths with a bleach solution each month significantly reduces the spread of many diseases,” Dixon said.

Using feeders that require birds to perch and reach for food can also reduce the risk of disease outbreaks. Avoid open feeders where birds can hop around on the food and contaminate it with feces.

Here are more tips for safely feeding birds:

  • Store seed in tight, waterproof containers to prevent mold and to deter rodents.
  • Place feeders in a quiet place near cover to protect feeding birds from weather and predators. Move feeders if you notice birds striking windows.
  • If possible, provide water nearby. You can buy a heater that keeps a bird bath from freezing.
  • After water and food are offered during winter, try to continue until spring, but don’t be concerned if you miss a few days. birds are mobile and probably visiting other feeders besides yours.
  • Clean feeders regularly to prevent disease by using one part liquid chlorine household bleach in nine parts of lukewarm water to make a 10 percent bleach solution. Make enough solution to immerse an empty, cleaned feeder completely for two to three minutes. Allow to air dry.
  • Remember feeding wildlife, other than birds, is not recommended. If food set out for birds is being eaten by other wildlife, move the food to a safe location or discontinue feeding.

Calling all archers: Please fill out your hunter reports if you’re done for the season

Idaho Fish and Game needs help from all big game hunters to fill out their hunter reports whether or not they harvested. With many archery seasons winding down, hunters who are done can fill out their reports online or by calling 877-268-9365. The phone option is available 24 hours per day, seven days per week. Have your hunting tag number ready when calling.

If you plan to keep hunting, good luck, but remember everyone who bought big game tags needs to report so wildlife managers can get accurate and vital information for managing big game herds.

It will only take a few minutes of your time to fill out your hunter report, and your information is key to maintaining hunter opportunity and managing Idaho’s big game populations.

The more accurate information Fish and Game has, the better job it can do setting seasons. If hunter information is lacking, biologists have to err on the side of caution, which typically means shorter and more restrictive hunting seasons.

If you don’t report in a timely manner, staff will mail postcard reminders and do follow up phone calls, which are labor-intensive and expensive. By reporting your results promptly, your license and tag dollars can be better spent for on-the-ground wildlife management activities.

If you’re curious why hunter reports are so important, here are more details.

Why should I submit my hunter report? Fish and Game strives to get the best data on hunter effort and harvest possible, and the best data is from you reporting directly to us where you hunted, whether you harvested, what animal you harvested, how long you hunted, etc.

If you don’t report, we may try to contact you, but that is time consuming and expensive. If you don’t report and we can’t contact you, we have to make an educated guess through statistical estimates, but we would rather hear first-hand from you to ensure accuracy.

Why does it matter? Hunter data isn’t the only information we use to set hunting seasons, but it’s a very important component. When Fish and Game biologists don’t have reliable information on harvest and hunter success, they need to manage game more conservatively, which can mean more restrictive hunting, such as shorter seasons or fewer tags. We prefer to allow generous hunting opportunity when it’s sustainable, but we have to know it’s sustainable through accurate data.

What if I plan to hunt late seasons? We know some deer and elk hunts extend into December. We’re not asking you to report before you’re done hunting, but the sooner after you’re done for the year, the better.

The rules say I have 10 days after my hunt ended, what if I miss that deadline? The rule is intended to ensure timely compliance with hunter report requirements so we have your information in time to use for developing next year’s hunting season, but your report is still needed even if your hunt ended more than 10 days ago.

Are you going to give away my favorite hunting spot? No. All we ask is what unit (or units) you hunted, and if you got an animal, in which unit you harvested it.

F&G seeks public comment on proposed sage-grouse hunting season

Idaho Fish and Game officials are asking hunters and other interested parties to review and comment on a proposed sage-grouse hunting season for 2019. Deadline to comment is Aug. 19.

Statewide, sage-grouse lek counts indicate a 25 percent decline in males at leks in spring 2019, compared to 2018. Data indicates that most sage grouse populations can be hunted at the “Restrictive” level, as defined in the 2006 Conservation Plan for the greater sage grouse in Idaho. However, Fish and Game data also calls for caution in some areas north of the Snake River and in part of Owyhee County.

2019 hunting season proposals include:

  • The sage-grouse hunting season would open on Sept. 21 and 22 for the two-day season and Sept. 21 to 27 for the seven-day season.
  • Close northwest Owyhee County, northwest of the Mud Flat Road (Area 1 in Owyhee County). Birds in this area were impacted by the 2015 Soda Fire. Part of this area was closed in 2018, but wildlife managers are proposing to expand the area in 2019 due to population declines outside the fire boundary.
  • Restrictive seven-day season, one-bird daily limit, for the remainder of Owyhee County (southeast of the Mud Flat Road) and all areas south and west of Interstate 84 (Area 2).
  • A two-day season, one-bird daily limit, for most areas north of the Snake River (Area 3). Fish and Game would maintain the closure in the Upper Snake region that was closed last year due to the Grassy Ridge Fire and other declines (Area 1 in eastern Idaho).
  • Southeast Idaho would remain closed as it has since 2014 (Area 1).

To see a map of area proposals, comment and get more information see the 2019 Sage-Grouse Season Scoping Proposal or learn more about sage-grouse conservation and management