Anglers can buy a ready-to-use fishing license with their smartphones

Imagine this scenario: You’re at your favorite fishing and camping spot for the weekend, and just as you grab your fishing rod to head to the lake or river, you realize you forgot to purchase a fishing license. Don’t panic, if you have a smartphone and cell service, you can purchase and download a ready-to-use fishing license in Idaho.

If you already have an account on Fish and Game’s licensing system, you can visit idfg.huntfishidaho.net using your smartphone, and login using your user name and password associated with your account.

If you do not have an online account with Idaho Fish and Game, tap the “Enroll Now” button on idfg.huntfishidaho.net and enter the required information to set up an account. Important note: Make sure that your profile name exactly matches the name on your driver’s license or state-issued identification, and also make sure you’re seeing the Fish and Game logo and buying through Fish and Game’s website.

After logging in, or creating a new account, tap “Purchase a License, Tag, or Permit,” at the top of your screen, which will take you to Fish and Game’s license sale options. Scroll through the options until you find the type of fishing license you want to buy, then tap the “Add” button that corresponds with it to add the item to your cart.

After you have added a fishing license to your cart, a list of suggested products will pop up on your screen, including the option to add a two-pole permit. If you plan to fish with more than one rod, tap the “Add” button that corresponds with it and then tap “Proceed to Checkout.”

The option to purchase a steelhead or salmon permit may also pop up, but you will need to purchase those permits from a license vendor if you want to immediately fish for those. If you buy a salmon or steelhead permit with your smartphone, it will take seven to 10 business days for it to be mailed to your home address.

After reaching the checkout page, ensure you have the correct items in your cart before scrolling to the bottom of the screen and tapping “Next.” By doing so, you are certifying and declaring that all of the information you gave is true, and that the license is being issued as requested. Note: If you choose to purchase a single-day or multiple-day fishing license, also make sure to enter the date you want the license to start being valid before proceeding.

On the next screen, enter your payment information. Once you’ve filled that in, tap “Pay Now” in order to process your payment. After it has been processed, you will be taken to a confirmation screen that gives you the option to print or download your license and/or two-pole permit.

When you tap the green “View for Print or Download” button, a new window will open displaying your license. Simply take a screenshot to save the license to your photos, and you are ready and legal to fish. A digital copy of your license will also be emailed to you.

A new twist on whistle pig hunting

They say necessity is the mother of all inventions, and I wholeheartedly believe that and think that it is a wise saying. But I also think that if you show up every day, sometimes the light bulb just clicks — or maybe it’s just that since you are participating you just happen to inadvertently try some weird new twist and it works.

Whatever the case, people who do something often will have more tricks than someone who occasionally participates in that same activity. So with all of the above said, a week ago a buddy of mine, Christopher Robertson, and I went crappie fishing. For whatever reason, I threw in my Benjamin Marauder .22-caliber airgun and Chris threw in a .22. Good decision.

As we were driving into our hot spot, we started noticing quite a few whistle pigs out scurrying around. We suddenly went from crappie mode to whistle pig hunting mode. We shot a few and were having a good time. Of course, with the airgun, they pop back up faster than when using a .22 or especially a .17 HMR or a .223.

I guess it was turkey season, but I have never seen a turkey on the route that we were going to be driving, but Chris had thrown in a Quaker Boy Cyclone push box call just in case. We pulled up to a new spot and shot a couple of whistle pigs and then they went under. For whatever reason, Chris pulled out his Quaker Boy Cyclone push box and hit it a few times. Two or three whistle pigs popped up. I unloaded.

We pulled up to another new spot and shot a couple and of course they too stayed down after seeing their bros get wasted. Chris says, “I’ll try to call again.” Long story short, from then on after they went down, he’d say, “OK, you ready?” and I said “yep.” He’d hit the call and 99 percent of the time they’d start popping back up. We’re slow, but we were believers.

We shot whistle pigs for a couple hours and had a blast. Finally, we refocused and remembered we were supposed to be fishing. We finally reluctantly agreed that we had better finish our trek to the lake; after all, we had spent an hour packing our fishing gear.

I had to take out of town the next morning at 5:30 a.m. so we only had about five hours of fishing time. Well, theoretically, if we hadn’t of spent a couple hours shooting whistle pigs I guess we could of fished a bit longer.

I know I say this every two minutes, but gee I love Idaho in the spring time. How can you not? Between bear hunting, turkey hunting, mushroom hunting, whistle pig hunting and crappie fishing you can wear yourself out. Springtime in Idaho is flat out magical.

Any of the above activities could totally consume your free time, much less five of them. No wonder by the time spring has fizzled out I am flat out ragged out and swear off of anything outdoors for a couple of days to I can catch up on my sleep.

But then summer hits and it is off to the races again. Some day when I get old, I’m going to have to slow down. But in July my daughter and I have a big fishing trip planned to the historic Plummer’s Fishing Lodge in The Northwest Territories. That will be the best daddy/daughter date ever won’t it? I can’t wait.

Have a good Memorial day!

Tom Claycomb lives in Idaho and has outdoors columns in newspapers in Alaska, Idaho, Utah, Nevada, Colorado and Louisiana.

Top 10 tips for fishing with kids

Fishing can be a fun sport for kids and parents. Besides spending quality time together outdoors, families can get away from their hectic schedules and enjoy a sun-filled day laughing, talking and enjoying the fresh air.

But introducing young children to the sport, which may seem daunting for some, is actually easy with a little forethought.

“The big thing is patience,” says Greg Schoby, fisheries manager for Idaho Department of Fish and Game in Salmon. “Be positive, make it fun — and remember it’s not just your fishing trip — it’s their fishing trip, too.”

Parents should also consider their role as fishing coach as an investment with payoffs in the future.

“If you’re patient and do it right, pay-back time will come later when they take you fishing,” Schoby says.

Idaho Fish and Game recommends keeping these ten simple tips in mind to help ensure your young child loves fishing from the get-go:

1. Catching is key: Getting kids hooked on fishing is about getting a fish on the line fast. And for kids, it’s about numbers caught — not how big. Finding a well-stocked pond or lake is essential. Idaho Fish and Game makes finding local family-friendly fishing locations easy. Visit idfg.idaho.gov/fish/family-fishing-waters for locations, tips, events and more.

2. Keep it simple: Short, lightweight poles and closed-face reels are good choices. A few small hooks, a few 1-inch bobbers and sinkers is all you need to get started. If you lack equipment or have never fished before, Idaho Fish and Game’s Take Me Fishing trailers are loaded with loaner fishing rods, tackle, bait and are staffed by experienced anglers that can help. These trailers make appearances at well-stocked fishing holes throughout the state. For a list of free events in your area, visit idfg.idaho.gov/fish/trailers.

3. Keep it short: The younger the child, the shorter the attention span. If the fish aren’t biting, don’t keep kids held hostage watching their fishing poles. Allow some breaks for rock skipping, enjoying some beach time — whatever keeps them happy and lets them enjoy the outdoors. And don’t be surprised if catching fish isn’t their first priority. Just remember: As your child’s attention span gets longer, so will your fishing trips.

4. Be patient: Accept that you will be unsnagging lines, baiting hooks and probably not fishing much yourself. They will probably get a few tangles, dirty or even a little wet. But remember, the quickest way to turn children off to fishing is to get frustrated with them. Keeping patient and the outing short — under an hour for beginners — will set you on course for cultivating a lifelong fishing buddy.

5. Snack breaks: Pack a cooler with sandwiches and lots of snacks like granola bars, crackers, peanuts, and a treat or two. Fish for 30 minutes or so and then take a break. Fish for 30 minutes and then take another break. Snacks with breaks can help with moments of frustration and will keep the kids interested longer.

6. Remember the essentials: Besides hook, line and sinkers, be sure to take sunscreen, bug repellant, drinks, a few Band-Aids and a fishing license if required. Resident youth 13 years old or younger do not need a fishing license, but those 14 years and older are required to have a license in their possession while fishing.

7. Never waste teaching moments: Fishing is not only about just catching fish — creating memories and learning are what’s important. Capitalize on moments to teach them — tell them about bugs, birds, plants, and fish. The outdoors is the best kind of classroom and kids will soak it up like a sponge.

8. Keep a few: Catch and release is an important aspect of angling, but there’s nothing wrong with keeping a few for the pan if the fishing rules allow. It can also open their minds on where the food they eat comes from. Just like agriculture, it is important to open your kid’s mind on where people get their food.

9. Leave it better than you found it: Remember to pack out your garbage and encourage kids to pick up, too. These lessons mold responsible and conscientious anglers helping to ensure the future of our sport.

10. Good times again: If you want your kids to go fishing again, the “fun” part is most important. Choose a sunny day, take photographs, and just have a good time watching them have a good time. Keep this in mind and regardless of the number of fish caught, each outing will be a success.

June 8 is free fishing day in Idaho

June 8 is Free Fishing Day, and the Idaho Department of Fish and Game invites veteran and novice anglers of all ages, residents and nonresidents alike, to celebrate the day by fishing anywhere in Idaho without a license. Though fishing license requirements are suspended for this special day, all other rules, such as limits or tackle restrictions, remain in effect.

Lack of fishing experience is no excuse. At many locations, you don’t even need a rod, tackle or bait. Just show up and Fish and Game employees and volunteers will loan you gear and show you how to catch a fish.

Here’s a list of events.

Magic Valley Region

  • Hagerman WMA Riley Creek Pond near Hagerman: 9 a.m. to noon
  • Gavers Lagoon in Blaine County: 9 a.m. to noon
  • Freedom Park Pond in Burley: 8 a.m. to noon

Southeast Region

  • Portneuf Wellness Complex in Pocatello: 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
  • Edson Fichter Pond in Pocatello: 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
  • Kelly Park Pond near Soda Springs: 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
  • Grace Fish Hatchery near Grace: 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Upper Snake Region

  • Becker Pond in Idaho Falls: 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
  • Trail Creek Pond near Victor: 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
  • Rexburg City Ponds: 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
  • Mill Creek Pond near Island Park: 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Salmon Region

  • Sawtooth Kids Pond near Stanley: 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
  • Blue Mountain Meadow Pond in Challis: 8 a.m. to noon
  • Kids Creek Pond in Salmon: 8 a.m. to noon

The department will stock trout in select locations before the event to increase your chances of landing a fish.

Here’s your fishing guide for Memorial Day weekend and beyond

Summer is almost here, and Memorial Day weekend for many Idahoans is the unofficial kick off to the summer camping and fishing season. If you’re doing the first and not the latter, you’re missing out on a fantastic opportunity. May is among the best months for Idaho’s ponds, lakes and reservoirs, and some rivers will also be good for fishing, although many will be running high and cold with snow-melt run off.

Fish and Game personnel from each region have highlighted some of the best bets for anglers and tried to keep an eye toward places with good camping, too. These spots offer a wide variety of fishing opportunities, and many are stocked with trout before the holiday weekend and well into summer.

This is only a fraction of the great options anglers have for the Memorial Day weekend and into summer. For a full list of Idaho’s fishing waters, check out our Idaho Fishing Planner and find places near you, or where you will be traveling this summer.

Magic Valley Region

Silver Creek: This classic spring creek is a mecca for anglers wanting to ply their skills against the creek’s wily rainbow and brown trout, and the stream reopens for fishing on Saturday of Memorial Day weekend. The creek has many access points, but the Nature Conservancy Preserve west of Picabo is one of the favorites and among the picturesque setting for trout anglers. The stream’s abundant and predictable insect hatches bring trout to surface, but these fish have grown up with real and artificial flies drifting over their heads and learn to separate the real from the imitators, and part of the fun is trying to fool those cagey fish.

Salmon Falls Creek Reservoir: Like many other southern Idaho reservoirs, this one offers a variety of warmwater fishing and trout. Rainbow trout fishing heats up in the spring with the weather, especially for shore anglers. The fishing also gets good for boat anglers as we get further into spring. The reservoir has some of Idaho’s best walleye fishing, as well as perch, crappie and other panfish that can provide lots of action and great eating.

Oakley Reservoir: The reservoir received 26,000 rainbow trout last year, and it has a reputation for fast-growing fish. Last year’s hold overs and this year’s stocking of 12-inch rainbows should provide good fishing for shore anglers and trollers and a nice mix of sizes. The reservoir also has walleye fishing that typically gets going in later in spring.

Mormon Reservoir: Jury is still out on how well this reservoir will fish this year. It’s off to a slow start, but it has had some fantastic trout fishing in the last two years. Fish and Game has stocked it heavily in the last five years, and it has produced some trophy-sized rainbow trout. There’s no evidence of a winter kill, so hopefully this reservoir will return to form shortly and continue to produce good trout fishing and some lunkers for lucky anglers.

Little Camas Reservoir: This reservoir has been stocked with rainbow trout and is ready for anglers. Spring is typically the best time to fish this reservoir because it’s often drained by late summer. The reservoir is located in a scenic location and is a good size for small craft, such as float tubes, canoes, kayaks and small motorboats. Anglers can find ample pan-sized rainbows, but those looking for trophy-sized trout might want to try other locations.

Southeast Region

Bear Lake: This beautiful lake is a great place to catch a trophy native cutthroat trout, some of which can grow up to 15 pounds! Wild cutthroat trout caught in Bear Lake must be released, but about 170,000 hatchery cutthroat trout are stocked annually for those interested in keeping some to eat. Hatchery fish can be identified by a clipped adipose fin. Bear Lake also provides an opportunity to catch trophy-sized Lake Trout— some exceeding 20 lbs! Experienced anglers know that a jig tipped with a chunk of cisco is the way to go if you want to increase your chances of hooking up with one of these beautiful fish. Bear Lake State Park is located on the North and East Shores and provides camping opportunities. Nearby Cache National Forest also provides camping opportunities. When you are not fishing Bear Lake, you can sunbathe on the sandy beaches or paddleboard on the turquoise water. Jump on in — the water is fine.

Snake River below American Falls Dam: Though this section of the river is open to fishing year round, harvest of game species is only allowed from Saturday of Memorial Day weekend through October 15. This section of river holds plenty of smallmouth bass, rainbows, cutthroats, and browns—and catching rainbows pushing 10 pounds is not unusual. Don’t have a boat? No worries. There are access points for some bank fishing, just be careful as water levels can be a bit high for wading this time of year. Bring your trailer or camping gear— nearby Massacre Rocks State Park has camping.

Lamont Reservoir: Located about three miles east of Preston, Lamont Reservoir is great fishing for bluegill, largemouth bass, perch, and rainbows. Fish from the ADA-accessible docks, from the shore, or from your boat or float tube. Spinner baits fished slowly work well for bass this time of year while small plastic jigs tipped with a piece of worm are the ticket to fast and furious bluegill action.

Winder Reservoir: This water body which is located 6 miles north of Preston holds rainbows, largemouth bass, perch, and bluegills. This is a great place for spin fishing or flyfishing, however, it must be done from shore or float tube. There are no boat ramps or docks. No motorized boats allowed. is a wonderful place to take the family fishing. During late spring, the bluegill bite is phenomenal, and young anglers have no problem catching plenty of fish. The shoreline near the road is very kid friendly and provides plenty of unobstructed casting lanes for inexperienced anglers. For bass this time of year, fish spinner baits slowly. A small plastic jig tipped with a piece of worm is the way to win over a bluegill. The opportunity to catch a trophy fish here is pretty limited. There are a few large bass lurking around but they are not in abundance.

Twin Lakes: Not much goes together better than kids and bluegill fishing. Located approximately 15 miles northwest of Preston, Twin Lakes is the perfect spot for reeling in the fun with these plentiful pan fish, whether from a boat or from the shore. Anglers can also find largemouth bass, perch, rainbows, and crappie. Bring your RV or your tent; there are 57 camping sites available. Reservations are recommended, especially for holiday weekends. Other amenities include boat ramps, docks, bathrooms, and ADA-accessible fishing spots. There is no water or electricity. Twin Lakes Canal Company charges for camping, and boats must be inspected for Quagga mussels at an inspection station located onsite: $15 for motorized watercraft over 10 feet and $5 for non-motorized watercraft under 10 feet. For more details about camping and boat inspection fees or to make a reservation for camping, visit twinlakescanalcompany.com.

Upper Snake Region

Warm River: This river is a tributary to the world class Henrys Fork and has a beautiful Forest Service campground near the confluence. Warm River is renowned for its scenic vistas and offers great access via the Yellowstone Branch Line Railroad Trail. Small flashy lures tend to work well on this stretch of river, but fly anglers can take advantage of the recent caddis fly hatch. Rubber leg stonefly nymphs also tend to perform this time of year and can be a nice addition to your fishing arsenal. Beginning on Saturday of Memorial Day weekend, Warm River changes from catch-and-release to a six trout limit with no harvest of cutthroat trout.

Sand Creek: Pond No. 1 will be stocked with 3,500 rainbow trout the week before Memorial Day weekend making this a great location to take the whole family. A free first-come, first-served campground managed by the Idaho Fish and Game is located right next to the ponds and offers a new interpretive trail system to add to your experience. Wildlife viewing opportunities also abound at this location as the ponds are a crucial water source for migrating animals. Anglers should try using worms beneath a bobber for the best results. Fishing along the edges of the water lilies can be a great way to pull out the larger fish the ponds are known for.

Trail Creek Pond: A popular year-round fishing spot for kids, this pond has recently received an additional 1,100 rainbow trout from the South Fork of the Snake River. Many of these fish are over 16 inches and have been eager to bite. There are several Forest Service campgrounds close to the pond, as well as lodging and dining opportunities in the nearby town of Victor. Its location near the Teton Pass Highway also makes this pond a great place to stop on the way to Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks. Slowly dragging a weighted worm on the bottom of the pond has proven to be a successful method for anglers at this location.

Birch Creek: Camping option are numerous on this stretch of river and offer a great place for family gatherings. Heavy stocking from Fish and Game hatcheries increases the likelihood of young anglers seeing fish on the end of their line. Anglers seeking rainbow trout will have more luck fishing downstream while those seeking brook trout will find them more abundant upstream.

Salmon Region

Kids Creek Pond: Regularly stocked with rainbow trout, this 0.6 acre pond located near downtown Salmon provides a convenient fishing hole, especially if you’re limited on time. Picnic tables, a covered picnic table area, restrooms and outdoor grills make it a perfect, easily accessible family fishing spot.

Hayden Creek Pond: This 1.7-acre pond is about 24 miles south of Salmon on Hayden Creek Road. This popular fishing pond is stocked with trout monthly through spring and summer. Because of spring water that makes great habitat, the fish that don’t get caught right away continue to grow, giving anglers an opportunity to catch some larger trout as the summer progresses. This area also has a picnic shelter, grills and restrooms.

Blue Mountain Pond: This 0.7-acre pond overlooks the golf course in Challis. Kids will enjoy fishing for stocked rainbow trout from the banks and having a picnic in one of the sheltered picnic tables arranged around the pond.

Squaw Creek Pond: This small seasonal pond is stocked with rainbow trout and is located about three miles west of Clayton, north of the Salmon River off the Squaw Creek Road. Recent deepening and improvements to the pond’s outlet structure will make this a great fishing location through early summer, when the water will likely be drawn down for irrigation.

Hyde Pond: This small irrigation pond provides ideal bank fishing for beginning anglers and those who want to practice casting techniques. Heavily stocked in May, this pond is located south of Salmon on the road to the Sunset Heights subdivision.

Williams Lake: Located southwest of Salmon, this 180-acre lake provides good fishing for feisty wild rainbows in the 12-to-16-inch range. Float tubes and boats provide anglers access throughout the lake. Good bank angling can be found on the northwest portions of the lake near the recently improved public boat ramp and day-use area. A nearby hiking trailhead, which leads anglers to the south side of the lake, can be accessed a half mile west of the boat ramp. Campers will also find an 11-site BLM-managed campground located about a mile east of the lake.

Jimmy Smith Lake: The half-mile hike or ride to Jimmy Smith Lake is rewarded with scenic views and wild rainbow trout. Located in the East Fork Salmon River drainage southeast of Clayton, this 47-acre lake is accessed by foot, horse, motorcycle or ATV ride from the trailhead on Big Lake Creek. Anglers should do well fishing for rainbows with worms, corn, eggs, mealworms, Power Bait, or fly-fishing gear. Rainbows in excess of 14-inches can be found here, and the daily bag limit is currently 25 trout. Camping is limited to two dispersed sites along the access road from the East Fork Road and at the trailhead parking area.

Mosquito Flat Reservoir: Both novice and expert anglers alike will enjoy Mosquito Flat Reservoir near Challis. This 49-acre irrigation reservoir is known for beautiful scenery, camping, plentiful rainbow trout, and luckily – not many pesky mosquitoes. The reservoir is now filling with water, and was recently stocked with 1,000 rainbows. Fish and Game has also stocked 13,000 sterile kokanee into Mosquito Flat the last few years, some of which have now grown to over 14-inches. Prized for their hard fight and excellent table fare, a fresh kokanee fillet off the grill will make a Memorial Day highlight. A Forest Service day-use picnic area, 11-unit campground and boat ramp is available. Currently, the best route to the lake is the Garden Creek-Challis Motorway, as a landslide has damaged the Challis Creek Road and two wheel-drive vehicle travel is not advised. For more on the road condition and campground, contact the Challis-Yankee Fork Ranger District at 208-879-4100.

PLENTY OF FISH: Snake River smallmouth are abundant, mobile and healthy

The Snake River’s smallmouth bass population attracts a lot of anglers, and spring is often when they find the largest fish. Many anglers know the large fish are often females that are in the shallows during spawning season, and some of those bass move into the Snake River’s tributaries to spawn. Some anglers wonder whether targeting those fish limits the population.

Research by a University of Idaho graduate student, in conjunction with Idaho Fish and Game, found the river’s smallmouths are rarely harvested, even in the tributaries during the spring and summer, so there is likely very little harvest impact on smallmouth reproduction. This was just one of the findings of the study, which focused on the stretch of the Snake River between the Brownlee and Swan Falls reservoirs and was conducted in 2017-18.

Understanding an abundant population

Biologists wanted to better understand the smallmouth bass population upstream of Brownlee Reservoir and in the Snake River tributaries, including the Boise, Payette, and Weiser rivers. The study provided data to help biologists and anglers understand how this smallmouth population functions and whether management adequately protects fish while providing an excellent fishing opportunity.

While bass fishing between Swan Falls and Brownlee Reservoir is good in some some sections of the river and poor in others, that does not necessarily mean the fish in these sections are isolated populations. In fact, the study found that there is actually a large, interconnected smallmouth population that spans the sections within the study area.

Highly mobile smallmouths

The bass tend to be very mobile, particularly in the spring and summer, with several fish moving more than 62 miles upriver during the study, and some more than 150 miles. That number represents some of the longest movements of smallmouth bass ever recorded.

“Basically, we found that instead of having a bunch of solitary populations we have essentially one big inter-mixing population,” said Mike Peterson, fisheries biologist for the Southwest Region.

Healthy population with good size range

As a whole, the study showed this smallmouth population had good size distribution, and that the fish grew rapidly and were generally healthy, but they were also fairly short lived. There are plenty of fish larger than 12 inches available for anglers, and changes in the minimum length limit would have little effect on the number of larger fish available. There is currently no biological reason to change the six-fish limit, with a 12-inch minimum length for smallmouths.

“The current management appears to be working well within the river section we studied. We’re not proposing to change anything over the next few years,” Peterson said.

If you want to experience the Snake River’s smallmouth fishery, late spring and summer provide some fun and exciting fishing — and don’t worry, there are big fish out there, and plenty of them.

Riding a wave: Youth mountain bike teams doubling in size

When youth mountain bike teams started up in Eastern Idaho in 2014, you could fit all the participants in a few cars.

Now, as the teams are in the process of signing up new recruits, the original team of 16 youths has grown to three teams and has nearly doubled in numbers each year.

“High school, middle school mountain biking is the fastest growing sport in the United States at the moment,” said Brian Olson, the head coach for the Thunder Ridge Composite team. “We’ve had a team here since 2014, it started out with 16 kids. Last year, we made it up to 65 kids on the team. But now we’re at the point where it’s really starting to take off.”

The original team has split into three: The Rigby Composite team, Thunder Ridge Composite team and the Idaho Falls Composite team. The teams include high school and middle school age students and, in the case of Thunder Ridge and Idaho Falls, they are school-district-wide. Between all the teams, coaches expect to well exceed 65 youths as they continue to sign up more students.

“The response has just been phenomenal from the students as well as the adults that are participating and helping out,” said Matt Klinger, head coach of the Rigby team. “We have not finalized our numbers for this year. We’re still signing everybody up. We anticipate this year in Rigby we will probably have 30 to possibly 40 riders. Every year we’re a little surprised. If we follow the trend of doubling then that’s about where we’ll land.”

What is the attraction?

A lot of it has to do with how the program is put together. The program is organized through the National Interscholastic Cycling Association. It is not a team sport organized within the schools. The association’s motto is “we build strong minds, bodies, character, and communities through cycling.”

The program takes a three-pronged approach, offering races, adventure rides and girls-only rides. Team members can participate in all, one or none of the races or just the adventure rides. Teams in Eastern Idaho practice at Freeman Park, the Kelly Canyon area, Teton Valley and Pocatello. Races are held in Boise, McCall, Twin Falls, Sun Valley and Grand Targhee Resort.

“It’s really fun to do because you get to ride up in the mountains,” said Ashlyn Stucki, 13, a Rigby Middle School student on the Rigby team. “I really don’t like doing track and football and stuff what the schools provide. I like doing this. You aren’t practicing at school and not many people are doing it compared to what other sports are doing. I think it’s really fun, and I like it a lot more than doing softball.”

Coaches mention the inclusiveness of the mountain bike team as a major attraction. Students neither try out nor sit on a bench.

“It’s a sport that you don’t have to be good or bad, you just have to know how to ride a bike,” said Erik Peterson, the Idaho Falls composite coach. “Not every kid is in it for the competition, some are just in it to ride bikes and learn how to ride a mountain bike.”

For those who do give racing a try, the atmosphere is supportive and encouraging.

“It’s a great atmosphere to be around, and you grow up with great people,” said Chris Palmisciano, 16, a student at Thunder Ridge who has been on the team for two years. “You learn a lot of new skills, things you grow up with and you’ll have forever. It feels more like a family than it does a team.”

Palmisciano said he joined the team after a friend brought him to a practice and he “fell in love with it.”

“We only have a handful of kids who are interested in getting on the podium,” Klinger said. “We have some kids whose whole goal was to smile as they crossed the finish line. One of our riders would come in last basically every race, except for her last race. She just loved it. … That was her goal was to just go out there and have fun.”

Participants mentioned that part of the fun is camping out at the race venues.

“There’s always camping at the races, and a lot of the parents camp at the races with their kids,” Chris said. “The campgrounds are right next to the race site. You ride your bike from your tent to the race.”

Right now, coaches are in the process of signing up participants. The first gatherings will be maintenance and skills clinics and trail work projects. The official practice season begins in July, with the first races in August.

Olson said a major challenge with the teams is parental and adult involvement. The cycling association requires teams to operate with one adult per four to six youth. Adults are given a background check and training to ride with the youth and more extensive training to become coaches.

Olson said the cost to join the team is reasonable, especially when compared to some school team sports.

“(National Interscholastic Cycling Association) requires that each student pay $175 for the season,” he said. “That covers liability insurance and all the stuff that’s required to protect the kids. Our local teams charge $20 for the team fee. A jersey typically costs either $35 or $55 depending on the jersey a kid purchases. If kids want to race, there is an additional cost. For those who don’t want to race, that’s pretty much the cost right there.”

Olson said getting a bike for youth has not been much of a hurdle. The Idaho chapter of the cycling association offers a limited number of loaner bikes to youth who need one.

“Our team has a small number of loaner bikes that we purchased through Idaho Mountain Trading and Bill’s Bike Shop,” Olson said. “So far it hasn’t been an obstacle this year. I’m concerned it could be. Generally, if a kid comes out and really likes it, there have been ways we’ve figured out to help a kid get a bike.”

More information is available via email at ifcmtb@gmail.com for Idaho Falls Composite; titansmtb@gmail.com for Thunder Ridge Composite; and rigbymtb@gmail.com.

Hunting for morel mushrooms

Our old buddy Jack Sweet told my wife Katy and I that morel mushrooms are the second-best fungi in the world, second only to the truffle in England. I have never tasted a truffle, but morels are the best food in the world that I’ve ever tasted. If you haven’t ever picked them, then you’re missing out on the best food the outdoors have to offer.

If you don’t know what you’re doing, though, take an old timer with you the first season. Because if you accidentally pick the angel of death, well, let’s just say that you and God had better be pretty good friends.

Years ago, I thought, “You know, it’s crazy that I only feel safe picking one species of mushrooms. I spend all that time hunting and hiking around for them. Why not be able to identify three or four edible species?” So I took a class. But I’m still not comfortable, so I just pick two species.

But take heart, morels are easy to identify out West. (I hear that there are some false morels back East that you don’t want to eat.) I don’t know how many states have morels but quite a few do. Back in Nebraska and Iowa, picking morels is a big deal, according to one of my old bosses, but theirs come in season near the first to middle of April. Ours don’t come in season until the middle of May. And I went hunting today and only found one. So next weekend it should be show time.

Places that were good last year should be good this year. And last year’s forest fire areas are magical. I’ve filled up two 5-gallon buckets in a short amount of time in forest fire zones. So last year’s burns are the absolute No. 1 spot to hunt.

I’ve hunted morels for 39 years, so you’d think I could tell you where to be successful, but sorry, I can’t. I have a good spot that is just ever so slightly a depression and it has scattered skunk weed. But not all such spots even in that same locale have them.

Everyone tells you to look around old logs. Well I have news for you. There are a lot of old logs laying around in the woods and not all of them have morels. In fact, hardly any of them do. Today the only one that I found was just sitting by itself in the middle of a semi grassy spot in the woods. Nothing special. So it seems like they’re where they are.

But the general rule of thought is that when it finally starts warming up, and we get a shower, that triggers them to pop up. It was warm today, so I thought they’d be out but it’s just a hair too early.

The hardcore pickers admonish you to carry a cloth (open type of weave) bag to carry your freshly picked mushrooms in. This allows the spores to fall out. They also use a knife to clip them off at the ground so the root stays to help spread spores. At the La Grande gun show this year, I met Lars Hansen from Pendleton. He sells some cool Scandinavian knives, one of which is very unique. It is a mushroom knife and has a bristle brush on the hilt of the handle to dust off the dirt. It is a super cool knife and the handle is made out of reindeer horns and the sheath is made out of reindeer leather. You have to get one of these if you want to be a cool mushroom picker.

Morels are weather dependent, triggered by the temp and moisture. In talking to a lady once at the Forest Service office, she asked me if I had ever taken a temp of the dirt. No. Hmmm, maybe a good idea.

The surest bet is to go the Forest Service office or online and ask them where there were forest fires last year. There will be millions there. Look alongside, almost underneath logs laying on the ground. Nearly a guarantee that burned-out stump holes will have them. I think because they hold more moisture.

I’ve never marked one to see exactly how long they last before they deteriorate and start crumbling but I’m going to say only a few days. You want them to be firm and not crumbly.

There are a million ways to cook them but my favorite method is to crack a couple of eggs in a bowl and splash in a little milk. Pre-cut the morels lengthwise and soak in salted water in the fridge overnight to kill the bugs (although I always cook up a batch the first night).

After dipping in the egg mixture, roll in flour and throw in a hot skillet. When getting golden brown flip, brown the other side and then pull them out and wolf them down. While cooking, I sprinkle them with original Tony Chachere’s seasoning.

So when this weekend hits, get out there. But stay outta my spots!

Tom Claycomb lives in Idaho and has outdoors columns in newspapers in Alaska, Idaho, Utah, Nevada, Colorado and Louisiana.