Friday, November 26, 2010

‘Gone Fishin’ in the winter

Lots of places to go for the diehard angler

Express Staff Writer

Ice fisherman Mark Belanger holds a rainbow trout pulled from below the ice on Magic Reservoir in 2008. If you’re contemplating going ice fishing, make sure the ice is at least 4 inches thick. Photo by Mountain Express

Idaho's general fishing season ends Nov. 30, but for anyone who still just wants to be "gone fishin'," there are lots of options available for winter angling in and around Blaine County.

Whether you're a beginner or diehard angler, you can still dig an ice hole, cast a fly, float a spinner or sink a worm during Blaine County's wintry months.

But Idaho fishing regulations are rather complicated, particularly along the Big Wood River and Silver Creek, so it's best to take a close look at the Fishing Seasons and Rules handbook before setting out on a winter fishing excursion. Furthermore, the most current handbook is no longer valid at the end of 2010 and new regulations may go into effect in 2011.

The handbook is available at the Idaho Department of Fish and Game website at

In general, for the meat fisherman, Idaho regulations allow catch and possession of six trout per day. The limit applies to each fisherman's individual catch; it does not allow a group to total their catch for an average of six fish each.

There are numerous exceptions, some specific to winter fishing, and it's best to know the regulations, especially since some areas are catch and release only.

Another exception involves bull trout, a threatened species under the federal Endangered Species Act. They aren't generally found in the area, but federal law says anyone who catches one has to let it go. It's a good idea to study the difference between a bull trout and their close relative the brook trout, especially since brook trout are a non-native invasive species and fishermen are allowed to catch and keep 25 of them per day.

Regulations are also more permissive in keeping whitefish or perch.

Family fishing

Idaho's fishing regulations designate some lakes, ponds and reservoirs as Family Fishing Waters, which are open year-around and deemed appropriate spots for family angling.

Family Fishing Waters in the area are Penny Lake and Dollar Lake up Warm Springs Road, Little Wood Reservoir north of Carey, Gavers Lagoon in the Picabo area, Camas Ponds near Fairfield and Magic Reservoir south of Bellevue.

The regulations for Family Fishing Waters allow a limit of six trout and six bass per day with no limit on other species. There are no length limits and standard fishing gear is allowed.

Magic Reservoir is a favorite ice fishing spot if the weather is cold enough for the ice to be at least 4 inches thick. You'll need an ice auger to dig a hole and other tools to keep the hole clear. You can find perch there along with nice-size rainbow trout.

In general, lakes, ponds and reservoirs are open year-round to the point at which flowing water enters or leaves. Not open though, according to the regulations, are "small unnamed irrigation division ponds, beaver ponds and mill ponds." If in doubt, call Fish and Game.

Irrigation ditches and canals are also open for year-round fishing.

Stream fishing

Once again, study the regulations, but portions of Silver Creek are open during the winter months.

Open all year is Silver Creek downstream from U.S. Highway 93 south of Carey. It's a desert area, but some good-size brown and rainbow trout can be found there and you don't have to let them go.

Portions of Silver Creek north of Highway 93 have been open from Dec. 1 through Feb. 28 for the past few years, but the area is catch and release only.

The Big Wood River has been open for winter fishing the past few years from Dec. 1 though March 31 between Magic Reservoir and the confluence with the North Fork north of Ketchum. It's also been catch and release only.

Portions of the river below Magic Reservoir Dam are open for catch and take home during the winter months.

Remember, the regulations may change at the beginning of 2011 and if you're going winter fishing after then it would be a good idea to get a copy of the new handbook. It's also a good idea to dress warm, and as any experienced angler can tell you, it's best not to get wet.

Finally, remember to renew your license, as it likely expires on Dec. 31.

Terry Smith:

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