We Idaho anglers are privileged to live in a fishing paradise. If you’re willing to drive a few hours, everything from blue-ribbon trout streams and classic bass lakes to impressive salmon and steelhead rivers are within reach.
Sometimes, though, we need something quick and convenient. And if you live in the Treasure Valley, there are plenty of options. If you’re looking for some cool fishing adventures that are easy on the odometer, check out these five local hotspots in 2018:
1. SWAN FALLS DAM
Distance from Boise: Less than an hour.
Species: Smallmouth bass, channel catfish, sturgeon.
The Scoop: Swan Falls is a beautiful and highly productive fishery in the desert south of Kuna, where a hydroelectric dam on the Snake River has created two distinct habitats. Above the dam is prime boating territory, as a reservoir flanked by steep, colorful canyon walls offers prime fishing for smallmouth bass. Catch smallies up to 4 pounds using tube jigs, crankbaits, spinnerbaits, jerk baits or top water presentations. Below the dam, mighty sturgeon lurk in deep river pockets along with channel catfish and bass, which tend to be smaller but more plentiful than the fish on the reservoir side. Foot access abounds downstream, and boat launches are available on both sides of the dam. Be ready for anything at Swan Falls — I have caught no fewer than nine species there, including some really nice perch and a fat rainbow trout.
2. ARROWROCK RESERVOIR
Distance from Boise: 30 minutes.
Species: Kokanee salmon, rainbow trout, bull trout, Chinook salmon, smallmouth bass.
The Scoop: Located northeast of town, this Boise River impoundment offers great fishing for the trolling crowd. Kokanee and Chinook salmon are the most sought-after species, while rainbow and occasional bull trout also will strike pop gear and spinners tipped with worms, corn or salmon eggs. Arrowrock also offers underrated smallmouth bass fishing along its rocky points and outcroppings. If you don’t have a boat, bank access is plentiful and trout gladly will hit a worm-and-marshmallow combo or a well-placed spinner. Bass also can be caught from shore if you know where to look. The dirt road into Arrowrock from Idaho 21 past Lucky Peak can be bumpy and treacherous — four-wheel drive is recommended, especially if you are towing a boat.
3. SOUTH FORK BOISE RIVER
Distance from Boise: About an hour.
Species: Rainbow trout, whitefish, bull trout.
The Scoop: Located upstream of Arrowrock, the South Fork offers incredible opportunities for fly and lure enthusiasts to hunt big trout. Wild rainbows frequently surpass the coveted 20-inch mark on the South Fork, which has special rules in place to maintain a trophy fishery. Only flies and lures with a single, barbless hook are allowed. Fishing is catch-and-release only from December through March, and closed April 1 through Memorial Day. The rest of the summer and fall, there is a two-fish limit — none under 20 inches. Dry flies, hare’s ear and bead head nymphs, streamers and hoppers are popular fly patterns. Spinners and spoons will catch fish, too — just make sure you modify your hooks to stay within the rules. In the summer and early fall, the South Fork is perfect for exploring with a drift boat, pontoon or a good pair of waders.
4. LOCAL PONDS
Distance from Boise: The closest pond is likely 5 minutes from your house.
Species: Rainbow trout, largemouth bass, bluegill, crappie, channel catfish.
The Scoop: When it comes to convenience, you can’t beat the local pond scene. The Treasure Valley is home to dozens of small fisheries, many of which are regularly stocked with rainbow trout and/or have naturally sustaining populations of bass and panfish. In addition to quick and easy access to fish, ponds offer a great opportunity to test new equipment, practice your fly casting or bring the whole family along for a picnic. You’ll also be surprised at what you can catch. Even popular urban fisheries like Kleiner Pond in Meridian and Esther Simplot Pond in Boise are home to big bass and trout. Horseshoe Bend Mill Pond is known to produce monster channel catfish. And countless waters in between are home to bluegill, crappie and more!
5. C.J. STRIKE RESERVOIR
Distance from Boise: One hour, 15 minutes.
Species: Largemouth and smallmouth bass, perch, crappie, bluegill, channel catfish, rainbow trout, sturgeon.
The Scoop: Let’s cheat just a little here and include C.J. Strike. Even though it’s more than an hour from town, C.J. is one of the most diverse and popular fisheries around. The Snake River impoundment offers excellent bass fishing, frequently hosting tournaments. Soft plastics, jigs, crankbaits and spinnerbaits will get you on some bass. The reservoir also offers some of the best panfish angling in the state, with perch, bluegill, crappie and pumpkinseed all available. Locate schools using a fish finder and throw small jigs tipped with a worm or cut bait. When C.J. freezes over, ice fishing can be excellent, especially for perch. If heavy fish are more your style, C.J. Strike offers quality fishing for catfish and sturgeon. Use cut bait and heavy tackle in deep pockets of water. On top of all that, the lake is regularly stocked with rainbow trout, which quickly grow to the perfect eating size. Tossing bait from shore or trolling with pop gear near the dam are the best ways to target rainbows.