For anyone who is serious about fishing, Idaho sits atop the list of fantasy fishing destinations. While many anglers think of the Gem State as a great place to fish only during the warm spring and summer months, Idaho’s fish are plentiful year-round. In fact, record perch are being reeled in during the coldest months of the season in the Southwest part of the state every year.

Payette River Scenic Byway
Payette River Scenic Byway.

Ice fishing can be a perfect getaway from the typical winter vacation – a real test of skill for any seasoned fisherman. Lucky for you, the ice fishing at Cascade Reservoir is easily accessible and family-friendly. Read on for more insider tips from Tackle Tom on where to fish in Southwestern Idaho and what people are reeling in up near Cascade.

Getting There

Payette River Scenic Byway
Payette River Scenic Byway.

Make sure your vehicle is ready for winter conditions as travel to Cascade will include snow-packed roads.  Reliable snow tires or chains are advisable.  Parking space is limited at the Reservoir; however, additional parking can be found up towards Tamarack Resort. I recommend carpooling wherever possible to get a good spot.

Insider Tips from Tackle Tom’s: Fishing and Outdoor Equipment

Tackle Tom’s: Fishing and Outdoor Equipment store.
Tackle Tom’s: Fishing and Outdoor Equipment

Once in Cascade, I decided to do some digging. I wanted to know the best places to fish, hidden gem fishing holes, and the best spot to get gear and insider info. Every local I spoke to recommended the same shop – it was unanimous, Tackle Tom’s was a must-visit bait and tackle shop with excellent equipment and expert advice for any fisherman.

What did your store solely focus on when it first opened up in 1988?

Tackle Tom, Owner of Tackle Tom’s: Fishing and Outdoor Equipment
Tackle Tom, Owner of Tackle Tom’s: Fishing and Outdoor Equipment

Tom: When we first started, I was a little more interested in the fly fishing end of things. This part of Idaho is not the fly fishing hot spot of the state, not that people don’t do it here; there’s just so many well-known fly fishing areas throughout Idaho. This area is much more geared towards bait fishing, and there are high quality and amazing hatches here. 

When people visit your shop, what are they typically looking for and where are they coming from?

Fishing Rods at Tackle Tom’s: Fishing and Outdoor Equipment
Fishing Rods at Tackle Tom’s: Fishing and Outdoor Equipment

Tom: There’s a lot of Boise traffic that comes through Cascade. The out-of-state folks are typically from Utah, California, Oregon, and Washington, and they tend to come in the later summer. As of late, folks have been coming in droves from the Northwest for ice fishing.

Where’s the best place to go ice fishing in this area? What’s the biggest catch this season?

Kevin Grover showing off his prized cathes at Tackle Tom’s: Fishing and Outdoor Equipment
Kevin Grover showing off his prized cathes at Tackle Tom’s: Fishing and Outdoor Equipment

Tom: Many folks from out of town find success fishing out at Horsethief, Warm Lake, and Cascade Reservoir because the Perch population has skyrocketed in recent years. The biggest Perch I’ve seen this year came into the shop today, weighing in at 2.64 lbs – the record is 2.73 lbs. They caught it out at Cascade Reservoir and just missed the state record! Just wait, when late February, early March rolls around, I bet somebody will catch a record-breaker.

in at 2.64 lbs - the record is 2.73.
Steve Shemenski holding a Perch weighing in at 2.64 lbs – the record is 2.73.

But like I said, you can’t go wrong fishing out at Horsethief, Warm Lake, and Cascade. They get great stocking, so you’ll have amazing catch rates out there, and all three locations are easily accessible during all seasons. If I had to choose, I would fish Warm Lake simply for the service and the lodge. They have forest service campgrounds that are great to take the kids to during the summer months as well.

If you’re looking for a little more extreme ice fishing, I would venture over to the North Fork of the Payette River. Although access is limited, you’ll have great catch rates and a chance to catch some monster fish.

A family hoping to catch some Perch at the Idaho Youth Outdoors: 7th Annual Youth Ice Fishing Day.
Ice fishing at Lake Cascade State Park.

Don’t waste any time searching for the perfect fishing hole. Take Tackle Tom’s advice and drop a line outside of Cascade or take the family for a camping excursion up near Warm Lake – and be sure to share your catch with #VisitIdaho on Instagram or Facebook. Maybe your group will reel in the “big one”!