Ice fishing

Ice fishing

David Sparks Ph.D.
David Sparks Ph.D.
Here’s how you can get dialed in for ice fishing and find a popular (and safe) destination near you

Ice fishing is a fun way to extend your fishing season

Unless you’re a hockey player or margarita, ice can get a bad rap. It glazes your windshield, covers your driveways and makes the highways slicker than snot. But when it comes to lake fishing in the winter, ice is a big bonus.

One of the hottest opportunities (figuratively speaking) to catch fish this winter is ice fishing. Fish and Game fisheries staff are optimistic though about this year’s ice fishing conditions.

“Winter arrived a little early for many parts of Idaho this year, and that means ice fishing opportunities in different parts of the state are increasing by the day, said Nathan Tillotson, Upper Snake Regional Fisheries Biologist.

“Ice fishing for both cold and warm water species can be spectacular during the early ice season, but always be sure to exercise caution when venturing out on the ice. Ice conditions on all types of waterbodies can be variable, and just because there is safe ice in one area doesn't mean it will be safe everywhere. Carry a spud bar, check ice thickness often, and don't go alone.”


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 have been to a lake or reservoir during summer, those access sites could be blocked by snow. Fish and Game partners with various agencies to help provide ice fishing access by maintaining winter parking lots in many locations. 

Before racing out on to the ice like Apolo Ohno at the Olympics, anglers must ensure safe ice conditions – ice must be a minimum 4 inches thick. It can be a bit of a challenge checking the ice status of your favorite lake or reservoir. Idaho is a diverse state when it comes to climate and geography, so conditions could be hit or miss depending on when you’re looking to go.


Ice fishing is exactly what it sounds like: Armed with nothing more than a rod, some basic bait and tackle, a valid Idaho fishing license and a well-placed hole in the ice, anglers can find a relatively inexpensive and exciting way to stay busy during the colder months. But anglers should also look into some other gear they may want to add to their lineup.


Whether you’re walking, skiing, or snowmobiling to your ice fishing spot, having a small sled to store your gear in can be really nice. This will help you stay mobile so you can move around the lake more as the fish move.

Ice Auger

It’s a little hard to ice fish when the fish are protected by 5 or more inches of ice. Augers and scoops don’t have to be fancy. Depending on the size of fish you’re targeting, you’ll need anywhere from a 5-inch to a 10-inch hole (10 inches is the maximum hole size in Idaho). Small hand augers are really light weight and easy to use, and many of them can be used with the aid of a cordless power drill. Some new ice augers are powered by lithium batteries making them really lightweight and reliable (as long as the battery is charged). Pro-tip: Keep your lithium battery inside your jacket to keep it warm – otherwise you may get all the way out to your spot and your battery is dead. Gas powered augers are another reliable option, and are much less costly than the new lithium products.

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