For those truly committed to fishing, there’s never an off-season for the sport. While ore casual anglers might turn in at the first sign of snow, the dedicated simply shrug on another layer, change their lures and head out into the snow and cold. 

Despite the ice and chilly weather, winter is actually a great time to go fishing. We should know, after all, we lead fishing trips throughout the year here in Idaho. But if you’re new to winter fishing, it helps to have some insider tips and tricks to make your experience more enjoyable and fruitful. So here are some quick things to keep in mind before you head out to the winter landscape of Idaho’s lakes and rivers.

Gear Up

If you haven’t already, make sure to take a minute and get caught up on our recent blog post on how to layer effectively for fall and winter travel. The fact is, you’re going to get cold out there, especially if you decide to wade into the water to pursue your catch. When possible, wear neoprene waders, which do a good job of insulating you from the cold. You’ll want to wear a few layers made from fast-drying wool or synthetic materials. If need be, using a wading staff, as you want to avoid falling into the water.

Once you’ve got the right layers on, it’s time to prep the rest of your gear for your winter outing. Check the condition of your reels, and if need be, clean them of old grease and oil and replace it with fresh stuff. This ensures that your reel won’t freeze when you’re bringing in the big one. Another thing to keep in mind is your line. The cold can make it difficult to manage your mono-filament and fluorocarbon lines. Use a line conditioner to keep your line from twisting and tangling. You can use the line conditioner on your rod guides to keep water from freezing to them. 

Pick Your Spot

Even in warm weather, finding the right spot to go fishing can be challenging, and this process is made only more complicated by the chilly temperatures of winter. Lucky for you, we put together a brief guide on some of our favorite places to go winter fishing in Idaho. You can also make use of resources available through the Idaho Department of Fish and Game. In general, you’ll want to find warmer waters, making tailwaters or areas just downstream of a reservoir ideal spaces to go fishing during the winter. That’s because fish are more likely to congregate there. Trout, for instance, love waters that are around 50 degrees Fahrenheit. 

Timing is Key

While we’d all love to have the freedom to pick up our gear, load up the truck, and go fish whenever we’d like, the fact is that many of us have to work for a living. This can complicate when and for how long we go fishing. This can be even more challenging in the winter, as you have to consider weather windows as well as work schedules. 

When you’ve picked out a few days to go fishing, make sure you check the weather forecast. Lower barometric pressures indicate an incoming front, which could mean snow and ice. In fact, weather fronts can not only make you more uncomfortable but can affect the fish as well. Just before a front moves in, fish will be more active. Immediately after a front, on the other hand, you’ll notice that the fish are less active.

Get There Later

We know, we know, this goes against everything you ever learned about warm weather fishing, but trust us. Take the time to sleep in a little bit and get to your fishing spot around late morning to early afternoon. We’ve found that the best time to go fishing in the winter is between 10:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. By then, the sun will have warmed the water enough that the fish will start to be active. You’ll stay warmer as well, and you’re more likely to catch something. If you’re worried about crowds, don’t be. The cold temperatures are enough to keep all but the most serious of fishers away. 

Bet on Better Bait

Choosing the right bait for your winter fishing pursuits can be a little tricky. During the colder months, fish have a reduced metabolism, meaning that they don’t eat as much or as often. That means you have to be particular in your choice of bait.

Live bait is always a good choice since their natural movements will attract even the chilliest and laziest of fish. If you’re planning on using artificial bait, choose those with hair and feathers, as they move more naturally in colder waters than soft plastic options. If you’re using lures, make sure you’ve got one that can attract and catch multiple species. Finally, make sure your bait is fairly small, as fish will be on the hunt for prey that’s small and easy to digest.

Explore Hells Canyon on a River Boat Fishing Trip

Winter time fishing is a unique way to experience the outdoors. But once the weather starts to warm, it’s time to start thinking about new experiences. Killgore Adventures offers riverboat fishing adventures from May to October. Step aboard our jet boat and pursue trout, bass, and even sturgeon in Hells Canyon! Book your adventure fishing trip today!