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Freezing temps mean better ice fishing

Jan. 12—Warm weather is the enemy of ice fishing and this year's mild winter has led to thin ice at some, but not all, ice fishing destinations in north central Idaho.

That is likely changing. An arctic blast arriving today should thicken ice at places like Winchester Lake where pockets of open water have persisted into January.

"We are looking at four or five days of very cold temperatures," said Joe Thiessen, an Idaho Department of Fish and Game fisheries biologist at Lewiston. "Ice fishing should be great."

Thiessen and Joe DuPont, regional fisheries manager at the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, said the season hasn't been a total bust. Places like Soldier's Meadows south of Lewiston and Elk Creek Reservoir at Elk River have had decent ice. But Moose Creek and Spring Valley reservoirs didn't have good ice last week, Thiessen said.

DuPont said judging ice isn't an exact science and can depend on local conditions like groundwater interaction with lakes and ponds. As a general rule, 4 inches of clear ice is considered safe. But more is needed if the ice is opaque.

Moose Creek Reservoir was fishable earlier in the season but ice conditions deteriorated. Thiessen said when the ice was thick, fishing was good.

"We were hanging red jigs tipped with earthworms in 5 feet of water and catching a lot of trout," he said.

At Winchester, he said anglers often have luck catching perch and catfish by fishing within about a foot of the lake's bottom. Those trying to catch kokanee at Soldier's Meadows often have luck with purple jigs tipped with shoepeg corn, he said. Thiessen writes ice fishing reports during the season and, with the change in weather, those will be posted in the near future. Reports from last year with tips relevant to specific destinations are archived on the agency's website by searching for "Clearwater Region ice fishing updates."

Ice fishing has a good following in the region, according to Thiessen.

"We are always in support of growing the sport of ice fishing," he said. "I was pleasantly surprised with the amount of people we see out there and just phone calls and interest. It's a popular sport up here."

One Idaho ice fishing destination has garnered some internet fame of late. The site FishingBooker.com placed Cascade Reservoir south of McCall on a list of the best ice fishing spots in the country. The site noted the scenic beauty of the Long Valley and the reservoir's reputation for producing state record perch. Other destinations on the list include the Mat-Su Valley, Alaska; Lake St. Clair in Minnesota; Green Bay, Wis.; Brainerd, Minn.; and Devils Lake, N.D.

Barker may be contacted at ebarker@lmtribune.com or at (208) 848-2273. Follow him on Twitter @ezebarker.