Catch a big one.

11 Fishing Holes in Southwest Idaho

All you can hear is the sound of the river, the wind and the birds as you cast a line into the clear water.

You watch the steelheads glimmer under the surface, breathe in the mountain air…and wait. It’s peaceful and quiet, the kind of place that anglers dream of and locals keep a secret.

These are the fishing holes that bring fishermen from all over the US to Southwest Idaho. The region is home to thousands of miles of reservoirs, rivers and lakes — and it’s one of the only places this far inland where you can catch steelhead trout and salmon.

Ready to kick off the fishing season here? We’ve got 11 fishing holes no one should pass up.

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Brownlee Reservoir & Hells Canyon

Straddling the border of Oregon and Idaho, this reservoir is home to one of the most diverse warm water fisheries in the state. You’ll find smallmouth bass along the gravel bars and rocky outcroppings, and several species of catfish in the upper third of the reservoir. You’ll also be surrounded by the rugged scenery of Hells Canyon — the deepest canyon in North America!

Catch of the Day:

Smallmouth bass, largemouth bass, crappie, catfish, perch, rainbow trout, bluegill.

Nearby Fun:

Whitewater rafting, camping, hiking.
Book a tour with our friends at America’s Rafting Co. and Hells Canyon Adventures!

Getting There:

From Boise, take I-84 west toward Ontario, Oregon. Take Exit 374 to Weiser. Turn left onto US-95 and follow ID-71 N until you see a sign for Woodhead Park.

CJ Strike Reservoir

Located in the high desert of the Owyhees and surrounded by picturesque cliffs, this reservoir is a local favorite for families. The launching facilities stay open year-round and the reservoir has three separate sections — each with a variety of cold water and warm water species (including rainbow trout and sturgeon!)

Catch of the Day:

Crappie, bass, catfish, rainbow trout, sturgeon and more.

Nearby Fun:

Camping, hiking, boating. Check out Bruneau Sand Dunes. It’s just a few minutes’ drive away!

Getting There:

From Boise, take I-84 east toward Mountain Home. Turn south onto Strike Dam Cut-Off Road for just over 9 miles until you reach the reservoir.

Swan Falls Reservoir

White sturgeon (the largest freshwater fish in North America) call this place home. You’ll find them in the calm depths of the reservoir, with a few weighing over 900 pounds. As you fish from the shore or from the boat, be sure to look out for the raptors soaring above — You’re right in the center of a national conservation area for Idaho’s birds of prey.

Catch of the Day:

Bluegill, bullhead catfish, white sturgeon, largemouth and smallmouth bass, yellow perch.

Nearby Fun:

Hiking, mountain biking, birdwatching.
Check out the nearby Peregrine Fund World Center for Birds of Prey!

Getting There:

From Boise, take I-84 west toward Nampa. Take Exit 44 and turn south onto ID-69. After just over 8 miles, turn left onto Swan Falls Road until you find the parking lot near the dam.

Local’s Tip: Need gear for your trip? Check out Idaho Angler — they’ve been a local outfitter since 1993!”

Lake Lowell

This 16 square-mile lake is largemouth bass heaven. You’ll find the bass along the shaded areas of the lake, hiding out underneath the shadows of trees and thick weeds. Most measure between 12 and 18 inches and weigh anywhere between 1-3 pounds (with a few five-pounders, if you’re lucky!)

Catch of the Day:

Primarily largemouth bass, smallmouth bass and channel catfish. Some bluegill, crappie, perch, bullhead catfish and trout.

Nearby Fun:

Birdwatching (You’ll find heron, osprey and more!), boating, water sports, swimming, disc golf and hiking.

Getting There:

From Boise, take I-84 west toward Nampa. Take Exit 33 and continue onto Karcher Road until you see Lake Lowell. (You can’t miss it!)

Anderson Ranch Reservoir

A remote reservoir located in the mountains north of Mountain Home, Anderson Ranch is a prime destination to catch kokanee salmon. Local anglers often drive up to the reservoir for their chance at a “fishing grand slam” (catching four different species on the same body of water!)

Catch of the Day:

Kokanee salmon, chinook salmon, rainbow trout, smallmouth bass.

Nearby Fun:

Camping (10 campgrounds nearby), water skiing, hiking and boating.

Getting There:

From Boise, take I-84 east toward Mountain Home. Take Exit 95, drive up US-20 and turn onto Wood Creek Road. The reservoir will be a few miles down the road.

Lake Cascade

At 47 square miles, Lake Cascade is the fourth largest lake in Idaho. It’s earned a national reputation for large perch, along with a collection of state records for trophy trout and other species. Surrounded by forests and mountains, this is one of the furthest places inland where anglers can catch fresh coho and sockeye salmon.

Fly Fishing to Spin Fishing

McCall Angler

McCall Angler offers exceptional fishing experiences as the premier fishing outfitter in Valley County.

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Catch of the Day:

Bluegill, bullhead catfish, kokanee (sockeye salmon), coho salmon, largemouth and smallmouth bass, yellow perch, mountain whitefish, rainbow trout, white crappie.

Nearby Fun:

Hiking, mountain biking, swimming, camping, boating, water sports, kayaking, paddleboarding. Book a room at The Ashley Inn!

Getting There:

From Boise, take ID-55 north toward Cascade. The lake will be on the west side of the road.

Snake River

In the midst of the desert, the Snake River is teeming with life. It’s a lifeline for vineyards, farms, wildlife and communities across Southwest Idaho. The clear waters here eventually flow all the way to the Pacific Ocean, and they’re filled with the iconic fish Idaho is known for: steelhead, salmon and sturgeon.

Catch of the Day:

Chinook salmon, white sturgeon, steelhead, rainbow trout, several types of catfish, smallmouth and largemouth bass, mountain whitefish, yellow perch and more.

Nearby Fun:

Boating, camping, birding.
Need a break from the water? Go wine tasting at Hat Ranch Winery and Huston Vineyards.

Getting There:

Martin’s Landing is a local favorite with a quiet campsite and great boat access. From Boise, just drive I-84 west toward Parma, take Exit 26 and follow along Scott Pit Road.

Boise River

The cool waters of the Boise River run straight through the heart of Downtown Boise. Lined with shady cottonwoods and willows, there are plenty of spots to fish right along the banks of the river, just steps away from the city. Anglers will easily find wild trout here, along with rainbow trout and brown trout stocked by the Idaho Department of Fish and Game.

The best part? You can spend the morning fishing along the river, take a short walk along the Greenbelt and stop at a nearby brewery for happy hour.

Nearby Fun:

Cycling, paddleboarding, floating, wine and beer tasting, farm-to-fork dining, historic sightseeing, exploring Boise’s Downtown scene.

Catch of the Day:

Largemouth bass, chinook salmon, brown trout, mountain whitefish, smallmouth bass, catfish, rainbow trout, steelhead.

Getting There:

You can access most of the Boise River along the Greenbelt from Lucky Peak Dam through Boise, Garden City and Eagle.

Local’s tip: Looking for some more secluded spots close to town? Drive along Hwy 21 northeast of Boise toward Lucky Peak and stop along the South Fork of the Boise River.

Lucky Peak

Just a short 30-minute drive from Boise, you’ll find some of the best kokanee fishing in Idaho. While the average Idaho kokanee is usually 10-12 inches long, the ones you’ll find at Lucky Peak are somewhere in the 14-17 inch range. Covering 3,000 acres and extending more than 250 feet deep in the summers, this reservoir is also the perfect place for taking the boat out for a joyride.

Catch of the Day:

Kokanee, yellow perch, mountain whitefish, smallmouth bass, rainbow trout, bull trout.

Nearby Fun:

Boating, swimming, beach volleyball, biking, water sports, disc golf.

Getting There:

From Boise, take I-84 east toward Mountain Home. Take the exit for ID-21 and drive for about 8 miles. You’ll see signs for Lucky Peak Reservoir and a parking lot on your right.

Owyhee River

The Owyhee River is a fly fishing paradise. Anglers can catch large trout averaging 17-21 inches long, but catching even larger fish isn’t totally uncommon here. Running through the most Southwest portion of Idaho, the river is surrounded by the rugged ridges and sagebrush deserts of the Owyhee region — one of the most unexplored, untouched pieces of wilderness in the state.

Catch of the Day:

Smallmouth trout, rainbow trout, redband trout.

Nearby Fun:

Hiking, mountain biking, whitewater rafting, kayaking, camping.

Getting There:

From Boise, take I-84 West and get on US-95 South. When you hit Jordan Valley, take Yturri Blvd. Follow Pleasant Valley Road, Soldier Creek Road and Juniper Mountain Road until you hit a dead end at the river.

Idaho City

This ghost-town-turned-historic-landmark is tucked deep into the ponderosa pines and rugged mountains northeast of Boise. Within 30 miles of here are 48 lakes and over 800 streams and creeks ripe for fishing. You’re bound to find a secret fishing hole where you can sit back, cast a line and take in the peaceful mountain scenery.

Catch of the Day:

Varies depending on where you go. Many sites have kokanee, steelhead and various species of trout.

Nearby Fun:

Hiking, ATVing, mountain biking, soaking in hot springs, sightseeing in Idaho City.

Getting There:

From Boise, take ID-21 north to Idaho City. Stop by the Idaho City Visitor’s Center for information on nearby fishing spots.

How to Get an Idaho Fishing Permit

Getting a fishing license in Idaho is incredibly easy and affordable. Daily passes are cheap, and getting licensed for an entire year is a great deal — even for non-residents. You can create an account, order your license and fill out the necessary paperwork here. Before planning your trip, check the Idaho Fish and Game website for more information on local fishing spots and regulations. Southwest Idaho is a fisherman’s dream. From mountain streams and hidden reservoirs are countless fishing holes where anyone can get their catch of the day. This season, find your new favorite fishing hole in Southwest Idaho.

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