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Pristine waters. Casting into a cool mountain creek. Angling is the perfect way to disconnect from the everyday and reconnect with the great outdoors.
And Southwest Idaho is the perfect place to do it.
Anglers come from all over the country to fish these waters. Why? Because Southwest Idaho features a wider variety of fishing experiences than just about anywhere in the country. From big rivers to small streams and large mountain lakes to urban ponds, we have it — in settings ranging from the deep canyons of the mighty Snake River to remote streams brimming with native cutthroat.
Grab your gear, and let’s go…
Getting an Idaho Fishing License
The Snake River features spectacularly big views (to match the fishing).
- First things first, you’ll need an Idaho fishing license. Special permits are needed for salmon and steelhead, so be sure you know what you’re angling for before purchasing. Get yours at any Idaho Fish and Game office, most sporting stores, local grocery stores like Fred Meyer and Alberstons, over the phone at 1-800-554-8685, or from IDFG’s website. You’ll be an o-fish-al angler in minutes!
- Be prepared! Idaho’s remote mountain lakes and our rapidly-changing weather require good preparation. Check conditions before you head out and throw a small first aid kit in your bag just in case.
Didn’t pack your equipment? No worries. We’ll talk about our favorite options for local rentals and purchases below.
- Help us keep Idaho pristine. Follow a few basic etiquette tips to keep fishing fun for everyone. Be sure to:• Pack out what you pack in.
• Give other anglers space. Leave enough room to avoid line tangling.
• Stick to fishing on public land. If you want to fish on private land, you’ll need permission from the owners.
• Keep invasive species from spreading by cleaning boating and fishing gear thoroughly after you’re done.
Idaho Fish Species
Photo Credit: Idaho Tourism.
Idaho has 42 species of recognized game fish. Some are plentiful and easy to land, while others are rare and prized by expert anglers. Here are a few of the species that seasoned anglers will want to seek out:
- Rainbow Trout: These acrobatic beauties are widespread throughout Southwest Idaho thanks to healthy native populations and generous hatchery-raised stocking programs. While most are under 12”, Idaho’s record rainbow was a 20”-er pulled from the Snake River.
- Brown Trout:
Photo Credit: Idaho Tourism.
Known for their size and their fight, Idaho browns lurk in the deeper holes and cut banks of several Idaho streams, including the Snake, Boise, and Owyhee. The Lower Payette even boasts a few
- Cutthroat Trout: The Idaho state fish! Cutthroats earn their name from the distinctive red “slash” under the jaw.
- Mountain White Fish: The small-mouthed natives are abundant across the region and easily catchable year-round.
Catch bass & other warmwater species using a fly, lure, or live bait.
Find this warmwater species in parts of the Snake River as well as reservoirs and ponds throughout the region.
- Perch: This warmwater species provides all-year fun in Idaho. Ice fish for jumbo perch in Cascade Reservoir in the winter or head to the Snake River between Brownlee and C.J. Strike Reservoirs any time of year (subject to local regulations).
Ocean-going steelies can be caught right in town, as well as on a more remote stretch of the Boise River.
From August to May, you’ll find steelhead in the Salmon, Snake, and Boise rivers. Steelhead fishing requires an extra fee on your license, and wild steelhead with an adipose fin must be released.
- Chinook Salmon: They’re big, they’re challenging, and they’re delicious. These native Idaho fish can be found in the Snake and Salmon rivers. Because chinook numbers can vary greatly year to year, you should check Idaho Fish and Game’s current season rules and bagging limits before you head out.
- White Sturgeon: Sturgeon in Idaho are catch and release only. Nonetheless, sturgeon fishing is challenging and exciting. The white sturgeon is the largest freshwater fish in North America. They can grow to over 12 feet long and live up to 100 years. Just be sure to read up on low impact fishing tips before you land one of these giants.
Give this fish identification reference a look before you begin. Bagging limits and rules are dependent on the species, region, and season, so be sure to check Idaho Fish and Game’s fishing guide when planning your trip.
Get Advice From Guides & Outfitters
Easy access & hungry fish make SW Idaho reservoirs great for families.
Southwest Idaho is chock full of hidden gems — but where to start?
To get in the know, turn to the locals. Outfitters and guides are experts in their waters. Trips start at a half day and can extend as long as a week. Some, like Hells Canyon Rafting, offer fully supported trips complete with gourmet meals.
Check out Idaho Outfitters & Guides Association fishing expedition directory to connect with experienced outfitters who can take you to the best fishing in the state.
Idaho Angler in Boise is the place to go for rentals, gear, and inside scoops. Their fishing report is required reading for local anglers and visitors alike.
For more on local fishing spots, check out our guide to Southwest Idaho fishing holes.