Friday, February 1, 2019

Ice Fishing in IDAHO

This year was the year for another long trip out of Iowa to chase some fish through the ice.  Lake Cascade in Idaho is a lake I have read about and have seen hours of video on.  This lake is known for its World Class Yellow Perch.  The ecosystem of the lake has grown HUGE perch for the past couple of years and is peeking, or perhaps on the downhill slide.  Time was running out to make this bucket-list trip.  This is not a trip you take alone, or even with one other person, the lake is huge in regards to Iowa lakes and there is the length of travel to consider as well.  It all started when I heard someone say "Lake Cascade" at a Buchanan County Wildlife meeting.  My ears perked right up, and I joined the conversation.  At first I was a little blown away, could anyone be as crazy as I am about ice fishing?  I guess so.  Mike Lenius and Jim Klever were discussing it, Mike was all in and wanted to go, while Jim was not on board...I had to speak up.  I was interested in the worse way.  Our enthusiasm grew quickly and soon we were organizing lodging and an outfitter for augers and snowmachines.  The snowball was growing and rolling downhill at increased speed!  It was going to happen!  David Gissel jumped on the Cascade train, as well as Mark Anderson from the Des Moines area.  We were 5 guys from Iowa that were going to cross off a bucket-list destination.

Jim Klever with a 2 pound 3 oz Perch

We boarded a plane out of Cedar Rapids on Thursday morning, January 24th and headed to Boise, Idaho.  The lake is about 1.5 hours north of the airport and so was the lodge we stayed at.  It put us minutes away from the best perch lake on the planet.  We were all so excited for the first morning of was hard to sleep!
Day 1:  We met the outfitter at 8am and took off for the lake after getting the gear packed.  Most of us brought our Vexilars , rods, reels and tackle either via a check bag or FedEx shipping, the outfitter had the augers and snowmachines for us to use as needed.  The fog was thick as we stopped at the first area.  Other anglers were around and we joined right in.  A few fish showed up on the screens but no takers.  Off we went south to another area, a little bit deeper.  This area was deeper and along the main channel of the lake where is drops into 40 feet of water.  We focused on water in the 21-26 foot range and immediately started to bring up some fish.  The first one I brought up was a dandy, a male about 12 inches long.  I was elated until the outfitter came over and said, "oh, that is a small one" and then he walked away.  I thought, what the heck???  Anyway, he was right, that was small for this lake after I caught a few more.  The perch in this lake just grow differently.  Thick, long and with a lot of girth is the only way to explain them.  The weather each day was almost identical; teens in the morning and then sunny and 30's in the afternoon.  The wind was around 5mph all three days, Mother Nature was looking out for us on this trip, she couldn't have been any nicer!  This certainly had an affect on us catching so many perch.  We ended the day with 41 keepers.
Our best day on the lake; 53 keepers.

Day 2: We started a bit earlier on this day knowing the lake would be much busier.  We were able to go back to the same area and continue to work over the 21-26 feet of water.  The big highlight of the day was Jim and his 2 pound 3 ounce perch, it was HUGE!  It was the biggest of the trip for any angler, by quite a margin.  Day 2 was our best day as a group, we ended up 53 keeper perch that day.  We were able to clean all our fish at the Birch Glen Lodge where we stayed.  This is a perfect place for anyone in the area looking for a place to stay while ice fishing.  As a group on this second day we definitely were able to do some fine tuning on the baits we were throwing.

The perch were not active and rarely, I mean rarely did you get a "thump" for a bite, it was more of a hesitation in your line.  Something that me detect the bites was a Jason Mitchell Meat Stick.  These have plenty of power to fight the biggest perch, but  soft tip for working a spoon and detecting those subtle bites.  By the middle of the second day everyone was using a spoon of some sort, and some added a dropper chain to it too.  Both the regular spoon and the dropper chain did well on this trip putting almost all the fish on the ice for us.  Although many of the perch we caught were regurgitating small blood worms they seemed to like the spoons tipped with a small piece of Tiger Worm (small nightcrawler).  Teamwork was necessary for everyone to get some fish, sharing knowledge, drilling holes, and moving together to find the next bite was critical in catching so many fish.
Day 3: It was a sad day...IT WAS THE LAST DAY!  Again, the weather was perfect for hole hopping and chasing down these wandering perch.  We all knew what we had to do, use teamwork, spread out and find the roaming fish.  Catching a single fish that came in on the Vexilar was no easy task, many times they would play around with you, but end up leaving.  However, when two or three fish showed up together you were almost certain one of them was going to bite.  Often times picking them off the bottom with the Vexilar in zoom mode made this an easy task.  If you were not in the zoom mode, you simply would not see the perch on the bottom.  Switching to zoom mode on this trip was critical to catching a few more fish as they tried to swim by on the bottom undetected.  Sorry Perch, you may be the biggest in the world, but you were no match for the Vexilar FLX-28 zoom!  We ended this day with 38 keepers, and so many memories for all of us to enjoy for a lifetime.

If time and money allowed, I would turn around and do this trip next week.  The amount of perch surprised us, the size was just as advertised.  Wile talking to many other anglers at the lodge and on the lake, our group definitely had the bite down.  We were catching far many more perch than others out in the same areas of the lake.  I guess these "5 Iowa Guys" were able to make this bucket list trip, and catch our fair share and then some!

David Gissel with giant
Mark Anderson with a pair of Perch

While at Lake Cascade I recorded some of our action along with some details of the trip and fishing.  I was able to put them together in a 15 minute video, I hope you enjoy:


  1. Great read Todd. Not much better than a great fishing trip to share and remember with a few buddies.

  2. Nice perch even if you didn't get your 2 pounder.

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