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Cast a Line: The Complete Guide to Fishing in McCall, Idaho

Situated in Payette National Forest of the southwest region of Idaho, McCall is home to an abundance of stunning natural lakes and prolific streams. The destination lends itself to an idyllic fishing experience, where you’ll catch a diversity of fish from bass, bluegill, and white sturgeon to trout, kokanee, chinook, steelhead and more.

While outdoor recreation in McCall is immensely popular, you’ll find a ton of breathtaking spots for secluded fishing among the river canyons, alpine lakes, and mountainous forests.

By booking a waterfront vacation rental home on Payette Lake or Lake Cascade, you’ll have ample fishing opportunities right outside of your back door. Keep on reading though for more fishing spots in the McCall area and what to know before you go.


Licensing and Regulation for Fishing in Idaho

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To fish in Idaho, you’ll have to get a hold of an up-to-date fishing license. It’s recommended to stay current with any changes to restrictions and limits in the state – these harvest restrictions provide long-term sustainability for both natural ecosystems and fishermen alike!

Trophy fish and large trout commonly have catch-and-release rules, and are sometimes combined with gear and bait restrictions. Cutthroat can be easily overfished, so various special rules are applied to protect them from over-harvesting.

If you catch a tagged fish, report it to Idaho Fish and Game on their website to help gather statistics about the lakes and tributaries of McCall.

Daily Bag Limits for the Southwest Region:

  • Bass (largemouth and smallmouth) – 6, minimum 12 inches
  • Brook Trout – 25 during open season unless modified through Special Rules
  • Bull Trout – 0, catch and release
  • Kokanee Salmon – 6
  • Rainbow Trout (Steelhead) – Rainbow trout fishing prohibited unless the season is specifically opened for that water body; always a minimum of 20 inches
  • Sturgeon – 0, catch and release. Barbless hooks are required.
  • Tiger Muskie – 2, minimum 40 inches
  • Trout (including brown trout, lake (mackinaw trout), golden trout, Arctic Grayling, Cutthroat trout, land-locked Chinook, Coho, and hybrids) – 6 all species combined
  • Whitefish – 25 during open season noted by Special Rules
  • All Other Species – no bag, size or possession limit


3 of the Best Spots to Fish Near McCall

Payette Lake Complex

Located only 3 miles from McCall, the Payette Lake Complex consists of Payette, Little Payette Lake, and Upper Lake Payette (all named for a fur trapper from the 19th century). Here, you can enjoy bank fishing in Ponderosa State Park, plus the north and east areas of the lake. Any style of boat fishing is allowed with no motor limit.

For the first time since 2014, the area has once again been stocked with kokanee salmon to balance out the population of mackinaw trout (kokanee are lake trout prey). You can catch rainbow trout, cutthroat trout, smallmouth bass, and yellow perch in the complex. Little Payette is also widely known for its giant tiger musky – the world record tiger musky (52+ inches and 44 pounds) was caught here in 2013!

From mid to late June, smallmouth bass build nests for spawning. They protect these nests aggressively, which makes for an exciting catch if you can locate a hot spot!

Type of bait/lure to use: Small crayfish and frogs; Texas-rigged worms have been successfully reported alongside jogs, spinnerbaits and topwater lures. Use cutbait for catfish and catch Mormon crickets in the summer. Fish for trout with nymph and leech patterns. Popular styles here include spinning, fly fishing or baitcasting.


Lower Salmon River

Only a 1 hour drive heading northwest from McCall, the Lower Salmon River presents excellent smallmouth bass fishing all summer long. Depending on what you’re looking to catch, you can find opportunities for success year round – from chinook in early June to steelhead from September through December. 

With miles of sandy banks and plenty of space for visitors to sprawl, the Salmon River system is a great place to take the family. You can fish from the banks with easy road access, or bring the boat in tow whether you have a motor, kayak or canoe.

If you’re new to fishing, there are also plenty of opportunities for guided trips to have an unforgettable experience.

Type of bait/lure to use: Fly fishing is popular in many styles, including skating dry flies, swinging traditional wet flies or employing spey-style flies in the early season, then moving towards sinking tip lines and leech patterns in the late season. You can expect to catch 5 to 10 pound fish on average, even though 12 to 18 pounds are common as well!


Cascade Reservoir

Known for its year round fishing season, Lake Cascade is the 4th largest lake in the state! Only a 29 mile drive from McCall, this is a spot you can’t miss. There are 86 miles of shoreline to explore, surrounded by spectacular mountain scenery while the lake teems with fish. Almost 5,000 feet above sea level, you can opt for either warm or cold water angling.

Diversity here is abundant – catch anything from bass, channel catfish, crappie, bluegill, pumpkinseed sunfish, perch, tiger muskie and more. Rainbow trout are stocked annually, tending to disperse evenly throughout the lake. This means that bank fishers can hit limits just as fast as boat fishers. 

If you’re visiting in the winter, be sure to go on an ice fishing excursion for hooking large perch and trout.

Type of bait/lure to use: Worms, cutbait, shrimp, liver – really anything smelly enough to attract the variety of species in the bay. 


You’ll Love Fishing in McCall, Idaho

Not only is McCall the place to visit purely for the scenic mountain vistas, but it has incredible fishing opportunities for every type of angler. Just a 2 hour drive north from Boise, you’ll love the welcoming nature and outdoor activities here.

If you want to track down even more secluded spots, take the time to check out Herrick Reservoir, Lost Valley Reservoir, and the North Fork of the Payette River. These spots can be underutilized, but offer unique opportunities of their own when you’re searching for a day of complete privacy on the water.

Whether you’re looking to catch trophy-sized trout or take the family on an incredible outdoor adventure, outstanding experiences are sure to be had year round. Take a fishing trip in McCall to encounter the exhilarating moment of catching your target species while taking in Idaho’s stunning landscape!