McCall Logo

Where to Go Ice Fishing in McCall, Idaho

The Best Rental Cabins, Homes, Lakefront Estates and Romantic Getaways in McCall, Donnelly, Cascade & New Meadows

One of the most popular activities to take part in while vacationing in the small mountain resort town of McCall, Idaho, is ice fishing.

At your McCall mountain vacation rental, nature awaits at every turn. Forests, mountains, and picturesque landscapes offer a respite from the busy, taxing speed of everyday life. The lakes and rivers in the surrounding area are rife with rainbow trout, brown trout, and even Kokanee salmon and offer some of the best ice fishing in North America.

McCall is heaving with outdoor activities suited for all levels of experience. Even if you’re a first-timer, we recommend you try your hand at ice fishing. Surprise yourself; you might just be an angler, after all!

Why is McCall a Great Place for Ice Fishing

Photo Credit: Alexander Lukatskiy

Winter in McCall is open season for skiing, snowshoeing, and snowmobiling adventures. It is also the ideal time to try your hand at ice fishing.

Once the snow falls, temperatures drop, and the bodies of water freeze over, putting the “ice” in ice fishing! Nestled next to Payette Lake and just a few minutes more from Cascade Lake, McCall, Idaho, is uniquely situated to be a hotspot for this cold sport.

The surrounding bodies of water are integral pieces of other Idaho waterways.

Lake Cascade, in particular, is a significant tributary of Lake Tahoe. The wildlife in these fresh mountain waters makes the area a well-populated and diverse fishery.

About Ice Fishing

Photo Credit:

Ice fishing in Idaho dates back centuries, offering a unique form of winter recreation. The state’s unparalleled natural beauty makes it a prime spot for anglers to brave the cold.

The earliest documented ice fishing in Idaho occurred in 1929 at Bear Lake, when anglers caught whitefish on spears and snagging hooks. Since then, the practice has been popular all over Idaho, with thousands of visitors coming annually to enjoy ice fishing.

Today, modern technology has allowed anglers access to remote frozen lakes with specialized huts and shelters, making ice fishing more accessible than ever before.

With its stunning mountain views and access to incredible game fish like cutthroats, perches, and rainbows, ice fishing in Idaho is a must-have adventure for any outdoor enthusiast.

A Beginner’s Guide To Ice Fishing

Ice fishing is the zen side of sport fishing. Much of ice fishing is sitting and waiting, enjoying nature and everything it offers. Grab a fishing pole, something to sit on, and some patience, and you’ll be good to go.

The best part about taking up ice fishing is that if you possess the patience, there is a relatively low barrier of entry to this outdoor fishing sport – meaning you don’t need much experience!

Perhaps the best part of ice fishing is the ability to slow down and take in your surroundings. It’s no secret that mountain air is good for the soul, and McCall has plenty of it. Catch up with a friend, take some photos of the landscapes, or just enjoy some quiet moments of meditation. You’ll have peace of mind even if you don’t get a bite.

The Ice Fishing Season

The best conditions for ice fishing season tend to fall between January and March, with March being the best time to fish.

March is late enough into winter that the temperatures are far below freezing but early enough that you won’t catch the melting ice typical of spring.

Necessary Items For Ice Fishing

While there are a few essential items you’ll need to execute a successful ice fishing excursion, the good news is that there aren’t many!

  • An Auger: An auger is something you must have on your expedition. Without it, you’ll be unable to cut a hole in the ice large enough to fish through.
  • A Fishing Rod: Don’t head out onto the ice without a sturdy fishing pole!
  • A Chair (or a bucket): Most avid fishermen take a regular old bucket or chair out for a seat. You’re going to be there for a while; you might as well be comfortable!
  • Bait: Like traditional fishing, you’ll need bait to hook one under the ice!

You can have a successful outing on the ice with even this basic list of items.

That said, you can certainly add creature comforts to your pack if you’d like. Snacks and warm drinks are always good for keeping the spirits up in the cold. Seasoned ice anglers have also been known to bring tents and even heaters with them.

How to Get Onto the Ice

Although making yourself cozy on the ice might sound enticing, just remember that whatever you bring in must also be hauled out. For this reason, most locals use a snowmobile to get everything on and off the ice.

If you don’t have access to a snowmobile, consider using an ice sled instead. This is another great option to make your trek a little bit easier!

Choosing Bait

Photo Credit: wwwarjag

For the best results, you’ll need to carefully consider which bait you’re using.

If you’re unfamiliar with ice fishing, the sheer number of combinations of bait, jigs, and weights can be overwhelming. Keep it simple, or check in with local experts for advice when in doubt.

McCall is well-known for its fishery options, so you’ll have no trouble finding a local tackle shop stocked with supplies, and fellow local anglers are usually happy to help.

Best Ice Fishing Spots in McCall, Idaho

Some of the best ice fishing spots are nestled into the landscape surrounding McCall. Take your pick of the top locations below.

Little Payette Lake

Little Payette Lake, just ten minutes from McCall, is well-known for its lake trout population. In fact, locals will tell you that it’s not uncommon to see catches up to thirty pounds here.

If lake trout isn’t what you’re after, you can also bet you’ll find some smallmouth bass or tiger muskie here as well.

Cascade Lake

Cascade Lake is one of the state’s largest lakes and one of the prime places to drop a line near McCall.

This is primarily because it has such a substantial supply of yellow perch. Their robust population has won state records and national awards for their numbers. You can also find rainbow trout, smallmouth bass, Coho salmon, and other fish here as well.

Horsethief Reservoir

Fondly dubbed the “magic reservoir,” the Horsethief Reservoir is one of the top trout fisheries to check out near McCall.

It is well-stocked with rainbow trout, brown trout, and Kokanee salmon and is a popular destination for families to fish. For more detail on the best fishing areas in McCall, use the IDFG Fishing planner.

Tips for the Best Ice Fishing in McCall

Whether this is your first time on the ice or you’re a seasoned fisherman, here are some tips to ensure safety while fishing!

Check the Ice Report

All of the latest news and measurements pertaining to ice conditions can be found in the local ice report published daily by the Idaho Fish and Game Department (IDFG).

You’ll want to glance at this carefully before fishing, as it can tell you whether conditions are safe enough to be on the ice. In particular, you’ll want to focus on the depth of the ice for safety reasons.

Watch for Slush

Slush, or slightly melting ice and snow, should be considered when planning your ice fishing adventure.

With a snowmobile, in particular, driving on slush can be treacherous. A buildup of slush can trap your snowmobile and freeze it in place. Take your time and go slow!

Get an Ice Fishing License

With all of the excitement the thought of a fishing trip on the water creates, it can be easy to overlook some of the logistical preparation needs!

The most important of which is a fishing license. The easiest way to get an angler’s license is online at the Idaho Fish and Game Department’s (IDFG) website. Alternatively, some local businesses in McCall are also ice fishing license vendors.

Pro Tip: If you’re out fishing for steelhead or planning to use more than one fishing pole, you’ll need a special permit!

Stay and Ice Fish In McCall, Idaho

Ice fishing and McCall, Idaho, are the perfect combination for an unforgettable experience. Not only will you have a chance to fish and relax in some of the most stunning scenery, but there are also many other outdoor recreation opportunities at your doorstep.

There’s no better way to enjoy a winter vacation or get away from it all than planning a trip to the snow-capped landscapes of McCall. All that’s left is to grab your gear, check the ice conditions and pick your cozy vacation rental.

Featured Image Credit: CSNafzger

Have a question?