Fishing guide

Idaho Fishing Guide: Rules, Equipment & Where To Find The Best Spots


With over 26,000 miles of streams and rivers, 3,000 natural lakes, and hundreds of thousands of acres of ponds and reservoirs, Idaho has no shortage of opportunities for would-be anglers.

The Gem State has seen an increasing number of anglers over the past two decades. In 2020, the Idaho Department of Fisheries and Game reported a 10-year high in fishing license sales, a 15% increase from the previous year.

“Idaho is very fortunate in that we are primarily a very rural state,” said Martin Koenig, IDFG sport fishing coordinator. “We have a lot of public resources, public land. We have a good fishery and it is easily accessible.”

But if you’re new to fishing, it can be a bit overwhelming when trying to figure out what kind of gear you’ll need, whether you need a license, and where to find the best fishing spots.

This guide aims to provide that information – along with links to helpful resources – that you’ll need to get started fishing in Idaho.

To fish in Idaho you will need:

  • Know the rules and regulations
  • A fishing license
  • Appropriate equipment
  • A place to go

Tip: Click on the chapters above to access the different sections of the guide.

Obtain a fishing license

All Idaho anglers aged 14 and over must purchase a fishing license. Idaho residents under the age of 14 do not need a fishing license. Non-residents under the age of 14 do not need a license if they are fishing with an adult who has a valid Idaho fishing license. The catches of a non-resident child count towards the licensed adult limit.

Idaho Fish and Game offers a wide range of options for purchasing fishing licenses. As of 2021, an adult license costs $ 30.50 and a junior license (14-17 years old) costs $ 16. Licenses are valid from January 1 to December 31, regardless of the date of purchase. Fishing licenses can also be combined with hunting licenses.

Other options include one-day, three-year, and lifetime licenses. Significant license discounts are available to disabled veterans, military members on leave and people with disabilities.

Residents and non-residents are required to purchase special permits for salmon and rainbow trout fishing, or if they are fishing with two rods.

Licenses can be purchased online, from a vendor (click or tap here for a map of companies that sell licenses), by phone at 1-800-554-8685, or in person at any Fish regional office. & Game.

Prepare yourselves

For many first-time anglers, the most daunting part of learning to fish is getting their hands on the right equipment. This can be an expensive endeavor, especially if you walk around a sporting goods store not knowing what you need and end up with hundreds of dollars (or more!) Of equipment you don’t have. maybe not need.

The most important piece of equipment in your kit is, of course, your fishing rod and reel. IDFG recommends starting with a simple 5 to 6 foot rod and reel combination with a 4 to 8 pound monofilament fishing line. A closed spool with a thumb button to release and stop the line is easy to use. And a simple hook, weight, and bobber setup is great for beginners (see image below).

Fly fishing is another popular option for Idaho anglers. It requires a different type of rod and line and generally takes more practice than casting or standard bait casting to become proficient. This Drifthook article explains well the differences in equipment and techniques between fly fishing and spin fishing.

In addition to a rod and reel, you’ll need several other basic supplies to get started:

  • Pliers to remove hooks from your fish
  • Stringer or bucket of water to keep your fish cool (catch and hold only)
  • A knife to clean your fish (catch and keep only)
  • A ruler to measure your fish
  • Nail clippers or scissors for cutting line.
  • Cooler with ice to keep fish cool during transport (catch and storage only)

Learn to fish

If you’ve never fished before, you can always go to your local fishing hole, cast a line, and try your luck. But it’s always better to learn from someone who knows what they’re doing.

If you have a friend or family member who enjoys fishing, ask if you can go with them on their next outing. otherwise, a simple Google search reveals a plethora of professional local fishing lessons and online video tutorials for everyone from beginners to experts. For example, sporting goods company Orvis offers a variety of online fly fishing video lessons that include everything from how to get started tying flies.

Whether you are just learning the basics or wanting to try fly fishing for the first time, the options are plentiful.

Idaho Fish and Game also offers several free and family-friendly events to help novice anglers learn about fishing. During the summer months, IDFG installs portable trailers in local ponds statewide. Called “Take Me Fishing” trailers, they are stocked with equipment and knowledgeable people ready to help kids and parents get started fishing.

One day a year, the state allows fishing without a license. Free Fishing Day takes place on the second Saturday in June each year. Fish and Game staff and volunteers have organized several free events in local fishing waters across the state to help first-timers familiarize themselves with the sport.

Find a good fishing spot

Considering Idaho’s bountiful rivers and lakes, it’s no surprise that the state is considered a fishing utopia.

Good fishing is available throughout Idaho, but there are some spots that are better for beginners and kids. The Angler’s Guide to Gem State has information and locations for small lakes and ponds throughout the state.

The Angler’s Guide is organized by regions of the state, so you can focus on specific areas closest to you.

Family fishing waters

The IDFG has identified dozens of prime locations throughout Idaho that are designated family fishing waters. These are places with easy access, facilities and a good chance of catching fish. Often these places are populated with fish.

Recommended fishing waters

Fishing and hunting managers have also identified a list of recommended fishing waters – rivers, lakes, and streams that are good for catching fish and have reasonable access.

“These are the places our biologists would recommend to their loved ones (whom they love) who come from out of town,” the IDFG website read.

Do you already have an idea of ​​where you are going to fish and want to know what types of fish you will find there? Check out the Idaho Fishing Planner, a more advanced tool that will give you detailed information about specific lakes, reservoirs, rivers, and streams, including restocking reports, species, facilities, maps, and rules.

Set or break a record

To measure the popularity of fishing in Gem State, more than two dozen catch and release records were set in 2020, more than in any year since the state began fishing. follow in 2016. Six other certified weight records were also set. .

If you are looking for an extra challenge in your angling adventure, consider trying to break an existing record or set a record that has not yet been set.

Idaho divides its fishing records into two categories: catch and release and certified weight. Catch and release are based on the length of the fish, which must then be released alive. The certified weight is, as indicated, based on the total weight of the fish using a certified scale. Fish may be caught, according to the rules applicable to the species of fish and the place where it was caught.

In both categories, applicants must submit a completed form that includes the signature of an eyewitness to the measure.

Catch and release certifications also require at least one photo of the fish with the fisherman and two or three photos of the measurement process.

Certified weight records require a receipt from a certified scale documenting the weight, species verification by Idaho Fish and Game, and at least one photo of the fish.

Additionally, to be eligible for a state record, the fish must be caught in Idaho by the holder of a valid Idaho fishing license and must be caught using legal methods in waters accessible to the public. public. All requests must be submitted within 30 days of the date of capture.

View the full list of catch and release guidelines and certified weight records.