It has been an unseasonably warm winter across southern Idaho. And while the spring-like temperatures make it more comfortable to be outside, conditions have been less than ideal for the ice fishing crowd.
For most of the winter, ice fishing destinations around the Magic Valley have been limited. The main body of Magic Reservoir never froze over. Other popular haunts have been hit-and-miss, often freezing for just days at a time before thaws make the ice unsafe again. Serious anglers have had to travel long distances to find consistent opportunities in colder locales like Chesterfield Reservoir and Lake Cascade.
But as she often does, Mother Nature had a curveball up her sleeve. Late February brought the coldest weather of the season, with overnight lows dipping into single digits. And while it can be a pain scraping frost off your windshield every morning, the cold did wonders for fishable lake ice.
I recently took advantage of the opportunity to fish the north end of Magic Reservoir. The narrow channel east of Fairfield off Highway 20 has been the only place to ice fish on Magic for most of the winter, with anglers catching some nice trout, usually in modest numbers.
But something about the cold snap awakened Magic’s prolific perch population.
Our group arrived at Moonstone Landing and sought out 30 feet of water — often a magic number for perch fishing. We found our desired depth less than 100 yards from the shore and set up camp.
When I go ice fishing, I almost always set up the maximum five poles. We had five anglers, so we drilled 25 holes in all. Ice fishing can be a slow process, so it’s good to maximize your chances.
That wasn’t going to be a problem on this day.
Within moments of dropping my first mealworm-tipped jig to the bottom, I felt a bump. Fish on! I reeled in a small perch.
I had barely released the first fish when a second pole—bearing a perch-colored spoon tipped with cut bait—started to wiggle. I set the hook and reeled in another 8-inch perch.
The next several hours offered nonstop action. Our group slipped, slid and sprinted across the ice, reeling up perch after perch after perch. After a while, I decommissioned a few rods and just fished with two. Fishing more holes than that felt like overkill.
The only downside of our red-hot day was size—the fish were all between 6-10 inches. We kept hoping to bump into some 12-inchers, but they must have been too slow to beat the little guys to the bait. Still, out of more than 100 fish caught, we kept a couple dozen for the frying pan.
Our Magic outing was my most productive ice fishing trip of the season, and it sounds like the bite is still on as of this writing. With easy access and steady action, Magic would be a great place for kids, beginners or any angler looking to stock the freezer with perch fillets. But don’t wait too long—with warmer temperatures back in the forecast, this weekend might be your last shot at some ice magic.