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Fishery gems of the Gem State: Mountain lakes

Fishery gems of the Gem State: Mountain lakes

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BOISE — When summer crowds descend on our more popular river fisheries, solitude during your fishing excursions can be increasingly hard to find. Fortunately, for those willing to put in a little effort, there are still plenty of destinations available in Idaho that not only often offer solitude, but exceptional fishing, gorgeous scenery, and diverse target species which may not be found at lower elevations.

These are our mountain lakes. With over 1,000 mountain lakes in Idaho that hold fish, you can spend a lifetime exploring the backcountry of Idaho visiting new mountain lakes. Late summer and early fall are some of the best times to fish mountain lakes as fish are actively feeding and putting on reserves for the upcoming winter. With so many options of lakes and drainages to choose from, it can be difficult figuring out where to plan your mountain lake trip. Luckily, the Idaho Department of Fish and Game’s Fishing Planner located on our website can help here.

Fishing after the first snow

Jose De los Reyes, right, and his grandson Diego, 13, fish at Lake Cleveland after the first snow fell in the Albion Mountains, Tuesday, September 8, 2020.

The Fishing Planner helps you identify which species are present in the lake based on available surveys, what the stocking history has been, and what the regulations are. Part of the Fishing Planner includes an interactive map which allows the user to easily check out what nearby streams and lakes have to offer. For more information on how to use the Fishing Planner to research mountain lakes, check out this IDFG YouTube video,, which also describes how IDFG monitors and manages these gems of the Gem State.

Locally, we have 43 mountain lakes in the Upper Snake Region that currently support fisheries including the highest elevation fish-bearing lakes in the state! I’ve been to all of them, and it is really hard trying to pin down a favorite. Species in our region’s lakes include Yellowstone cutthroat trout, rainbow trout, brook trout, tiger trout, arctic grayling, and golden trout. Of the 43 Upper Snake Region lakes, 34 are routinely stocked with fish to support the fisheries. The rest support themselves through natural reproduction.

This year, IDFG staff performed surveys on five of our mountain lakes, including Bench Lake, Goat Lake, and Angel Lake in the Big Lost drainage, Divide Creek Lake in the Medicine Lodge drainage, and Packsaddle Lake in the Teton drainage. These surveys provide valuable insight into how many fish are in the lake, how fast they are growing, how difficult they are to catch, whether fish are naturally reproducing, how much angler use may be occurring, and other information that is useful for making management decisions on these small, but amazing waters.

If you would like to learn more about mountain lakes in the Upper Snake Region, feel free to stop by the office or give us a call. These lake offer something for everyone, not only in terms of fish species and scenery, but also in terms of access. Some lakes are accessible via motorized vehicle, some are accessible by a non-motorized trail, and some lakes do not have trail or road access to them. If you’re looking for solitude, great fishing, great scenery, and some unique species to fish for, Idaho offers you plenty of options at our mountain lakes!


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The J.R. Simplot Company has partnered with the Idaho Department of Fish and Game to open approximately 10,000 acres of the company’s private property in southeast Idaho’s highlands for hunting, fishing and recreation use.

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