One of the unfortunate things that happens in desert states like Idaho is that lakes can dry up, or become so low in the winter that a solid freeze kills most of the fish.
That conundrum — along with aquatic weed growth that compounded the issue and two unsafe bridges that had to be rebuilt along the only motorized access road — put Mormon Reservoir south of Fairfield off the map for the better part of the 2010s.
But there’s good news! The bridges have been rebuilt and, thanks in part to aggressive weed management and fish stocking by Fish & Game, Mormon is back in business. I started to hear rumblings of folks catching nice fish at Mormon over the summer, so when the lake froze over, I decided to investigate.
I made my maiden voyage to Mormon with two buddies, Justin and Joe. We weren’t exactly sure where to fish, but we wound up with a nice patch of real estate about 20 yards from shore, where the water was about 10 feet deep.
With three anglers fishing five rods apiece, we were able to spread out and cover a decent swath of lake. Within 20 minutes of having our lines set, Joe got his first nibble.
Tap, tap, tap. Tap, tap, tap. The fish played with the jig ever so lightly.
“Let him have it!” chided Justin. But Joe expertly waited for the perfect moment to set the hook.
A healthy rainbow trout gave Joe a strong fight before joining us top-side. We were impressed to see a 17-inch specimen — not bad for a lake that was considered dead a couple years ago.
Shortly after helping Joe re-bait his hook, one of my rods started bouncing. I raced over and set the hook on another solid fish.
“This was a good decision,” said Justin, another first-time visitor to Mormon Reservoir.
The rest of the morning followed suit, with bites coming about every 15 minutes. The fish seemed to migrate through in waves—we would see the group to our left start getting bites and, minutes later, the fish made their way through our camp.
Somehow, the fish managed to avoid Justin’s lines until after lunchtime. After checking his bait and resetting his rods, Justin made an announcement:
“You boys are in trouble now!”
Sure enough, Justin was the next one to get a bite — but the fish struck with such force, it dragged his rod down the hole.
I proceeded to share the “Miracle on Ice” story when I lost, but later rescued my favorite ice rod after a fish stole it at Lake Cascade. The fishing gods must have been listening, because 10 minutes later, one of my rods hooked Justin’s line. We lost the fish, but were able to recover the rod.
“What are the odds?” Justin wondered in disbelief. “If I hadn’t seen it, I might not have believed you.”
Justin finally got on board — with his rescued rod, no less — and we wrapped up the trip with about a dozen nice trout and two keeper-sized perch.
Our journey to Mormon Reservoir was a success. And despite what you may have heard, throwing back 10 percent of what you catch is not required.
Go do it! Mormon Reservoir is located about five miles south of the town of Fairfield. Access signs point the way from Highway 20. One hint if you make the trip — try to arrive early. Parking is limited, and it fills up fast on weekends.