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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Subfreezing temperatures warm up ice fishing prospects

Rich Landers Outdoors editor

The weather, at long last, is giving anglers a reason to chill.

“The last time I was thinking seriously about ice fishing was late in 2001,” said Phil Cooper, Idaho Fish and Game Department spokesman in Coeur d’Alene. “We simply haven’t had cold enough weather to freeze the surfaces of area lakes the past two winters.”

The recent cold snap, however, has made ice fishing possible at many lakes, from the Panhandle west to the special winter fishery at Fourth of July Lake near Sprague.

A minimum of three and preferably four inches of clear, blue ice is sufficient to support a single angler and five will hold several marching onto a lake in single file, he said. On moving water or areas with springs, ice can be less dependable.

Warm spells can quickly change conditions.

North Idaho offers some excellent ice fishing for yellow perch and northern pike, as well as decent shots at crappie, bluegill, bass, cutthroat, rainbow and kokanee, he said.

“Mornings and evenings are often the most productive fishing times, with slow periods in the middle of the day,” he said.

“For yellow perch and other panfish, auger a few holes until you find a spot about 20-25 feet deep and fish just above the bottom using maggots, cut bait or black marabou jigs.

“Places where action should be good (provided the ice is solid) include Avondale, Upper Twin, Cocolalla, Rose and Fernan lakes. Try Medicine and Killarney for pike, also Hayden and Coeur d’Alene for pike when well frozen. Use smelt or herring 3-4 feet below the ice.

“When ice conditions permit, try Spirit Lake for kokanee in the very early morning. Kokanee school up, so look for other anglers catching fish and without crowding them too much, auger a hole nearby. Use a bead chain with a maggot tipped glow hook.”

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