Idaho Rod & Reel

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Fishing Lake Cascade
by Sharon Watson


When friends come in from out-of-town and want to sample some of Idaho’s fishing, one of the best choices close to my area, is the popular 30,000-acre Lake Cascade located in Valley County between McCall and Horseshoe Bend Donnelly on Highway 55. The lake is about 70 miles north of Boise on the North Fork of the Payette River. Lake Cascade is the fourth largest lake in Idaho. Fishing season on this lake is year-around.

Year-around, you can count on Cascade’s fertile depths to load up stringers of rainbows, landlocked cohos and tasty perch, crappie and bass. Other fish found there are landlocked kokanee salmon, mountain whitefish, channel catfish, bullheads, northern pikeminnows and pumpkinseeds. Excess steelhead are sometimes stocked there.

Coho and kokanee are difficult to tell apart. Kokanee are plankton feeders so their gills have gill filaments plus long fine rakers close together. Coho are predators, so they have short stubby, widely-spaced rakers.

cascadesmallieCohos are generally out in the middle, deeper areas, so they may not be caught from shore so easily. Plus, Idaho Fish and Game has stopped stocking coho due to budget issues and generally poor fishing returns.

As with any fishing waters, every year is different with weather, lake temperatures, water levels affecting the fishing.

Lake Cascade offers nearly 50 miles of clean, sandy shores perfect for swimming, hiking, and bank fishing with campgrounds and restrooms, boat ramps and good access backroads which completely encircle its fish-filled waters. See Lake Cascade State Park for camping availability. And see Cascade Chamber of Commerce for hiking trails, biking, rafting and other adventures nearby.

Cascade’s most popular gamefish is probably the rainbow trout. Over 400,000 were stocked there last year. Fish and Game began stocking this year in May. They will continue to stock on into July, if it keeps with last year’s schedule. Lots of these planters stick around and grow to a hefty 14-18 inch average in the lakes exceptionally fertile waters.

Rainbows tend to spread evenly over the lake. Bank anglers often limit out as quickly as boaters a mile offshore. Much of the year, you’ll catch trout equally well near the south-end golf course, off Crown Point, or north of Sugarloaf Island.

There are exceptions to this rule, however. Most notable are the several weeks surrounding spring ice-out. During this brief period scads of would-be spawners are circling inshore, looking for a spawning stream. Perfect for bank anglers. (Ice fishing is also fun during winter and early spring.)

Popular hardware on Cascade includes small plugs, spoons, and spinners, and assorted nymphs and streamers, especially from a float tube.

Bass are also great fun on Cascade in the summer for both smallies and largemouths. I prefer surface plugs, especially for largemouths, because I’m an adrenaline junkie, but try rubber grubs and perch patterned crank baits. Crown Point area is best for bass fishing. Smallmouth bass were illegally planted many years ago.

Stopping at Tackle Tom’s shop on the highway in downtown Cascade is the best way to find out about current fishing. They are knowledgeable, friendly with accurate information and can point you to a well-stocked shelf if you need gear.

Perch fishing seems to be doing well at this time. It can only get better from here! You can also call Fish and Game’s regional office in McCall office (208-634-8137) or the regional office in Nampa, Idaho (208-465-8465) for current information on the fishing there. Be sure to get the current fishing regulations from a local sporting goods store or from a Fish and Game office.

Cascade is also loaded with big, fat, ugly, delicious bullheads. Worms, cutbait, shrimp, liver, or other smelly baits bottom–fished in warm, muddy bays will do the job on bullheads, preferably at night when Cascade’s teeming perch population becomes inactive. Other fish you might haul in flopping on the shoreline will be suckers and the northern pikeminnow.

The population of perch is the reliable source at Lake Cascade for white-meated filets. Once you locate a decent school in a feeding mood, drop a worm or fresh piece of cutbait down to the bottom and hang on. The biggest problem is fileting all that superb eating when you get home!


Wildernet for topo map details on Lake Cascade: other campgrounds, horse trails, etc. In addition, they have maps with details of 37 other lakes and reservoirs in Idaho.

There are over 2,000 lakes, reservoirs, and ponds in Idaho. For a list with maps of 600 of these, see iTouchMap.


Flyfisher’s Guide to Idaho by Ken Retallic & Rocky Barker

Idaho’s Best Fishing Waters by Wilderness Adventures Press

Idaho Road and Recreation Atlas by Benchmark

Idaho River Maps & Fishing Guide by Greg Thomas & Greg Lewis

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