Idaho angler catches Bear Lake Mackinaw on Bonneville cisco

The Fishing Gods. Karma. Serendipity. Call it what you’ll, however nearly each angler is superstitious. It’s why bananas aren’t allowed on boats and catching a fish on the primary forged is taken into account taboo.

I’m not too excessive, however I do really feel strongly about one factor — in a sport the place luck is at all times a part of the equation, it pays to place some good vibes into the universe.

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Over the years, I’ve made efforts to assist different anglers. A pleasant phrase of recommendation. Donating a secret bait or fortunate lure. Sharing suggestions and stories with Idaho Statesman readers and audiences at my fishing lessons. A man can’t give away all his hard-earned secrets and techniques, however he can no less than give trustworthy, useful recommendation.

I lately made the trek to Bear Lake for one final ice fishing hurrah with my buddy Dallas — the primary time both of us had fished one in every of Idaho’s most original waterways. To compensate for my lack of expertise on such an expansive lake, I did thorough analysis and dialed up a plan for pursuing Bear Lake’s two prime predators: the Mackinaw trout and the Bonneville cutthroat.

There had been already a couple of locals arrange once we arrived at our spot. We slotted in and set to work with tube jigs, watching our flashers for fishy exercise. An hour glided by with out a chunk, so I began downsizing lures (a tried-and-true technique on finicky days).

After one other half-hour, our closest neighbor connected. He was fishing solo, so I hustled over to see if he wanted assist. I arrived simply in time to see a fats, 18-inch cutthroat come by way of the ice.

“A Bonneville!” I smiled. “Nice fish!”

I chatted with the pleasant native, who gave me some new data (this was the primary time in six years Bear Lake was ice fishable) and confirmed a couple of suspicions (these fish had been tight-lipped and hugging the underside). Most importantly, he revealed the bait he was tipping his jigs with: cisco.

This was no shock — Bonneville cisco are an enormous a part of what makes Bear Lake such a cool fishery. They are one in every of 5 endemic species within the lake, which implies they’re discovered nowhere else on Earth! Cisco are sardine-like baitfish that present nice forage for cutthroats and Mackinaw. When they spawn in January, locals flock to catch them. Many harvest them as meals; hardcore anglers use them as bait.

On some days, sucker and Kokanee reduce bait would have executed the trick. But with bites few and much between, I surmised cisco was the lacking piece of our puzzle.

“I’ll trade you any lure in my tackle box for a chunk of cisco,” I provided.

“A fair deal!” our neighbor smiled. “But you guys can have the rest of this one, free of charge.”

Fishing goodwill had come full-circle, and as we added cisco to our jigs, I felt assured it was a profitable combo. Within minutes, a fish appeared on my flasher and commenced nosing my lure with delicate bites. I timed it up and took my shot, swinging exhausting to set the hook 50 ft under.

FISH ON!! Our thriller quarry didn’t do a lot at first, however after I acquired it shut sufficient for Dallas to catch a glimpse, it took off on a line-peeling run. My hook held agency, and we quickly slid a chunky, two-foot Mackinaw onto the ice.

I pointed in acknowledgment at our neighbor, who nodded his approval.

“Thanks for the assist, brother!” I hollered.

Twenty minutes later, Dallas had a fish seize his bait and race off with authority. This fish fought so exhausting, we thought it is likely to be one in every of Bear Lake’s legendary giants. It turned out to be one other good Mackinaw within the four-pound class, however it had Dallas grinning from ear-to-ear.

“I’m telling you,” chuckled our companion, who had wandered over to look at the battle. “When the bite is tough like this, cisco is the only thing they’ll eat.”

No argument right here. We thanked him once more and vowed to pay it ahead. It’s a promise I intend to maintain. Because typically, a pleasant help can flip a sluggish day of fishing right into a journey to recollect. Tight strains!

Jordan Rodriguez has been fishing Idaho waters since he was a teen. Share your fish tales, adventures and questions with him at, or go to for the most recent native fishing stories and upcoming class choices.

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