Joe's Fishing Hole: Time to winterize spinning tackle
Joe’s Fishing Hole

Joe's Fishing Hole: Time to winterize spinning tackle

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December is here, Wildhorse is about 25% ice covered and most anglers have put away their gear for the year. If you aren’t careful, your first fishing trip next spring may be interrupted by a trip to the store to replace the gear you didn’t take the time to winterize. Let’s talk about winterizing spinning tackle.

Take the rod apart, clean it with cold soapy water, dry it and inspect it for damage. Check the guides to make sure they aren’t loose or that there aren’t rough edges that might damage your line. Replace any guides necessary. It’s not that hard and directions can be found on the internet.

Take the reel apart, remove any grit or sand. You can use compressed air or a stiff brush to remove any of the dry gunk, wash the reel, rinse and dry it off. Follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for lubrication.

So what to do about the fishing line? Monofilament line absorbs water, which weakens it, decreases its sensitivity, and make knots less effective. Sunlight also degrades monofilament, especially if left in the car where it goes through heating and cooling cycles.

Monofilament is a synthetic material that is made by heating polymers and extruding them through a form making a long single strand. Since heat is involved, it only stands to reason that exposing to extreme heat will affect it adversely. Most anglers replace their monofilament at least once a year and those who compete will replace it more often. So now is the time to replace it. Store the rod, reel and line in a cool place away from sunlight.

Clean out your tackle box. It is amazing the stuff that ends up accumulating there. I have found globs of soft plastics in the bottom from leaving my box in the car on a hot summer day. Clean and re-organize it. Clean off your lures and baits, tightening the eyes on them, replacing worn split rings and sharpening the hooks. Make sure everything is dry and store with the rest of your gear in a dark, cool place.


As of Thursday, December 5, the lake was between 25 – 40% ice covered with very unsafe ice. There are still some spots along the shoreline where one may fish open water, but they are disappearing. The 10 day forecast is mixed with most nights in the teens and 20s and daytime highs in the 30s and even around 40 degrees, so while ice will continue to grow, safe ice is a ways out. With the ice buildup, boating is done for the year. If you want to fish from a boat, go to South Fork. Up to now, fishing for trout has been good. Bass fishing is done for the year. For fly rodders black balanced leeches with some blue or red flash have been productive. Of course, the standby wooly buggers, leech patterns, hares ears, prince nymphs and copper Johns should all work as well. Chartreuse PowerBait, perch colored minnow imitations and black or dark green spinners with gold or yellow spots should be tried by spin fishermen. Fishing in the stream below the dam is has also been good especially in the pool directly below it. The campground is open and on a first come first served basis.


As of Wednesday, December 4, the lake was ice free with surface water temperatures at the main boat ramp were still hovering around 40 degrees. Generally, this lake is a week or two or three behind Wildhorse so it may have open water for fishing for a while. Trout fishing has finally gotten good here with a number of anglers reporting limits of three to five-pound trout! Coyote Cove is still producing some nice fish averaging 14 to 18 inches using worms or PowerBait. Fly rodders from float tubes and boats have done well with sparsely tied leech patterns along the weed beds at the south end of the lake and anywhere there is a ledge dropping off into deeper water. Fishing is fair to good from the main boat ramp cove up to the dam. Black leeches have worked at the south end and chironomids were working at the main boat ramp cove. Other flies to try include black, brown or wine colored wooly buggers and leaches, hares ears, prince nymphs, Carrie specials, balanced leeches and copper Johns. For spin anglers dark spinners with gold or yellow contrast colors and minnow imitating lures should all work. Bait fishermen should use very small worms on a small hook or PowerBait rolled into a bell shape and floated off of the bottom using a slip sinker. Bass fishing is probably done for the year.


This impoundment is mostly ice covered with no shore access for fishing. With the colder predicted temperatures expect the lake to freeze over this weekend and with an aerator running to help prevent a winter fish kill, any ice here this winter should be considered unsafe.


No recent fishing report from Wilson. With this week’s precipitation, expect 4WD conditions to get to Wilson Sink Reservoir.


Water levels in the collection ditch are low and clear and fishing for trout is fair to good depending upon the day. Stormy, windy or cloudy days seem to be the best. Anglers would do well to target areas where springs flow into the ditch or around culverts that create some flow between the ditch and the units. Very small dark flies fished dry or just under the surface have worked as have streamers and spinners. Anglers should also plan to use the usual small nymphs such as PT’s, hares ears, olive soft hackles, red or blue copper Johns and prince nymphs in sizes from 14 to 18. Wooly and crystal buggers in black, purple or olive are also working. Egg patterns should start working soon. Travel over Harrison Pass is not recommended.


No recent report but expect some ice here as well with shore access to open water poor. Expect the lake to freeze over with unsafe ice any time if it already hasn’t done so. As a general rule, any ice here should not be considered safe until after January 1st.


This lake is at about 80% capacity and was 100% open just a week ago and with the stormy weather is probably still open due to winds and these warmer afternoons.


Due to work that needs to be done on the dam, the water level is down about 12 feet and is 80% covered in very unsafe ice. During construction next summer, Cave Lake State Park will remain open to the public, and visitors can continue to enjoy kayaking, fishing, swimming, and other recreational activities.


Comins Lake is completely covered in unsafe ice.


Illipah is completely covered in unsafe ice. One positive note, it is at capacity which hasn’t happened in the fall in recent memory. This is great news for this awesome fishery.


The lake level has dropped over the past few weeks and fishing is slow. There was a problem with one of the outflow valves being stuck open, but it is fixed now. This lake is freezing over as well.


Angel Lake is completely frozen over and the road is closed for the winter, so there will be no fishing reports until late next spring or early next summer depending upon winter weather.


The high mountain lakes are iced over and there will be no fishing reports on the high mountain lakes in the Rubies or East Humboldt’s until late next spring or early next summer depending upon winter weather.


With low flows, cold nights and snow, fishing is slow on the streams and streambanks are difficult to navigate. Recent precipitation has the streams flowing a bit more but they are turbid. Nymphs and small streamers should be working though expect bites to be very subtle in the cold weather. Fishing the tailwaters below both Wildhorse and South Fork dams has been good for reservoir sized fish though flows below South Fork Reservoir are low and anglers will have the best luck hitting the pools where larger fish have been trapped due to the low flows. As of Thursday, December 5, the East Fork of the Owyhee showing ice at the station near Mountain City, the Bruneau River up 5 cfs at 32 cfs but you have to get there from Idaho, the Jarbidge River at 7 cfs, Salmon Falls Creek at 71 cfs, Lamoille Creek at 5 cfs, South Fork of the Humboldt between 20 and 25 cfs, Cleve Creek at 9 cfs and Steptoe Creek at 5 cfs.


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