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At first glance, sitting on a frozen lake staring down a narrow hole in the ice waiting for a fish to bite may not seem all that exciting. In fact, it seems cold. And boring? Until you talk to Chris Weber. A more enthusiastic fisherman you won’t meet and his passion for the nuances and skill of ice fishing is contagious.
Born and raised in Wisconsin, Weber was lured (yep, we went there) to Idaho full time by the perch in Lake Cascade. “In the Midwest, a big perch is about 10 inches,” says Weber. “We always here about this bucket list experience in Idaho where you can pull 16-plus inch perch out of the water.” Three years ago, he made his first trip out. “I was actually here to elk hunt, but by chance stopped at Tackle Toms and ended up fishing with a group of guys and caught a ton of fish.” He went back to Wisconsin with a great fish tale and a plan to bring his wife back to Cascade to ice fish. After multiple trips and two-pound perch, he offered his guiding services to some fellow fisherman not thinking it would amount to much – then he got a call from Tamarack Resort looking for a full-time fishing guide and the stars aligned. He quit his job and he and his wife packed up and moved to Cascade in 2021 for his first winter as a fishing guide.
So, what makes ice fishing worth leaving one life for another? For Weber, it is the endless variables that keep fishing on the ice interesting and challenging. “If you think about open water fishing, which I also love,” says Weber, “you basically cast a line out into a large expanse.” In contrast, with ice fishing, you can only fish out of the holes you drill into the ice. It requires precision. “You are basically fishing straight down and you are targeting a very specific area. And once a fish swims by you have to entice that fish to bite.” To do that requires technique and skill…and some luck. But those challenges are what make ice fishing so fun. Not to mention reeling in a fish is one of the more exciting experiences on the water, especially if it is a trophy size perch.
For newbies to the ice fishing realm, the best way to get hooked is to go with an experienced fisherman/fisherwoman. A guide like Weber can get you started on the right foot. “My job is to eliminate all of those things that would make you uncomfortable so you can just enjoy fishing,” says Weber. It is also a great introduction to equipment, techniques, and local fishing holes.
A guided trip starts on shore. In most cases, getting to the fishing area includes a snowmobile ride across the lake the setting up a home base for the day. “We put up a heated shack and it makes it a really nice environment to fish in,” says Weber. Often temps inside a shack can get to 60 degrees. “Once we have a spot and have drilled some initial holes to fish from, we get the fishfinder out and get a great underwater view below us,” he says. And it is a setup like this that can make all of the difference in a good first experience or a disappointing one. “Like all sports,” Weber says, “ice fishing requires some equipment and you get out of it what you put into it.” While they can be more expensive, a gas or electric auger makes drilling through the ice much easier and tools like a fishfinder help you stay consistent and catch more fish.
“A guided trip can be a great way to get an introduction to the gear and equipment before you invest, especially if you are new to the sport,” says Weber. And going with a guide isn’t just for those new to the sport. Booking a guided trip is also a great way to learn about a new area. “My wife and I have traveled to a lot of different places to fish and we love spending a day or a morning with a guide to get to know the water and what’s biting,” says Weber. “We are always happy to pay for the local knowledge.” And that drive to keep learning, keep honing his skills is another reason Weber loves to be on the water – frozen or not. “I love continuing to learn new techniques and finding new places to fish,” he says. “Every day is different.”
Ice safety is a big deal when it comes to ice fishing. As a general rule of thumb, you can walk on the ice once it is four inches thick, but a snowmobile needs at least seven inches of ice. Idaho Fish and game has weekly reports on ice conditions – but keep in mind that lakes don’t freeze uniformly. “There are a lot of variables that can impact the ice,” says Weber. “One end of a lake may get a bigger snowfall than the other and that snow makes the ice really slushy.”
Know what fish to find where! Lake Cascade is prime for trophy perch, but you can also catch rainbow trout. Horsethief Reservoir and Warm Lake are great for rainbow and brown trout. Same goes for Payette Lake where you can find some of the biggest trout in the area.
Want to get on the ice? Tamarack Resort offers guided ice fishing trips with guide extraordinaire Chris Weber. To schedule your trip, call Chris at (920) 728-2818.