Idaho anglers get ready for Free Fishing Day

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RALPH BARTHOLDT/Press Anglers fish off the dock at Kelso Lake north of Athol.

Many Idaho anglers had their initial introduction to fishing during the second Saturday of June when the fish and game department opens Idaho waters to anglers from all over the place, allowing them to fish in Idaho without a license.

All other rules, including bag limits and bait restrictions, apply.

Taking kids fishing on Idaho’s Free Fishing Day, scheduled for June 8 this year, is a super way to introduce youngsters to an endeavor that may turn into a lifelong love of catching fish and enjoying the state’s abundant fishery resources, Jeff Smith of Fins and Feathers Tackle Shop and Guide Service said.

“It’s a pretty busy day, but we have lots of lakes and a lot of water to fish on,” Smith said.

It only takes a few basic items to start.

One of them is knowing where to go. Idaho’s Panhandle has a number of small ponds that are public fishing waters and managed by the state’s fisheries department. On the morning of free fishing day try Post Falls Park Pond, Ponderosa Springs Golf Course Pond, Steamboat Pond along the Coeur d’Alene River, Osburn’s Gene Day Pond, or Spicer Pond in St. Maries. There are also 41 navigable lakes in the Panhandle — including the Coeur d’Alene River chain lakes — and a lot of smaller lakes that don’t allow motorized boat traffic.

Tools of the trade

For an inexpensive rod and reel combo, anglers may want to try a spin cast outfit.

“Spin cast or open face spinning,” Smith said. “If you teach (kids) to cast, they can cast.”

Spin cast reels have a push-button release and they were likely the first reel many experienced anglers started out using as kids. Spincast reels are known to be inexpensive, easy to use, and are commonly used by children and casual anglers.

Spincast rods, made by companies such as Zebco and Shakespeare, are affordable and can last a long time.

Fishing line is available in a variety of materials and sizes. Larger diameter lines are stronger than smaller diameter lines made of the same material. Monofilament lines are buoyant and will stretch, while fluorocarbon lines are abrasion resistant and almost invisible underwater. Most novices start with monofilament usually in a 6 to 8-pound test.

“Lighter line is easier to cast,” Smith said.

Bait

From there, a beginning angler will likely grab hooks, weights and floats. Weights are necessary to cast farther and keep bait under water. Look for hooks that are sharp, durable and long lasting. They are available in almost every tackle shop and anglers should consider a size for crappies or panfish, probably a size 6 or 8.

Floats are also called bobbers or strike indicators. They keep your bait off the bottom of the lake and allow anglers to see when a fish grabs it. First time anglers usually prefer a piece of worm, or a maggot — a small grub — on their hooks. Worms, as well as maggots can be purchased at bait shops.

“Everybody likes to bobber fish, because it’s exciting. Kids really like it because they can see the bobber moving, and they know there’s something on there,” Smith said. “It brings out the kid in you.”

Fish and Game usually stocks lakes such as Fernan and Kelso, north of Athol, before free fishing day. Kelso Lake received 1,250 rainbow trout last week, Spicer Pond received more than a 1,200 rainbows over six inches long, and Fernan has been stocked with more than 2,000 rainbows so far this spring.

Check the Idaho Fish and Game rule book for bag limits and restrictions.

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