Experienced ice fisherman shares advice
BLACKFOOT — Doug Coffman's earliest memories of ice fishing go back nearly five decades.
"When I was about 12 years old, my maternal grandfather (Lionel Harris) asked if I wanted to go ice fishing with him and I jumped at the chance," said Coffman, a Blackfoot businessman.
At that time, they went to Fish Creek Reservoir northwest of Craters of the Moon.
"The fishing was great," Coffman said. "It was hot."
In Eastern Idaho ice fishermen can catch trout, Kokanee salmon, yellow perch, bluegill and an occasional bass depending upon the waters.
The reservoirs around the Preston and Malad areas, for example, yield a little bit of everything while those north and west of Blackfoot primarily have trout and Kokanee.
With today's temperatures hovering near zero, some people might question Coffman's sanity when he talks passionately of ice fishing.
"First of all, I love to fish year-round," Coffman said. "Ice fishing helps break the cabin fever I experience when I'm cooped up inside during Idaho's long winters."
When Coffman began ice fishing with his grandfather, Fish Creek Reservoir had one of the best catch rates for wintertime in the nation.
Officials eventually breeched Fish Creek Reservoir's dam after it had become unstable. As a result, it's no longer a prime fishery.
"My favorite ice fishing spot is Mackay Reservoir," Coffman said. "It's famous for its Kokanee and trout and year-round fishing.
"With Kokanee at Mackay, sometimes you can catch your limit of six in 30 minutes," Coffman said.
When there's good Kokanee fishing at Mackay, wooden warming huts pop up around the ice. Coffman said many of them are there throughout the winter.
While Mackay Reservoir is Coffman's favorite spot for ice fishing, there are plenty of others within a couple hour's drive of Bingham County's communities. These include the reservoirs at Ririe, American Falls (Sportsmen's Park), Chesterfield and Devil Creek.
Coffman has several words of advice for those who want to try the sport.
"Two or more people should go together for safety reasons," he said.
He also stressed the importance of dressing warmly, wearing several layers to maximize the insulating effects of the clothing.
For more tips on equipment, Coffman suggested checking out the sporting goods departments at Wal-Mart and Cal Ranch in Blackfoot, Ace Hardware in Pocatello and Sportsmen's Warehouse in Idaho Falls as some of the businesses he patronizes.