Even for a fanatic like me, there aren’t many fishing holes worth a 12-hour round trip.
But legendary Henry’s Lake in eastern Idaho makes the cut — especially in late November, when it is almost always Idaho’s first lake with fishable ice.
This year, I made the cross-state expedition with buddies Caleb, Justin and Adam. We left Boise after work on Friday and began our eastward journey.
Apart from a snowstorm in Burley, the trek passed quickly as we talked about the monsters we might catch and outlined our plan of attack. Before we knew it, we arrived at our crash pad — the Wild Rose Resort on Henry’s west shore.
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After what amounted to little more than a power nap, we were up and at ’em. We layered up and hustled down to the water, fumbling around with our gear in the pre-dawn darkness. Caleb was the first to get a line in the water — before we had the shelter set up, he had put two trout on the ice.
“We’re on ’em, boys!” he hollered.
We were, indeed. Within 10 minutes, Adam landed two fish and lost two more — all from the same hole!
I was next up. A trout snapped up my jig, and this one had some size. I pulled up a fat 17-incher, our first keeper of the day.
“You boys keep catching those little ones,” I taunted. “I’ll handle the big stuff.”
The early-morning excitement continued as I hooked into another nice one. Simultaneously, Caleb’s line started peeling drag.
“Double up!” we yelled in unison. Five minutes later, we iced two keepers. And I’m sad to admit, his was just a little bigger.
As we continued pulling fish through the ice, a nearby angler wondered aloud what our secret was as his rods sat untouched. Then, our new friend revealed his problem — he was from Utah.
“Sorry, brother, these fish only like Idaho tackle,” I teased.
As the sun came up, Justin fired up the camp stove and cooked eggs and sausages. We even shared some breakfast with Utah, then cheered him on when he eventually broke his slump.
We only had three items left on our bucket list — we needed to put Justin on the board, we needed a brook trout, and we needed a true monster over 5 pounds.
I checked one box with a feisty brookie.
“Alright, Justin,” I announced. “Let’s see you get the last two in one shot.”
The Ice Gods heard our plea, because moments later, Justin was on a big one. We gathered around as he fought the giant — a battle made tougher because the fish had the line wrapped around its body. With patience and care, Justin coaxed the fish close enough for us to grab it.
Victory! A gorgeous 20-inch male. He wasn’t quite 5 pounds, but he was close. And he would take the title as the biggest fish of the day.
The action cooled after our red-hot morning, but the trip did not disappoint. Hot food, cold drinks, good fishing and better company made it a journey to remember. And, as usual, Henry’s served up a reminder that we were standing at the gateway to Yellowstone Park. Last year, I saw my first wild wolverine. This year, we spotted a white-cloaked weasel — a lucky critter who gets to live at one of Idaho’s truly magical fishing holes. If you’re lucky enough to spot him, too, give him our regards from Boise.
Note: If you want to make the trip to Henry’s, do it soon. The lake closes to ice fishing on Jan. 2. If you want to ice fish closer to home, Lake Cascade is your best option. As of this writing, anglers are reporting 4 inches of ice on the north end — just enough to venture out on foot. Stay safe out there!