Cascade Lake is one of Idaho’s fishing gems — and the entire Northwest, for that matter. The stunned look a Cascade jumbo brings to the face of a Midwesterner who has spent his entire life catching perch speaks volumes: there may not be a better trophy perch fishery in North America. North.
However, catching these giants is not easy. As many anglers will attest, Cascade can be a tough place to find consistent success. The huge size of the lake gives the perch plenty of hiding places and its behavior is often more temperamental than the typical perch.
Fortunately for the local fishermen, guide Chris Weber can help smooth the learning curve. Chris, who honed his perch skills in his native Wisconsin, started guiding on Cascade last year and is gaining a reputation as a jumbo perch whisperer.
I recently joined Chris for an early fall pole hunt. On board were also Patrick Durkina Wisconsin-based columnist and meat eater contributor, and his wife, Penny. Between Chris and the Durkins, the Cheeseheads had this Michigander outnumbered three to one!
In the cold of the morning, we retrieved the crayfish traps that Chris and Pat had set up the night before. They gave a lot for a Meat Eater quality boil. Then we went fishing.
“Every lake has good places to fish,” Chris explained on the ride. “But I consider Cascade to be an ‘on-the-spot’ fishery. You really need to have your pitches compound because the fish move around so much.
We set up on a mudflat in 20 feet of water and deployed our gear – drop-shot rigs with a live worm. Although Cascade can be a technical catch, a simple tackle generally works best for me. Chris agrees.
“It’s easy to overthink it,” Chris said. “There are days when aggressive baits will work, like a swimbait in the spring or a rippin’ rap through the ice. But as a guide, I choose the most productive methods.
A few minutes after arriving at our first spot, I felt the telltale bump of a fish and dropped the hook. A 13 inch perch soon joined us on board – an absolute trophy anywhere else, but simply a handsome one on Cascade Lake. Chris and I bumped fists. A quality start!
The most important thing I learned from Chris was how Cascade schools work. In many lakes, perch live in massive pods. Once you find them, you’re good to go. But at Cascade, especially with the jumbos, a “school” often has less than ten fish. The key is to find a productive area and stay patient, waiting for the schools to pass every 10-20 minutes.
Less than an hour into our morning, I struck gold, catching a fish that fought so hard I was convinced it was a smallmouth bass. Instead, we sailed on a giant pole – 15.25 inches long and 2.2 pounds. Even Chris, who sees more giant perch than anyone, was blown away. What a fish!
Our day went the same way (although I swear those Wisconsin accents got thicker as we went). We caught fish in three places, and although we had a few dry spells, they were almost always interrupted by a traveling pack of jumbos.
Perch was not the only fish on record. Our group also brought in half a dozen rainbow trout, several bass, pike, sucker, huge crappie and sunfish. Every take was fun, but the jumbos were definitely the highlight. At one point, Penny caught 30 inches of pole on consecutive throws. Moments later, I landed a 14.5.
“You could fish your whole life in Wisconsin and never catch a perch that big,” Pat marvels.
When the afternoon heat hit, we stopped and drove home. Our group had navigated over 40 poles, and half of them were over 12 inches. We had to work for them, but with trophy quality it was worth it. And Chris was one of the best guides I’ve fished with – he has a quiet confidence in his tactics, he’s easy going and super funny (even though he’s a Packers fan).
Fall is the perfect time to fish Cascade Lake, and before we know it, ice fishing season will be here! Chris guides then too and he books quickly. Whether you’re fishing with him or exploring on your own, one thing is certain: at Cascade Lake, any cast could become the roost of your life. Tight lines!
Want to go fishing with Chris Weber on Cascade Lake? Call (920) 728-2818 to book your trip. You can also find Chris on the Tamarack Resort website.
Jordan Rodriguez has been fishing Idaho waters since he was a teenager. Share your fish stories, adventures and questions with him on [email protected]or visit tightlines208.com for the latest local fishing reports and upcoming course offerings.