Northern Idaho is an angler’s paradise. Waters from this region have yielded one-third of the state’s record fish. The state record chinook salmon (42 lbs) came from Lake Coeur d’Alene while a lake trout exceeding 57 lbs was caught in Priest Lake. Lower Twin Lake yielded a 40 lb Northern Pike and Hauser Lake produced a Tiger Muskie weighing in at 38 lbs 7 oz. Idaho is the only inland western state with ocean-run salmon (state record 54 lbs) and steelhead (record 30 lbs 2 oz.)
Lake and river elevations in the Panhandle range from 2,100 at Priest River to 8,643 at Needle Peak. The rugged mountains of Idaho contain more than 1,500 high mountain lakes with good trout fishing. Most of Idaho fishing waters are located in the public domain and are open to the public with free access.
Lake Coeur d’Alene is known for its large kokanee and chinook salmon. Large and small mouth bass, northern pike, rainbow trout, and mackinaw are also plentiful. Many bass tournaments are held each year on the lake. Northern pike are generally the first species to become active in the spring. Fernan, Twin, Spirit and Hayden lakes all provide northern pike fishing.
Rainbow and lake trout, small and large mouth bass, and lake whitefish are plentiful on Lake Pend Oreille. Kokanee once provided half the entire sport fishery in the lake with over 1 million harvested yearly. For the first time since 1999, anglers will again be allowed to harvest six kokanee per day in Lake Pend Oreille as a result of the success of the Lake Pend Oreille fishery recovery program. Additionally, the increase in kokanee makes it possible to move back towards trophy rainbow trout management. A size and bag limit has been reinstated in 2013: six rainbow trout, only one more than 20 inches long. The $15 angler incentive remains in place for lake trout in Lake Pend Oreille.
The limit on kokanee and trout is six fish in Priest Lake and Upper Priest Lake.
Shoshone County has world class blue ribbon fishing streams such as the North Fork of the Coeur d’Alene, St. Joe and Clear Water Rivers. There are approximately 50 alpine lakes-many with cutthroat, rainbow and brook trout.
In the Panhandle Region there are a limited number of large rivers that remain open year round, including the Kootenai River, Pend Oreille River, Priest River, Clark Fork River above the railroad bridge at Clark Fork, and the slack water portions of the St. Joe and St. Maries rivers. The more traditional “trout fishing” type rivers that most anglers think about are managed with the general stream and river season of Memorial Day Saturday through November 30.
Due to historic low numbers, bull trout are catch-and-release in the waters of the Panhandle.
Large outdoor sporting goods retailers as well as charter fishing companies and guided outfitters can help you plan your trip. See ioga.idaho.gov for a list of all licensed Idaho outfitters and guides.
Family Fishing Areas
All family fishing areas have year ‘round seasons, general six-fish limits for trout and bass (no limits on other species), no length limits and any standard fishing gear may be used. Some lakes are restricted to electric motors only.
- Round Lake-Sandpoint: Hwy 95 to Dufort Road to Round Lake State Park.
- Bull Moose Lake-Priest Lake: Hwy 57 from Priest River, east to Coolin then north.
- Kelso Lake-Athol: Hwy 95 three miles north of Athol, Granite Lake/Kelso Lake turnoff to west.
- Falls Park Pond-Post Falls: Spokane St. exit off I-90, 1/2 block to 4th St., two blocks west.
- Lower Glidden Lake-Wallace: East on I-90 to Wallace and Canyon Creek exit, Cooper Pass/Burke Summit.
- Elsie Lake-Kellogg: I-90 east to Big Creek exit, Big Creek Road, south to top of mountain.
- Fernan Lake-Coeur d’Alene: I-90 Sherman St. exit, one block at east end of Sherman Ave.
For a complete listing of family fishing waters in the panhandle visit www.fishandgame.idaho.gov
Fish in the Freeze
Bundling up and heading out to North Idaho lakes in the middle of winter is a popular pastime for the hardiest of fishing enthusiasts. Standard ice fishing equipment includes an auger for drilling through the ice, a bucket for hauling home the catch, a Thermos of hot chocolate or coffee, a chair and patience. Smaller lakes in the panhandle are most likely to be frozen at safe levels by mid-January. Two popular ice fishing lakes are Fernan in Coeur d’Alene and the north end of Hayden Lake.
Sandpoint Hatchery is the 3rd oldest hatchery in Idaho, built in 1908. Fish from here, mostly rainbow and cutthroat trout, stock high mountain lakes in late summer. Visitors are welcome daily during the summer. Turn west from Hwy 95 south of the Long Bridge to Sandpoint and go a mile. 208-265-7228
The Cabinet Gorge Hatchery is roughly 8 miles southeast of the town of Clark’s Fork. Built in 1985 to mitigate fish losses from hydroelectric dams on the Pend Oreille River system, the hatchery’s primary species is kokanee salmon along with rainbow and cutthroat trout and chinook salmon in the fall. Visitors are welcome 8a-4p daily through the summer. (208) 266-1431
- April-May: Spring Fishing Derby, Lake Pend Oreille Idaho Club. 264-5796
- June: North Idaho Free Fishing Day
- June-July: Panhandle Bass Anglers Tournament
- June: Harrison Annual Kids Fishing Tournament
- August: American Bass Tournament, Lake Pend Oreille. 659-8227
- November: Thanksgiving Fishing Derby, Lake Pend Oreille Idaho Club. 263-0424
Department of Fish and Game
- Coeur d’Alene Regional Headquarters (208)769-1414
- Bonners Ferry (208)267-7629
- Clark Fork (208)266-1501
- Kellogg (208)682-4674
- Moyie Springs (208)267-7629
- Naples (208)267-4085
- Priest River (208)448-2302
- Rathdrum (208)265-8320
- Sagle (208)265-8320
- Sandpoint (208)265-8835
- St. Maries (208)245-8100
- Wallace (208)556-1513
Idaho Panhandle National Forest
3815 Schreiber Way, Coeur d’Alene
phone: (208) 765-7223
North of I-90, between Hwy 95 and Ramsey Rd off Kathleen Ave
Coeur d’Alene River Ranger District – Fernan Office
2502 E. Sherman Ave, Coeur d’Alene
phone: (208) 769-3000
East of I-90 at exit 15
Priest Lake Ranger District
32203 Hwy. 57, Priest River
phone: (208) 443-2512
On St. Hwy. 57, mile post 32, 3 miles south of Nordman
Bonners Ferry Ranger District
6286 Main St., Bonners Ferry
phone: (208) 267-5561
1 mile south of Bonners Ferry on Hwy 95
Sandpoint Ranger District
1500 Hwy 2, #110, Sandpoint
phone: (208) 263-5111
West edge of Sandpoint on Hwy 2
Silver Valley Office
173 Commerce Dr, Smelterville
phone: (208) 783-2100
South of I-90 at exit 48
St. Joe Ranger District
St. Maries Office
222 S 7th St, #1
phone: (208) 245-2531
Federal Building in downtown St. Maries
phone: (208) 245-4517
6 miles west of Avery on Forest Hw. 50 (St Joe River Rd)
54495 Hwy 3
phone: (208) 245-1134
1 mile south of Clarkia on Hwy 3