Idaho’s favorite fish: These are what anglers spend the most time catching, according to Idaho Fish and Game

February 27, 2008 

1. Trout

Found: Nearly everywhere. Idaho has seven species of trout, some native and others introduced. Trout are the mostly widely distributed species in the state.

Fish and Game plants thousands of pounds of trout in lakes, reservoirs and streams throughout the state, and there are also lots of wild trout.

Most anglers pursue four species of trout, rainbow, cutthroat, brook and brown trout.

State record: 37 pounds, Kamloops rainbow, Pend Oreille Lake, 1947.

2. Bass

Found: In ponds, reservoirs, slow-moving rivers. Idaho has large and smallmouth bass, both of which were introduced.

Bass are very abundant in Idaho. Due to their slow growth rates in the state’s relatively cold water, most do not reach large size, but there are still some lunkers out there.

Bass fishing continues to grow in popularity in Idaho, and the state is slowly getting to be a destination for bass anglers as word spreads of Idaho’s healthy bass populations in places like Brownlee and C.J. Strike Reservoirs.

State record: Smallmouth, 9 pounds, 11.5 ounces, Dworshak Reservoir, 2006; largemouth, 10 pounds, 15 ounces, Anderson Reservoir, date unknown.

3. Panfish

Found: In lakes, reservoirs and ponds. Bluegill, crappie and perch are popular panfish because they tend to live in large schools and bite aggressively. Spring is an excellent time to target panfish because they often move into the shallow water near shore to spawn, which makes them easily accessible to bank anglers.

All panfish were introduced to Idaho.

State record: Black crappie, 3 pounds, 8.96 ounces, Brownlee Reservoir, 2003.

4. Steelhead

Found: In tributaries of the Snake River that haven’t been blocked by dams, mainly in the Clearwater and Salmon rivers and their tributaries.

Steelhead are one of Idaho’s top trophy fish due to their large size, hard fighting ability and challenge to hook.

Adult steelhead return to Idaho in the summer and fall, then spend the winter in large rivers before moving into headwaters and tributaries to spawn.

Steelhead are native fish nearly identical to rainbow trout, but steelhead migrate to the ocean and then come back to spawn. Some travel as far as 900 miles to reach the ocean, then swim back upstream to spawn.

State record: 30 pounds, Clearwater River, 1973.

5. Kokanee

Found: In large lakes and reservoirs and in streams during spawning season. Kokanee are native salmon that do not migrate to the ocean. They are nearly identical to sockeye salmon, which is Idaho’s most endangered fish.

Kokanee are a popular game fish for trollers, and there are wild, self-sustaining populations in some lakes and F&G stocks others for anglers.

State record: 6 pounds, 9.5 ounces, Priest Lake, 1975.

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