Kokanee thriving in North Idaho

The new Hayden Lake kokanee fishery is a highlight in the North Idaho fishing scene.

The fishery was stocked three years ago to take advantage of the open water that wasn’t being used by the lake’s bass, crappie and other popular species and the kokanee have blossomed in their niche.

“Fishermen caught on quickly,” said Jim Fredericks, Idaho Fish and Game Department regional fisheries manager. “Last year there were a lot of two-year-old fish in the 14- to 16-inch range caught in spring and early summer and this year it’s holding up again. There have been a lot of boats on the lake.”

Lake Pend Oreille’s kokanee continue their rebound, prompting IFG to propose raising the daily limit from six to 16. The decision could be made in May.

Surveys indicate there may be two to three million adult kokanee in the lake. Starting Saturday, for the first time since the 1990s, the Lake Pend Oreille Idaho Club’s annual K&K Spring Derby will have a kokanee division along with the rainbow and lake trout divisions.

The revival of the kokanee fishery is showing up in the size of the lake’s trophy rainbow trout, with club members predicting it will take a 20-some pounder to win the derby this year.

Lake Coeur d’Alene kokanee should be very abundant but in the smaller 9-11 inch range this year, Fredericks said. Meanwhile, the lake’s chinook salmon population is improving in size and number. The 20-inch minimum size rule is helping the lake produce more chinook in the 5-10 pound range, he said.

Walleye that infiltrated Lake Pend Oreille in big enough numbers to provide a decent fishery in the past few years seem to have declined, Fredericks said. Anglers found fish last year, but not the 30-fish days some were having in 2012. “Apparently they’re not having big recruitment every year,” he said.

North Idaho has numerous smaller lakes with a spectrum of fisheries from panfish to northern pike and tiger muskies.

Cocolalla Lake along U.S. 95 south of Sandpoint is a hybrid. While it produces one of the area’s most productive perch fisheries for ice fishing, most Cocolalla anglers turn to trolling for trout in spring.

“It has a good mix of hatchery cutthroats and rainbows, plus naturally producing browns and brook trout,” Fredericks said. “And it’s one of our best lakes for trout grow, with beauties up to 18 inches.”

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Rich Landers

Rich Landers

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