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Fishermen can’t reach abundant Spirit Lake kokanee

Sun., Feb. 26, 2012, 7:24 a.m.

Ice anglers in North Idaho should have been cleaning up on the record number of mature kokanee in Spirit Lake this winter – except they couldn’t get to the fish.

Idaho Fish and Game Department reports from August trawling surveys say “the most abundant year class of kokanee ever documented for this lake” is swimming around nearly unscathed.

“The strong year class of 1-year-old kokanee last year is now a record high year class of 2-year-old kokanee,” the report said, estimating there would be more than 382,000 kokanee averaging at least 8.25 inches waiting for anglers when the ice fishing opportunities began this winter.

That pencils out to about 260 catchable-sized fish for each acre of water, or about four times as many kokanee as last year!

But safe ice-fishing never happened, especially along the best winter fishing areas at Silver Beach or Bronze Bay.

“It’s a shame for ice fishermen,” said Jim Fredericks, Idaho Fish and Game Department regional fisheries manager. “The east end of the lake has had enough ice for fishing on a couple of occasions, but that’s not really where the kokanee fishing is.”

The bulk of the lake has remained ice-free.

The season’s open year-round and anglers could fish from a boat, except there’s been just enough ice and snow around the boat launch to prevent access.

The good news: There’s a great kokanee fishery waiting for handliners and jiggers off the cliffs at the east end of the lake when open water fishing picks up in March, Fredericks said.

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