You can fish at any time of the year, but, for many anglers, the middle of the spring is an ideal time to start casting. When it’s mid-May, good luck connecting with Mike Bunker. The odds are that he’s gone fishin.’
Bunker has been hooked by fishing ever since he was a little boy coming of age in Seattle during the 1970s. “I grew up on Whidbey Island and just fell in love with fishing since I was very young,” he said.
Bunker, 54, left the Pacific Northwest steelhead for the rat race of Manhattan where he worked in the fashion industry. “I lived in Manhattan for 22 years, but I fished in the East River and off Montauk in Long Island for striped bass and bluefish.”
After Bunker retired, he moved to Coeur d’Alene in 2009 and turned his hobby into his vocation. Bunker is a fishing guide who leads groups in Idaho, Washington and Alaska. “Wherever I go, the goal is to stay safe, have fun and catch some fish,” he said.
“There are so many great places to fish in the Northwest, and then there is Salmon Falls, where I fish in Alaska, which is just amazing. The same species of fish are in Washington state as Alaska.”
However, due to the volume difference, it’s easier to catch fish in Alaska, according to Bunker. “It’s just more difficult down south, but it’s still a lot of fun fishing around here,” he said. If you’re up for some steelhead, Bunker suggests making plans for a trip to Lewiston.
“A great thing to do is to go out in a kayak, like I do in Lake Roosevelt above the Coulee Dam, and fish for rainbow trout,” he said.
Coeur d’Alene is the place to be from May through October. “The lake here is tremendous,” Bunker said. “You can be very successful, even as a new fisherman, if you fish here. You wouldn’t believe how many fish are in the lake.”
According to Bunker, small mouth bass fishing is just heating up now. The peak of the season is Memorial Day weekend through the end of June.
Aside from small mouth bass, there’s an abundance of brown trout, chinook salmon, brown bullhead, northern pike and rainbow trout, among many other species.
It’s more than an hour to drive to Coffee Pot Lake, but Bunker strongly suggests checking out the serene destination. “It’s beautiful out there,” he said. “It’s well worth the effort.” Coffee Pot Lake is known for its rainbow trout fishing.
For those who enjoy chironomid fishing, the peak of the season is from now through May. Yellow perch, black crappie and largemouth bass populate the lake, which is remote, but there is a Bureau of Land Management campground, and a boat launch is available. The campground allows anglers to stay overnight.
Bunker gives a big thumbs up to idyllic Lake Pend Oreille. Idaho’s biggest lake, which is about 80 miles from Spokane, is very deep, more than 1,000 feet, and is filled with kamloops (giant rainbow trout), mackinaw, bass, pike and walleye.
“The great thing about this area is that you’re a short drive from great fishing that’s east, west, north or south of us,” Bunker said. However, for those who would like to experience a fisherman’s paradise, Bunker strongly suggests visiting Salmon Falls Resort (salmonfallsresort.com) in Ketchikan, Alaska, where he is a guide from June to September.
“It’s just incredible there,” Bunker said of his four-month job. “There’s the fishing and just all of the nature and the beauty. It’s just a 90-minute flight from Seattle, and it’s only about 20 minutes until you arrive. We have six boats, and we’re in big water. We get king salmon. The goal is one king per day for a total of three for the year per person. There’s silver salmon August through October. Pink salmon are in season in June.
“The experience in Alaska is for those who are experienced fisherman and those who are coming out and those in between. The experience will turn anyone into a fisherman. You’ll experience things you’ve never imagined as a fisherman. I caught a 175-pound halibut last summer. I caught 11 fish that were over 100 pounds last summer.”
Bunker says that those who just want to do a little fishing and soak up the scenery will enjoy taking a break in “the Last Frontier” state. “When I’m out there in Salmon Falls, you see things you don’t see here,” he said.
“Every day, we see a humpback whale. We see orcas, porpoises and bears. The cool thing is that you can just take your rod to the lake in Coeur d’Alene, or you can go to Alaska and experience something very different as a fisherman,” Bunker said.
“That’s why I moved back to the Pacific Northwest. There’s no place quite like it in the entire world, and we’re lucky we’re so close to so many amazing places to fish and just relax.”
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