Arrow-right Camera
The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Idaho proposing allowing cutthroat trout harvest on Priest Lake

Anglers fish for lake trout from a boat on Priest Lake in this 2017 photo.  (Courtesy of Idaho Fish and Game)

Cutthroat trout from Priest Lake could end up on a dinner table in 2025 under proposed changes to Idaho’s fishing regulations.

The Idaho Department of Fish and Game has proposed allowing anglers to take home up to two Westslope cutthroat trout from Priest Lake and upper Priest Lake, a change from the lake’s existing catch-and-release requirement for cutthroat.

The change is one of 24 that Idaho Fish and Game is putting forward for its next regulation cycle, which runs from 2025 through 2027.

At its meeting in Coeur d’Alene on Thursday, the state fish and wildlife commission approved putting the regulation proposals out for public comment starting Monday.

Once that comment period closes, Fish and Game staff will finalize their recommendations and bring them back to the commission in July.

The Priest Lake proposal comes with a minimum length of 16 inches. Joe Kozfkay, Fish and Game’s state fisheries manager, told the Idaho Fish and Wildlife Commission on Thursday that the lake’s cutthroat trout population is doing well enough to allow anglers to take some home.

“The cutthroat populations there are stable and moderately abundant,” Kozfkay said.

He also said the lake sees little angling pressure, and that most anglers target other species.

“We don’t anticipate these (changes) resulting in very very high yield or harvest of cutthroat, but they will provide some opportunity,” he said.

Other rule changes in North Idaho include increasing the minimum length for chinook salmon on Lake Coeur d’Alene from 20 inches to 24 inches and eliminating the minimum length for bass on Robinson Lake.

Farther south, the agency is proposing allowing anglers to keep two trout on the Selway River upstream of Selway Falls – now a catch-and-release fishery – and removing bait and gear restrictions there.

They also want to extend the boundary for fall chinook salmon fishing on the Salmon River upstream by 25 miles, allowing harvest all the way upstream to Riggins.

A major statewide change in whitefish limits is also on the table. Fish and Game officials have proposed reducing the daily limit for mountain whitefish from 25 to 10.

Kozfkay said that change is meant to ease pressure on whitefish populations in areas where the species is struggling. Whitefish are doing well in North Idaho, Kozfkay said, but they’re doing poorly in other parts of the state.

“It’s different all over the state,” he said.

He added that officials within the agency are torn on the proposal, and that they want to see what the public thinks through the public comment period.

He said some might object to a blanket regulation affecting all areas instead of targeting it for areas where the fish are having problems.

Those in favor of it might point out that the rule hasn’t been changed in decades, and is due for an update.

Public comment will be taken on the proposals through Fish and Game’s website from Monday through June 10. Email surveys will also be sent on some of the items, including the Priest Lake cutthroat rules. Those surveys are meant to gather a random sample of public opinion.