When you think of beaches, you probably don’t immediately think of Idaho. A ride on the Pend Oreille Scenic Byway, however, will surely change that. Located in the northern tip of Idaho, this byway introduces you to miles of open shoreline, surrounding a vast lake filled with schools of fish. Bright green surrounds the beaches, throwing shadows in all the right places—the perfect setting for a day of fishing.
At a length of 43 miles and a depth of more than 1,000 feet, Lake Pend Oreille, which lies next to the entire stretch of the byway, is northern Idaho’s biggest lake and is often described as a “fishing paradise.” This behemoth claims 100 miles of Idaho shoreline and is home to one of the most diverse groups of fish in the state. One species you’ll see is the rainbow trout. Native only to lakes and rivers of North America, rainbow trout are identified by their colorful patterns, usually with pink stripes on their sides and a white underbelly. A cousin of the salmon, they are usually about 20 to 30 inches long and weigh about 8 pounds. The state record rainbow trout weighed an incredible 57 pounds. Think you can beat it? Cast a hook and wait for the fish to come biting!
Keep fishing Lake Pend Oreille and you could catch a tasty crappie. Don’t let the name fool you—crappies are prized by sport anglers for their delicious taste. Both the black and white crappies usually weigh about one-half to one pound and have distinct coloring. Identify a black crappie by its black splotches or a male white crappie by the dark coloring around its throat. Don’t worry about which bait to use—crappies aren’t picky eaters. Sit back, cast a line, and reel in tonight’s dinner!
Enjoying your time on Lake Pend Oreille? Stay a little longer and you may catch an olive-green and gold-speckled walleye. The eyes of a walleye are very light-sensitive, so they won’t come near the surface much during the day. Try fishing for them during dawn and dusk, nighttime, or cloudy weather. Stock up on bait-- walleyes are drawn to minnows, nightcrawlers, leeches, jigs, spinners, and plugs, especially minnow plugs. Get ready for a battle-- walleyes are strong and determined fighters that like to stay deep. Having a tough time? Try different trolling speeds. Walleyes can be unpredictable, but don’t get discouraged. With a little patience and practice, you’ll be reeling them in like a pro.
For more adventures, jump back on the Pend Oreille Scenic Byway and head a few miles south toward Clark Fork and the Clark Fork River. One of the most popular fly-fishing destinations in the country, Clark Fork River is a great place to catch a cutthroat trout, named for the red markings along its lower jaw. This good table fish, weighing between 4.4 and 8.8 pounds, is a great catch. Get ready to cast your line! Cutthroats are best caught with flies, baits and lures, so bring all your gear and you’re sure to catch one.
While at Clark Fork River, try catching a brown trout, distinguished by large black or red-orange spots on its sides. This yummy catch can be most easily caught in the twilight hours and early morning and usually weighs about 8 to 10 pounds. Not a fan of trout? Reel in a smallmouth bass, also found in the Clark Fork River. Although location and age affect the look of a smallmouth bass, most are brown with green stripes. Ranging from 2 to 4 pounds, smallmouth bass make a great dinner catch. Bring your lucky lure and you’ll reel in a meal soon enough!
Whatever fish you fancy, you’ll find something to suit your tastes on the Pend Oreille Scenic Byway. Come claim a lucky catch among the idyllic lakes and rivers of northern Idaho, and have the fishing adventure of a lifetime. Pack up the car—the fish are waiting!
- Copyright © October 1999 Midas Management.
- Copyright © June 1999 Midas Management.