Idaho is one of my favorite states, with spectacular scenery, plentiful wildlife, and excellent fishing. I fished Priest Lake in the upper part of the panhandle for lake trout with Rich Lindsey (https://theidahofisherman.com). Words cannot even describe how gorgeous this lake is; the pictures on Rich’s website of mountains and wildlife are amazing even if you are not interested in fishing. His fishing pictures are amazing too, and my fishing trip with him did not disappoint. I caught 12 lake trout, with the biggest being a 12-pounder. I also saw a bald eagle dive in the water and catch a fish, which was incredible.
The next day I fished with Ken Hayes (www.seagullcharters.net) on Lake Pend Oreille for big Kamloops rainbow trout. A front was moving in, dropping the temperature 10 degrees compared to the day before, and the bite was slow. (This front followed me into Montana for my fishing trip there too, unfortunately.) I did not catch any Kamloops rainbow trout, but I did catch my first bull trout (17 inches) and my first westslope cutthroat trout, the state fish of Idaho, along with a limit of kokanee salmon. Kokanee salmon reminded me of bluefish in the sense that they are not what you want to catch, but you definitely appreciate the action when the fish you want to catch are not biting. Catching the bull trout and westslope cutthroat trout were awesome surprises too because I had heard so much about Mountain West trout, but had never seen one myself. Moreover, it gave me two new species to add to the list of species I have caught.
Update July 2023: I headed to Idaho with my family in 2023 for my boys' first trip west of the Mississippi and their first time in the Rockies. We loved every minute of it. I knew I wanted to fish for trophy sturgeon and my boys aren't quite old enough to tangle with a fish that is more than twice as long as they are and can weigh more than 10 times as much, so I stayed an extra day after they left.
I chose Joe Weisner of Jones Sport Fishing (jonessportfishing.com) because his sturgeon record is incredible, and I was certainly not disappointed. Within an hour of launching, I had caught my first sturgeon, an 8.5-foot trophy. Sturgeon are truly unbelievable fighters, taking many runs and even jumping out of the water. The Snake River isn't exactly a backwater either, so between the current and the 200+ pounds of angry fish, the fight was as exhilarating as it was nerve-wracking. Fortunately, Joe has the best gear and I was able to make Idaho my 46th state with at least one trophy fish.
The most amazing part of the trip, though, was definitely the encore. Having accomplished my trophy goal, I was able to relax. Mentally, of course, not physically, because Joe went on to put me on seven more trophy sturgeon. That's right: EIGHT trophy sturgeon on the day, ranging from six feet to another at 8.5 feet. (Six of the eight were seven feet or longer!) The second 8.5-foot trophy (my sixth fish of the day) was a chunkster, estimated to be around 281 pounds. That puts it up there with my biggest Oregon trophy sturgeon for the largest freshwater fish I've ever caught.
One of my favorite parts of the trip was getting in the water with these magnificent fish, and not just because it was 101 degrees outside. Having released some huge fish boatside throughout the years, I have often been dismayed that the pictures do not truly capture how remarkable the fish are. That is not a problem when you're in the water with them, and I was very thankful that Joe allowed me to do that.
Eight trophies in one day puts Joe in the top five of my most successful trophy trips ever. And those other trips involved catfish or kokanee salmon, so their total weight was nothing compared to battling these colossal giants. I can't say enough great things about Joe, and Idaho in general, and I hope I find myself out there again sometime.