Trophy Fishing in North Idaho

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Rainbow Trout


If you think you have to head to Alaska for stellar fishing, then you haven’t been to North Idaho. Priest Lake and Lake Pend Oreille offer some of the finest fishing possible in our country, eight full months a year. October and November are perfect for venturing north and hooking some of the biggest rainbow trout imaginable.

Rich Lindsey has been a fishing guide for fortyfour years on these two northern lakes, and if anybody knows this fishery, he does. I had the pleasure of fishing with Rich when I took a day off from hunting whitetail bucks, to try my hand at lake trout from Priest Lake.

The November weather was frigid, but the day was filled with big fish and lots of laughs. With no venison gracing the frying pan, our group of hungry hunters really appreciated those lake trout.

Lindsey typically spends summers in his largest boat, plying the waters of Priest Lake. The small mouth bass population is very healthy there as are kokanee (land-locked salmon) and lake trout (Mackinaw). Cutthroat trout are found in the lake as well, but they are strictly catch and release.

“Overall, it’s a remarkably healthy fishery,” Lindsey says.

Most of the resorts along either lake can help guests set up fishing trips. Lindsey says during the summer, he is kept busy with referrals from resorts, so plan ahead before you take off for north Idaho then. Lindsey also runs trips on Lake Pend Oreille in the summer when anglers can catch German brown trout, walleye, smallmouth bass, pike, and large yellow perch. It’s strictly catch-and-release for bull trout and westslope cutthroats. Expect lots of action, no matter which lake you end up fishing.

“One of the reasons the fishery stays healthy is people have to work to get here,” explains Lindsey.

But getting to north Idaho is worth it. When I was hunting in November, I also got to see a sow grizzly with her three 2-year-old cubs, running down a back road for all they were worth. And one afternoon, I watched a bull moose mosey around munching on shrubs, unaware I was there.

Now add awesome fishing to that and you have the makings of a great trip.

Lake trout can be found spring through mid-December in Priest Lake and usually run between 3 to 8 pounds, but some are caught hitting as high as 30 pounds. Kokanee and smallmouth bass are landed spring through fall.

October and November are the two best months to head to Lake Pend Oreille for giant rainbow trout. Anglers from all parts of the country arrive to fish these waters, where trout average 10 to 18 pounds but also include some giants in the low to mid 20-pound range. And these jumbo fish are anything but sluggish. Expect big jumps, surface eruptions, and line zinging off your reel when you hook one of these winners.

“Coming to Lake Pend Oreille gives anglers a chance to see some of the biggest rainbow trout in the world,” asserts Lindsey. “These are really trophy-sized fish.”

There’s still time to get in some fabulous fall fishing on these two north Idaho lakes. So, go ahead and add catching a world-class rainbow trout to your bucket list, and head north — you’ll be glad you did! ISI