Spirit Lake Chinook Fishing | A Few Reminders

  • chk_kiosks

    Angler drop box and informational kiosk

    Creative Commons Licence
    Phil Branigan
  • chk_juv
    Creative Commons Licence
    Phil Branigan
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Since 2016, Spirit Lake has been part of a statewide study to evaluate the performance of hatchery-stocked Chinook salmon. These Chinook are landlocked (meaning they do not migrate to the ocean), but can still reach large sizes in waters with abundant kokanee.  Prior to 2016, there were no Chinook salmon in Spirit Lake.  Chinook can be found in several other lakes and reservoirs around the state, including Lake Coeur d’Alene where they have supported a fishery for nearly 40 years.

Chinook salmon are a popular sportfish, so IDFG has an interest in better understanding how hatchery Chinook can be best used to improve certain fisheries around the state. Specifically, the study in Spirit Lake is aimed at learning about the performance of triploid (sterile) Chinook relative to diploid (fertile) Chinook.  In addition, it also gives us an opportunity to see if hatchery Chinook can be used as a tool to improve the kokanee fishing in Spirit Lake.  Kokanee often exist at high density and small size in Spirit Lake.  The added predation by Chinook may result  in a lower density, but larger average size of kokanee.

The Chinook stocked in Spirit Lake during 2016 are now running about 14–16 inches long and they have become relatively common during this winter’s ice fishery. Given the popularity of the ice fishery on Spirit Lake, it’s a good time to point out an interesting way that anglers can get involved in the management of Spirit Lake.  It is also a good time to provide a friendly reminder about related fishing rules.

Fisheries biologists are trying to understand how the two types of Chinook differ in terms of growth, survival, and angler catch. The IDFG is looking to our local anglers to help out with the study by providing tissue samples from Chinook they catch. The process is simple and straightforward. Drop boxes have been established at the Spirit Lake boat launch and at the Maiden Rock boat launch where the tissue samples can be deposited. The drop boxes also have a sign with information about the study and how to collect samples; however, here is a quick run-down of how you can participate:

  • Catch a Chinook from Spirit Lake. Chinook can be identified by a clipped adipose fin, black gum line, and oblong spots along the back.
  • Clip a small (about the size of a hole punch) portion of any fin from the fish. It does not matter whether you harvest the fish or not, a clip can still be taken.
  • Place the fin clip in an envelope (found at the drop box kiosk) and keep it dry.
  • Deposit the envelope in the drop box.

This winter, before you head out on the ice, feel free to take a few envelopes from the kiosks so that you have them on hand. Some recent reports indicate that Chinook fishing is pretty decent throughout the lake, so get out there and give it a try before spring is upon us!

Lastly, a friendly reminder to everyone that the daily bag limit is 2 fish and the minimum length limit is 20 inches for Chinook in the Panhandle Region. No Chinook smaller than 20 inches in length may be harvested. These rules are specific to landlocked Chinook in the Panhandle Region. It appears that the largest Chinook in Spirit Lake have not quite reached the 20 inch mark yet; however, they grow quickly and it won’t be long before harvestable fish will start showing up in the fishery.

Good luck and be safe. Feel free to give us a call if you have questions or concerns.

Carson Watkins


(208) 770-3768