Panhandle Panfish: A fun and easy way to enjoy fishing in North Idaho

It looks as though spring has sprung in north Idaho, and for many of us that means getting outside to soak up some sun with a fishing rod in hand.  Just take a look at the local boat launches and you’ll see just how excited anglers are getting about spring fishing opportunities.  The Panhandle Region enjoys some great early season fishing opportunities thanks to its abundance of low elevation flatwater fisheries, both big and small. 

This time of year, a good majority of folks will focus on these fisheries where they will target warmwater species like bass and panfish.  Bass are the most popular warmwater species targeted here in the Panhandle Region, and for good reason—they are an exciting fish to catch.  But we have a variety of other warmwater fish species that provide excellent fishing opportunities for anglers of any skill-level, and these species are often some of our most underutilized fishery resources. 

“Panfish” species, such as bluegill, crappies, and perch are named so because they are suitable for frying whole in a pan.  Don’t let their small size fool you though, a day of catching saucer-size bluegills or 10-inch crappie and perch can be some of the most fun you’ll ever have!  These species are typically managed under general fishing rules (with few exceptions) throughout the state and provide a great opportunity to go fishing with family and to harvest a mess of fish. 

The panfish species found in our region are relatively short-lived and fast-growing which makes them ideal to support harvest-oriented fisheries.  Like many warmwater species, panfish tend to be very active during the spring and catch rates can be very good because of that.  The best thing, however, is that panfishing is easy and you can have a lot of fun with some simple tackle and little experience. 

Anyone can have fun chasing panfish and it’s the best kind of fishery for kids.  For the best success, try fishing with a simple setup like a piece of night crawler underneath a bobber.  In addition, a jig combined with small soft plastics or bait can produce a lot of fish.  Focus your effort around vegetated areas in less than 10 feet of water, especially as the water temperatures continues to rise.  From now through the month of June will be your best time to find panfish in shallow areas, so try it out sooner rather than later.  If you haven’t done so already, pick up your 2018 Idaho fishing license.  

Here are a few popular waters to consider fishing for panfish:

  • Cocolalla Lake: yellow perch
  • Fernan Lake: bluegill, crappie, yellow perch
  • Hauser Lake: bluegill
  • Hayden Lake: bluegill, crappie (note special rule [6 fish/day, none under 10"), yellow perch
  • Robinson Lake: bluegill
  • Rose Lake: bluegill, crappie
  • Twin Lakes: bluegill, crappie

For even more options, check out the Idaho Fishing Planner for information on what waters to fish: http://idfg.idaho.gov/ifwis/fishingplanner/

 

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    Panhandle bluegills

    Licensing: 
    Creative Commons Licence
    Attribution: 
    Carson Watkins
  • img_20170713_105825594_hdr

    Hayden Lake crappie

    Licensing: 
    Creative Commons Licence
    Attribution: 
    Carson Watkins
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    Crappies

    Licensing: 
    Creative Commons Licence
    Attribution: 
    Rob Ryan