With hot air temperatures and lots of sunshine, we can finally say summer has arrived in North Idaho. While the Panhandle is known for fishing opportunities in its majestic lakes and streams, did you also know there are fishing opportunities in high mountain lakes? These unique places are often overlooked because of their remoteness and short duration of time when they can be accessed due to snow.
There are 84 high mountain lakes in the Panhandle according to the Idaho Fish Planner if you are up for an adventure. Some lakes have naturally reproducing populations of brook trout, while many others are stocked with Westslope cutthroat trout and rainbow trout. If you are interested in uncommon Idaho species, a few lakes even get stocked with arctic grayling and golden trout!
When the snow on the mountain tops has melted, access to these lakes is also quite varied and provides a unique opportunity to choose your own adventure. Lakes with the easiest access can be reached with a reliable 4-wheel drive vehicle with good ground clearance. The most difficult lakes do not have maintained trails and are many miles from the nearest road. Most lakes are somewhere in the middle. Whatever experience you wish to have, there is a high mountain lake for you.
Lastly, a couple of things to remember when preparing for a trip to a high mountain lake.
- Prepare a plan that describes where you are going, how you are getting there and when you expect to return. Be sure to share your plans with someone who is not going on the trip with you.
- Please be bear aware. The Panhandle is home to both black bears and grizzly bears. Click here and here to learn more about how to be bear aware.
- Remember to bring warm clothes (it can get cold on the mountain tops), water, food, fishing gear, sunscreen, bug spray and bear spray.
- The fish are mainly eating insects, so try flies or lures that resemble what they’re eating. Using fly fishing flies that look like flying ants, mosquitoes and gnats are always a good choice. Small spinners, such as Panther Martins or Mepps are also good choices.
- Recent work by Idaho Fish and Game has identified Debt, Copper, Crater, Porcupine and Queen as lakes that are not recommended for fishing. Despite previous stocking efforts, the lakes have very few fish due to poor survival.