Fish Species

Rainbow Trout (native)

Its scientific name is Oncorhynchus mykiss. It is a sport fish that is loved by many people in Idaho. It is silvery in color and has black speckles in the caudal and dorsal fins as well as the body. A careful look at a mature rainbow trout will reveal an idiosyncratic ‘rainbow’ ring lining the body.

Most of the water masses in Idaho have rainbow trout. There are many hatcheries in Idaho because it is very simple to raise rainbow trout. This practice has been ongoing in natural and improvised habitats of the fish. Rainbow trout can now be found in streams, ponds, lakes, rivers and streams in the whole state.

Rainbow trout comes in various shapes and have a number of nicknames. They are perceived as gorgeous yet petite fish which are found in many places all over the year. Moreover, they spend their whole lifetime in Idaho.

Another type of rainbow trout that was brought to Idaho is Kamloop. This fish spends a portion of its life in lakes and the other portion in streams or rivers. These fish grow very fast in lakes and can attain 10 pounds with a few getting to over 30 pounds. Actually, the record weight is 39 pounds for a Kamloop that was caught on Lake Pend Oreille. The other type of rainbow trout found in Idaho is the anadromous steelhead. The term anadromous implies that steelheads lay eggs in freshwater, leave for salty oceans to grown but eventually go back to fresh water when they mature. Steel heads are found in Salmon, Clearwater and Snake Rivers.

Life History of Rainbows

Steelheads, Kamloops and Rainbows lay eggs between the middle of April and the end of June. This is done on cobble or gravel based on how big a fish is. Female rainbows choose riffle areas under a pool where they make a nest or redd. Using her tail and body the female displaces the pebbles while the male ensures they are fertilized. The eggs are coated with gravel by the female as it moves upstream and the water moves the pebbles over the eggs.
Eggs hatch in midsummer and the young ones can live here for several months, a number of years or even for their entire lifespan. For the young steelheads and Kamloop, two years in their original habitats is enough before migrating to lakes or oceans where they experience faster growth. Those that do not make the transition grow to varying sizes depending on quantity of food and water temperature in the upper parts of the stream.

At maturity and with the ability to spawn the steelheads, Kamloops and rainbows return to their original habitats. Although most fishes take about 3 to 5 years to reach maturity, sexual adulthood is based on the type of fish and its habitat.

The environment conducive for spawning is not present in a number of lakes thus necessitating regular stocking to ensure there are enough fish in the lakes.

How Rainbows Feed

Rainbow trout feed on zooplankton and insects on the surface or in the water. They also eat fish eggs and smaller fish. The Kamloop eat larger types of fish as they grow in size. Mature steelheads eat less before spawning but can aggressively grab lures or food.

Fishing Techniques

Idaho Anglers like the rainbow. These fish are found in many places that are easily reached. Since rainbows like to fight back both experienced and anglers and amateurs like fishing them. The methods of catching rainbow are as many as fishing methods. Rainbows are known to get attracted to many types of bait including salmon eggs, marshmallows, trolling spoons, spinners and corn. Spinning and fly casting equipment or apparatus are utilized by many anglers. The best way to know the right kind of bait is to know the common type of food for fish in a particular area. Anglers also like to utilize ice fishing for rainbows. This involves suspending corn, worms or maggots as bait at from the bottom.  Rainbow trout can be found on our Middle Fork of the Salmon fishing trips and our North Idaho Rivers - the Coeur d'Alene and the St. Joe River.


Steelhead Trout (native)

Steelheads are rainbow trout which are indigenous and anadromous. This implies that they lay eggs in streams that have freshwater, migrate to the salty ocean to develop and come back to fresh water when they mature. Steelheads are commonly found in Salmon, Snake and Clearwater Rivers. Between October and March one can fish steelheads very comfortably. However, you need to get a permit before you start fishing even if it is the catch-and –release period.

Life History of Steelheads

Eggs for these fish are laid between mid-April and end of June in streams. Cobble or gravel is used based on how big the fish is. Eggs are laid in a riffle place under a nest or redd. The female uses her tail or body to displace the cobble thus allowing the male to fertilize the eggs. Finally the female ensures the eggs are coated with gravel by swimming upstream as the water moves the gravel on top of the eggs.

In early midsummer, the steelhead eggs hatch. The juvenile fish inhabit this area for about two years before leaving for the ocean. The young fish that make this transition grow very fast in the ocean.

At the time when they are mature enough to spawn they return to their birthplace. Here they will inhabit rivers with low drainage between September and October (Fall) and winter as they wait to spawn when spring approaches. Consequently, there is a fall and spring period for fishing. Steelheads take about 3 to 5 years to reach maturity.

Feeding Habits of Steelheads

This fish species feeds on zooplankton, insects, fish eggs and small fish on the surface or in the water. As they gain more weight, they feed on larger fish. Mature steelheads living in the river before they spawn eat less but can grab lures or food.

Fishing Techniques

There are various techniques that can be used to fish steelhead. To get them when they are spawning and therefore not eating, the best method is to pester them so much that they strike. Their aggressiveness makes them vulnerable to a number of baits, flies and lures. There are anglers who favor the use of shrimp, plugs or fish eggs (fish eggs).


Cutthroat Trout (native)

This species is ‘The Idaho State Fish’ and has the scientific name Onchorhynchus clarki. The red-orange band that brightly adorns the jaw fold of this variety of fish is the reason for its name. This variety is found in the rivers, mountains streams and lakes of Idaho. That is why it is designated the fish of the state. Having this fish in water bodies indicates quality because cutthroat lives in perfect and clean environments. High mountain water bodies have had this variety introduced in them. Cutthroat thrives in colder water compared to rainbow trout.

Life History of Cutthroat

The eggs of this species are fertilized in late spring in various little tributary streams at night or during the day. Using her tails, the female cutthroat makes a nest in gravel. This is done a number of times and various males may be involved. The male and female cutthroats become aggressive when any intruding fish appear to spawn near the former’s nest. The female will use her tail to displace pebbles towards her nest once the spawning is finished. In five weeks, during the beginning of summer, the young cutthroat will hatch and live in their birthplace, move to another stream or even swim to a lake. Normally, Idaho cutthroat leave their habitats in the fall or during winter and return in summer. For you to get mature cutthroat you may have to fish in a single season only. The age, size and sexual maturity are different just as happens with the rainbow. The first spawning instance for cutthroat usually happens at three years of age.

Feeding Habits of Cutthroat

Cutthroat eat terrestrial and aquatic insects on the surface but also at any depth in the water. If there are smaller fish, larger cutthroat make a meal of them.

Angling Techniques for Cutthroat

Among the most liked sport fish in Idaho is cutthroat. It is known to be aggressive in feeding and can ride to dry flies. To fish successfully, you may need small fly movements and fine leaders. You can also use bucktails, spoons, wet flies, nymphs, spinners, maggots or worms as bait. For majority of lakes and stream, use spinning and lightweight fly setups. For the larger cutthroat in lakes and rivers of southeastern Idaho use heavier tackle.


Kokanee Salmon (native)

This is a type of native sockeye salmon that lives in Idaho for its entire life. This species is scientifically known as Onchorhynchus nerka. It is also called “blueback” because of its greenish-blue back which contains pale spots. Because of the sliver color on its belly and sides it is also referred to as “silvers”. Kokanee is found in deep large lakes in most of Idaho and also in reservoirs in southern Idaho. The size ranges from a diminutive 5 inch fish to a six pound fish. The Idaho Kokanee can be 10 to 12 inches in length and weigh between a half and a full pound.

Life History of Kokanee

Kokanee salmon migrate from their reservoir and lake habitats between September and December and move to streams. Spawning happens in the lakes or reservoirs upstream although a few do not live lakes but spawn on shores. Like other fish, they prepare redds in rivers and rocky bottoms of lakes for spawning purposes.

Before spawning, their heads appear dark green while the bodies assume a reddish color. Just as with other salmon, spawning leads to death. The juvenile fish hatch in spring and find their way out of the gravel and down to lakes and rivers at night. Young Kokanee move in schools and live in the middle instead of the shores of lakes. They have a particular pattern of movement in the lake and anglers who understand this pattern are more successful in catching Kokanee.

Feeding Habits of Kokanee

Their staple is zooplankton although they sometimes feed on aquatic insects and some midges. By using gill rakers they strain small invertebrates and plankton. In summer, the only venture to the surface of the lake at night and spend the rest of the time in the depths of the lake.

Angling Techniques for Kokanee

You can troll or use hand lining to catch Kokanee. Trolling can be done using corn, small spinners or glow hooks. Northern Idaho is preferable for hand lining and in places with a lot of Kokanee. Trolling techniques can be used to locate schools of this fish species after which a different method may be used catch Kokanee.


Coho Salmon (native)

The scientific name for this fish is Onchorhynchus kisutch. Coho salmon or silver salmon is anadromous which implies it spends its life time partly in fresh and partly in salty water. Mature Coho can weigh between 8 and 12 pounds. In the ocean they appear to be slivery in color but turn reddish during spawning. At this time, the lower and upper jaws get hooked and prickly teeth emerge on the roof of the mouth and the tongue. The upper half of the tail fin is spotted. This species has white gums and black mouths.

Life History of Coho Salmon

Females and males die after the October and November spawning period. Hatching occurs in March / April and young ones stay for about twelve months in fresh water before leaving for salty ocean waters. The return journey is made at 3 years of age and not more than 4 years.

Feeding Habits of Coho Salmon

Juvenile Coho feed greedily on aquatic insects and plankton while in streams. In the sea, they start eating other fish. On migrating back to fresh water, they eat less often.

Angling Techniques for Coho

No one is allowed to catch Coho in Idaho because the ones in Clearwater River have actually been recently reintroduced by the Nez Perce people with the assistance of the Idaho Department of Fish and Game. Since no significant number of adult Coco salmons has returned up to now, a season has not been declared. Coco salmons have not been declared an endangered species because the current efforts are aimed at reintroducing the species.


Chinook Salmon (native)

Scientifically, this species is known as Onchorhynchus tshawytscha. This is a very intriguing species of Idaho fish. Its body appears to be slivery or olive in color. It has a black mouth interior. It can grow to be 18 to 40 inches and has a maximum weight of 45 pounds. At one time, majority of Chinook will spend time in the ocean. They used to be found in many river drainages in the state at one point but this was reversed by increased damming of Snake and Columbia Rivers. Because of declining populations, there is need to have hatcheries although this has not resulted in yearly increment of Chinooks in Idaho.

Authorities have resorted to stocking Chinooks in landlocked lakes in the state.

Life History of Chinook

After spending between one and three years in the sea, Chinook migrate back to fresh water to spawn. The red or nest that is built by the female is six feet wide and four feet deep.
The male and female fish die after spawning on the 4,500 and 10,000 eggs. Once the young fish emerge in spring, they continue living in fresh water for about one year. However, fall Chinook only stay in fresh water for several months before going to the sea.

Feeding Habits of Chinook

Juvenile Chinook feed on terrestrial and aquatic insects while in water but start eating other fish when in salty water. However, when adult Chinook return to fresh water, they subsist on their own fat deposits.

Angling Techniques for Chinook

It is required that one uses a reel and rod when angling for chinook. These fish attack fresh roes or lures. When fishing in lakes, Chinook can be caught through trolling large flies or flashy lures using down riggers or through the jigging of big lures next to the surface.


Brown Trout (not native)

Scientifically, this fish is called Salmo trutta. They have a yellowish-brown color with black and reddish speckles. The adipose fins of juvenile browns are orange in color.

Brown trout originally come from Europe, were brought to Idaho in 1892 but started thriving in 1948. This species can live in warm and silt-filled habitats unlike indigenous trout thus making the former able to live in disturbed habitats.
Browns are found in lakes, rivers, streams and reservoirs in southern Idaho especially the Henry’s Fork River Basin. Other waters with less numbers of brown include, Lake Pend Oreille and Clark Fork River and other areas in northern Idaho.

Life History of Browns

Spawning takes place between October and early November with the female using her tail to create a hole for depositing of eggs. Spawned eggs are coated with gravel awaiting hatching in April. Growth is rapid up to the third year at maturity. Browns can live for a period of 4 to 15 years.

Feeding Habits of Browns

This fish is hostile and protective and fights off invasive species. Browns eat small fish and invertebrates inhabiting the surface of a water body. They also eat caddis, stone and mayflies which are found at the surface in addition to feeding on other fish.

Angling Techniques for Browns

Browns are cagey and difficult to trap. Successful angling methods include spoons, bait and spinners. Many anglers, though, believe that the best technique is the use of a fly but this requires a lot of experience. Dawn and dusks are the best angling time but bigger ones are best caught in darkness.


Bull Trout (native)

The scientific name for bull trout is Salvelinus confluentus. It is closely related to Dolly Varden coastal variety. The two names have been used interchangeably for a long time until several years ago. Dolly Varden and Bull trout belong to the char family. Their color ranges from green to blue grayish hues. The sides are silvery in color. It has no speckles on the dorsal fin. On the sides, it also has red and orange dots. The anal, pectoral and pelvic fins have a white leading border. They can attain a weight of 32 pounds on the higher sides.

This Idaho native fish can be found in lakes, mountain creeks and rivers. In spite of being found widely, the numbers are few. They are more comfortable in cold habitats as opposed to sediment or warm water.

Life History of Bull trout

They spawn in October in temperate stream current and sizeable pebbles. The redd dug by a female is about 1 to 3 feet deep and 6 feet wide. After spawning, the redd is covered by the female fish with loose pebbles and the current is left to pass over the nest which has fertilized eggs. The male and female fish retreat to deeper areas of the pool to rest after spawning.

Hatching takes place in winter and the juvenile bull trout stays in gravel until the earlier stages of spring. They may also remain where they are or move to lakes. In the latter, they may experience rapid growth and can become as heavy as 30 pounds. They reach sexual maturity between 4 and 6 years. While adults spawn a number of times in their lives, it is not expected that they do so annually.

Feeding Habits of Bull trout

Young ones eat aquatic insects but change to a fish diet with greater growth. Adult bull trout are predators that eat other fish or fish eggs.

Angling Techniques for bull trout

You can be prosecuted for bull trout fishing in Idaho because this species is regarded as being endangered. It requires patience to see bull trout in streams because they are secretive and only appear during spawning.


Lake Trout (not native)

The scientific name for this fish is Salvelinus namaycush. Mackinaw is the largest fish in Idaho’s char family. Their color is dark grey which is tempered with speckles of grey on both sides of the horizontal line. Lake trout has a profoundly forked tail. Although it was first introduced in Idaho’s deep and cold lakes, Lakes Bear, Pend Oreille, Bear and Priest have great populations of this species.

Life History of lake trout

They spawn in lakes that are between 1 and 120 feet in depth in the month of September. Spawning is done in pairs or even groups with the eggs being relatively large as they have a diameter of ½ inch. These eggs are scattered over gravel of boulders and fertilization takes place as eggs get between rocks. It will take time to incubate the eggs but a number will start hatching by March. Young fish grow slowly and those that are caught can be below 10 pounds in weight. However, some can reach 40 pounds and more. Maturity is attained by 6 or 7 years of age but some can live for 35 years.

Feeding Habits of lake trout

When they are young, lake trout feed on aquatic invertebrates and freshwater shrimp. When they grow bigger, they become predatory and eat other types of fish like sculpins and kokanee.

Angling Techniques

Lake trout inhabits shallow waters during the beginning of spring and fall. However, with constant temperature they go to any depths. They also move deeper to cooler and more oxygenated waters when the surface heats up in lakes that are deeper. Generally, they are comfortable in water that is 50 degree Fahrenheit or below. Consequently, it is recommended that you fish for lake trout in late fall or early spring when the water is cold. Many people like to catch this fish and the best techniques are spin, bait or fly casting. You can also use plugs, spoons, streamer flies and spinners near the bottom of the lake. Mackinaws are very sensitive to fluctuations in temperature. It is important to understand the locality before you start fishing.


Brook Trout (not native)

The scientific name for brook trout is Salvelinus fontinalis. This very colorful fish is of the char family and has light speckles superimposed on a dark backdrop. It has green back and faded wavy lines markings which resemble worms. The brook trout has purple green sides and red spots with a green halo. It does not have black spots. There are white leading boundaries on the anal, pectoral and pelvic fins. Brook trout is native to Canada and eastern USA and were brought to Idaho in early 1900s. Today, they inhabit our lakes and streams.

Life History of brook trout

The eggs of this trout are hatched in spring after being spawned in October. Spawning can occur when the fish is aged 18 months and has a length of three inches. This results in overcrowded habitats and stunted fish.

Feeding Habits of brook trout

Brook trout eat a variety of foods including other fish, insects and invertebrates. Consequently, anglers can use a variety of techniques to capture this fish.

Angling Techniques for brook trout

The use of spoons, spinners wet and dry flies can be effective in addition to worms. Place the lure near the cover which could be undercut banks or submerged logs. It is crucial to take hooked fish to open water because this species is known for entangling lines to rocks and logs.


Mountain Whitefish (native)

It is scientifically referred to as Prosopium williamsoni and is an indigenous species. They have no speckles; have big scales and their small mouths lack teeth. The torso has a greenish white hue and a bronze-white complexion.

This fish is indigenous to a lot of Idaho waters. Mountain whitefish inhabit rivers and migrate in schools or groups from one pool to another. In fall they migrate to spawn. In spring they migrate for feeding purposes.

Compared to other fish that live in cold water, mountain whitefish can be flexible when in their habitats. This species is to be found in large numbers in many streams and rivers in Idaho. Hydroelectric dams provide them with fecund ground and they are in plenty in this habitat.

Life History of Mountain Whitefish

Spawning occurs during the fall on gravel either on the river or shores of lakes in October and November nights. The do not build nests but rather lay eggs on the surface of the stream. At the beginning of March or towards the middle of April, hatching occurs.

At the time of hatching, the Mountain whitefish are tiny and almost transparent. Later when they attain length of close to 1.5 inches, they migrate from shallow waters to rivers and lakes but rarely to small streams. They take 3 to 4 years and may attain a lifetime of close to 20 years.

Feeding Habits of mountain whitefish

The staple for this fish is aquatic fish at the surface of a water body and terrestrial insects at the same level. Although it rarely happens, some mountain whitefish also eat smaller fish and fish eggs.

Angling Techniques for mountain whitefish

A light line is crucial to elicit a good fight from this fish. Moreover, one can make use of natural bait like worms, larvae and maggots as terminal gear. You can also use dry and wet flies and nymphs. Winter is preferred by most anglers for catching whitefish. You can even catch some whitefish by use of a baited hook in an ice lake.


Lake Whitefish (not-native)

This non-native fish is also known as Coregonus clupeaformis in scientific terminology. Lake Whitefish have no speckles; have big scales, small toothless mouths. In general they are olive-green or light brown and not of silver color. These whitefish have vigorous bodies not sleek ones. There were brought to Idaho and introduced in Lake Pend Oreille where they are thriving today.

Life History of Lake Whitefish

Spawning takes place in fall and the beginning of winter when adult fish come together. Spawning happens at the surface of the lake. Eggs submerge gradually. Lake Whitefish maintain their habitation in the lake after they are hatched. They growth is rapid and travelling happens in schools.

Feeding Habits of Lake Whitefish

They eat zooplankton and invertebrate like mysis shrimp which are found in abundance in Lake Pend Oreille.

Angling Techniques of Lake Whitefish

Fishing is best done is summer. Boats are used with small jigs and handline baits. Some anglers also lower the lure to about 100 feet into the lake so as to get to where the fish are. In the fall, you can be more efficient if you catch fish from a dock.

Yellow Perch (not native)

This non-native fish species is known as Perca flavescens scientifically. It has a greenish-yellow complexion towards the back and dark bands at the sides. It fins are orange and it lives in cool waters. Its first dorsal fin appears spiny while the gill covering has a pointed boundary. Yellow Perch are relatively small considering they are about 7 to 9 inches long on average depending on the lake. The bigger variety can grow to be 12 inches. There are certain lakes that are known for producing ‘jumbo perch’ which are larger than the rest. Hayden Lake and Cascade Reservoir have impressive perch fishing.

Many residents of Idaho prefer perch flesh because it is tasty.

Yellow Perch were brought to Idaho from elsewhere and are found almost entirely in dams and lakes with a few living in running water.

Life History of Yellow Perch

They spawn between the later part of April and the early days of May. They spawn best in shallow lake waters especially near cattails, reeds or fallen vegetation. They lay eggs at night or early in the morning. Many males fertilize the eggs of a single male. The eggs are contained in bands that resemble jelly and which have many eggs. Such bands stick to sunken vegetation or other vegetation in the water and remain there till the day the eggs are hatched.
The juvenile Yellow Perch move together and grow gradually in Idaho. However, the growth is faster for those in warm habitats. In winter, they are very active.

Feeding Habits of Yellow perch

They subsist on aquatic insects and zooplankton but can eat other fish as they grow larger. Feeding occurs during the day. They are easily caught through ice because they eat a lot in winter.

Angling Techniques for yellow perch

There are a number of fishing methods for this species. You can use natural bait like eggs and maggots and ensure that your hook is placed at the surface or near it with the support of a float. Cut bait and jigging are also effective methods. If you are fishing in ice, you can use natural bait on a plain hook. During winter this fish is found in deep water of about 40 feet maximum. They are not known to fight back but because they are many and are ready to bite, many anglers like them.


Walleye (not native)

This fish is scientifically called Stizostedion vitreum and is not native to Idaho. They were brought o Idaho in 1974 and became a popular sport fish. The back is greenish-yellow; the sides are brass silvery while the body is whitish in color. The mouth is relatively large and has many teeth. It has both spiny and soft dorsal fins. The gill is covered by a pointed boundary. One can also notice the white tip on both the tail fin and the bottom lobe of the walleye. The fish also has large eyes that have a glassy appearance. On average it can weigh up to two pounds. However, others can attain eleven pounds and more. This fish is present in a few dams in southern parts of Idaho.

Life History of walleye

Walleye spawns on spring nights in lakes and especially where there are gravel shoals or boulders. The male walleye precedes the female to the spawning ground. The male starts circling and pursuing the female which arrives shortly after. The female is accompanied by several smaller walleye of the opposite sex. These fish do not make nests and the eggs drop straight on the cracks and crevices at the surface. In two weeks time, the eggs hatch and fast growth commences.

Feeding Habits of walleye

They basically eat in shallow water at night. They also prefer to inhabit dimly-lit waters in deeper areas during the day. Mature fish eat few insect and many smaller fish.

Angling Techniques

In some instances it is best to use spoons, jigs or natural bait to fish walleye. Always remember the following in order to have greater success: this species tends to live in schools; catching one means others are close by. More often than not, these fish live at the bottom of the lake and your bait is better off at that point. Moreover, you are likely to find walleye near a physical feature or a sandbar because this is where they get their food. Since they feed mainly on fish, ensure your bait resembles fish in a way and is in motion. This fish also eats early in the morning, at night or late in the evening.


Bullhead Catfish (not native)

It is scientifically known as Ictaluras melas, I. Nebulosus and is not native to Idaho. The brown and black species are very popular with anglers who come during spring and use worms as bait. Although they are varieties of catfish, bullheads do not attain the size of channel catfish. They have a back that is yellow to brown to black in color. Their bellies are yellowish-white. They are sparsely distributed in Idaho. Their habitat should be warm especially lakes, river sloughs and shallow ponds. The black variety is more at home where there are aquatic weeds.

Life History

The female prepares a nest that is shaped like a saucer in sand or mud during spring. Both male and female protect the sticky eggs. They move around the eggs with the tails and barbells. The juveniles exist in schools and are taken care of by the parents until they become about one inch in length.

Feeding Habits

Both black and brown bullheads eat worms, snails, aquatic insects and plants.

Angling Technique

They are best caught through dunking cut bait or dunking worms. The best time to fish blackheads is at night because that is when they feed. The best season for fishing is spring.


Catfish (not native)

These non-native fish are scientifically called Ictalurus punctatus. There are very common in the Snake River and anglers like them a lot in spring. A person who gets a 30 pound catfish is praised and anglers keep on returning to try their luck. They have backs that have green to grey to black color. The belly is white to gray in complexion. A hundred catfish were first introduced in Boise River Idaho in 1893.

Life History

Spawning for catfish takes place between June and July. At this time the water has a temperature of over 75 degrees Fahrenheit. Catfish prefer to spawn in isolated and dark areas especially beneath rocks and logs. The male makes the nest. After the female has laid the eggs the male takes care of them until the juveniles leave the nest.

Feeding Habits

This species is omnivorous which means that it feeds on both animal and plant materials.

Angling Techniques

The best method is bottom fishing where cut bait, worms or smelly concoctions are used as bait.


Bass (not native)

Bass is scientifically called Micropterus salmoides, M. dolomieui. It is not a native of Idaho and its reputation is well-known. Its growth is slow in the cold waters of Idaho. At four and six pounds this species is very aggressive. The largemouth variety has a dark green color at the back while the belly is white in complexion. It can grow to weigh 10 pounds. The small mouth variety can weigh up to 7 pounds. It has a back with dark olive or brown color; its eyes have a reddish hue; it has a whitish belly and bronze-colored sides.
Although there are found almost everywhere in Idaho, the largemouth is more widely distributed than the smallmouth.

Anglers love fishing bass and have formed national clubs for this purpose in areas where there are many bass. Idaho has attracted such fishing competitions.

Life History

The male waits until spring water attains a temperature of 60 to 65 degrees Fahrenheit before it makes a shallow redd. Once the female lays eggs it departs or is forced to do so by the male bass. The latter will remain until the juveniles have attained the ability to depart. The largemouth variety can stay for a month more to protect the group of young fish.

Not many juveniles survive the first year. In warm water, largemouth bass have higher chances than smallmouth bass. It takes about four years for the two species to reach adulthood. In their lives they can spawn a number of times.

Feeding Habits

These greedy fish adopts a fish diet at a tender age and can also feed on crayfish and frogs.

Angling Techniques

Most anglers begin fishing in the early morning using a boat. Largemouth bass are known to feed in the evening and morning at the surface and in places where there is vegetation. Use jigs and surface lures for effective fishing. You can also use the same gear on smallmouth bass in addition to jigs that are placed below the bottom. While largemouth bass can be found in brushy cover or weeds, smallmouth bass is likely to be next to big rocks.


Bluegill (not native)

Bluegill is scientifically known as Lepomis macrochirus and is not native to Idaho. It is mostly found in shallow ponds in Idaho southwestern area. Children between 3 and 10 years likely to catch bluegill. It is very exciting to catch a 3 pound bluegill on light gear or a fly rod. A mature bluegill has a yellow stomach and blue sides. Generally, it is olive green or yellowish green on top with a blue hue.

Life History

The male bluegill builds a nest that looks like a saucer when spring water temperatures reach about 50 degrees Fahrenheit. The diameter of the nest can be anything between 18 inches and five feet. Male bluegill guard the nest aggressively and only allow the female to access the nest when she is about to lay eggs. The male remains on guard until the juveniles leave. Generally, this species lives in schools for its entire life.

Feeding Habits

They eat a lot and especially like eating invertebrates and aquatic insects.

Angling Techniques

They bite many types of lures, baits and man-made flies. They can fight back when you trap them in fly fishing apparatus, light spinning or other light equipment.

Black Crappie (not native)

Their scientific name is Pomoxis nigromaculatus and they are not indigenous to Idaho. Crappie belongs to the sunfish family. It has an olive or silvery-green complexion with sides that have less color. The olive or black flecks that are on the sides are arranged randomly. It is rare to find a crappie that has grown to more than two pounds.

Life History

Spawning is done between May and June. The male creates a nest in a shallow place. Once the female lays eggs, the male will protect them up to the time the young ones leave. The juvenile undergo fast growth.

Feeding Habits

The diet mainly comprises of crustaceans and aquatic organisms. As the mature, they prey on smaller fishes especially the minnow species.

Angling Techniques

They live together and therefore bite bait almost together. The can be caught through many methods. In late May and early July, use flies and jigs. Crappies are not aggressive but can be exciting to catch. Small jigs next to lily pads or beneath rocks can be tried.


Northern Pike (not native)

The pike is not a native of Idaho and is called Esox lucius in scientific language. It has a slim body and light speckles against a green backdrop which makes it easy to identify it. Its upper body is dark green but appears lighter towards the belly. The mouth is large and the teeth abundant. Its dorsal fin is found at the farthest end of the body. They inhabit waters in northern Idaho. They came to Idaho through swimming downstream from Montana. Either fishermen had introduced them there illegally or authorities had introduced them.

Life History

Spawning occurs between April and the earlier part of May. It happens in slow moving and shallow water in areas which have vegetation in marshes, rivers and lake bays. Large females have their eggs fertilized by several smaller males. Spawning takes several days because a small number of eggs are laid at certain times. These eggs attach to vegetation and take about four or five days to hatch. Juvenile pike grow very fast especially in the initial summer. They feed on aquatic insects. On reaching two inches in length they start eating other fish.

Feeding Habits

Pike is predatory and eat smaller fish in addition to ducklings, frogs, young muskrats and mice.

Angling Techniques

Since they feed during the day, the best time to fish pike is in the morning. At a general level shallow and medium-running lures, large bait and jigs are used. Artificial lures can also be used in addition to jigging a hook or spoon in icy waters.


White Sturgeon (native)

Its scientific name is Acipenser transmontanus and it is indigenous to Idaho. No freshwater fish in America is larger than this one. They are found deep in Kootenai, Snake and lower Salmon Rivers. It is estimated that about 1,500 pound of sturgeon were fished on set lines. Presently, catch and release method is used for sturgeon fishing in Salmon and Snake Rivers. Only fish that have reached ten feet can be fished. Others must be taken back to the water immediately. In Kootenai River, sturgeon fishing is illegal since the fish here is among those in the Endangered Species Act.

Life History

First-time spawning occurs when the sturgeons are between 15 and 30 years old. They lay eggs in rocks at the surface where the current is fast. In May and June spawning takes place. A 350 pound female sturgeon can lay 700,000 eggs while larger ones can lay about four million.

In the first year most juveniles perish. Growth and maturity are slow. Nothing much is documented about their early life as compared to other species. Although they used to migrate, today that is impeded by hydroelectric projects.

Feeding Habits

They eat at the bottom of the water body. They can feed on other fish and live or dead plants or animals.

Angling Techniques

Popular baits include herring, cut bait, squid and shrimp. Fishing is done in deep holes. You must utilize barbless hooks that have a sliding sinker rig.