Lake Pend Oreille sees highest kokanee density in two decades

Lake Pend Oreille Kokanee (1)
Credit: IDFG

SANDPOINT, Idaho — Fisheries researchers estimated that more than 2.5 million adult kokanee were in Lake Pend Oreille this past fall, making the highest count on record since the mid-1990s.

According to a release from the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, anglers are now reaping the benefits.

Tom Anderson at North 40 in Sandpoint told IDFG he has been hearing good things from his customers.

“One of our guys had been fishing in Ellisport Bay and they knocked them dead the other night,” Anderson said. “I’ve also heard some good reports out of Garfield and the odd report of good fishing at the Monarchs.’

When there is a high population of kokanees, the fish tend to be smaller.

“That’s because when more kokanee compete for a limited food supply, they all get less to eat and growth slows down,” said fisheries biologist Sean Wilson.

IDFG officials said the large population would normally have biologists predicting smaller-than-average adult sizes, but a “bonus class” of four-year-old fish may be boosting the fishery, both in numbers and size.

“As of last fall, some of the age-three fish hadn’t matured yet,” Wilson said. “They were big enough to catch in fall 2019 and will only be bigger this year.”

The IDFG said there are good signs that these four-year-olds are contributing to the quality fishing in the lake. Anglers are reporting the average kokanee size is nine or 10 inches and by fall, these fish will have grown another inch.

Anglers looking to catch kokanee can do so on Saturday, June 13 as Idaho celebrates Free Fishing Day. No fishing license is required anywhere in the state.