With warm air temperatures and plenty of sunshine, we can finally say summer has arrived in northern Idaho. While the Panhandle is known for its fishing opportunities in its majestic lakes and streams, did you also know that there are fishing opportunities in the high mountain lakes? These unique places are often overlooked due to their remoteness and short access time due to snow.
There are 84 high mountain lakes in the Panhandle according to the Idaho Fish Planner if you’re up for the adventure. Some lakes support populations of naturally reproducing brook trout, while many others are populated with westslope cutthroat trout and rainbow trout. If you’re interested in uncommon Idaho species, a few lakes are even stocked with arctic grayling and golden trout!
When the snow on the mountain tops has melted, the access to these lakes is also very varied and offers a unique opportunity to choose your own adventure. The most easily accessible lakes can be reached with a reliable 4×4 vehicle with good ground clearance. The more challenging lakes have no maintained trails and are several miles from the nearest road. Most lakes fall somewhere in the middle. Whatever experience you want, there is a high mountain lake for you.
To learn a bit more about the history and opportunities of high mountain lakes, check out this story and this video.
Finally, a few things to remember when preparing for a trip to a high mountain lake.
- Make a plan that describes where you are going, how you will get there, and when you expect to return. Be sure to share your plans with someone who is not traveling with you.
- Please be aware. The Panhandle is home to both black bears and grizzly bears. Click on here and here to learn more about how to be bear aware.
- Don’t forget to bring warm clothes (it can be cold on top of the mountains), water, food, fishing gear, sunscreen, bug spray, and bear spray.
- Fish primarily eat insects, so try flies or lures that resemble what they eat. Using fly fishing flies that resemble flying ants, mosquitoes and gnats is 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 only lakes that are not recommended for fishing. Despite previous stocking efforts, the lakes have very few fish due to a low survival rate.