Wednesday, March 14, 2007
When people talk about the fish and fishing in Lake Pend Oreille, they usually talk about the outsized Rainbow Trout, the Gerrard Rainbows imported into these waters from a longer-living Canadian strain. They also, now, talk about the voracious Mackinaw, or Lake Trout, that got into these waters some fifty years ago and have grown sight unseen in deeper waters until within the last ten years or so they started showing up on the ends of fishing rods.
Both trout species are notorious predators and according to Idaho Fish & Game. Fish biologists that have conducted many lengthy studies hoping to restore the once-famous Kokanee fishing on these waters. Kokanee (locally once called Bluebacks) are a variety of landlocked sockeye salmon. Kokanee were not always here either. The first in this lake were caught handlining for Lake Whitefish, dropping a heavy sinker into deep water with a maggot or two barbed to a small hook six inches off the bottom and jigging by hand without rod. Those early birds didn't know what they were catching but knew they sure tasted good! They called them Bluebacks in lieu of their spring and summer colors. When these prolific fish started showing up in great numbers (by the mid-to-late 40s, there were millions of these fish in the lake averaging 11-inches in length), they were fished commercially and had become the main food source of humongous trout.
Of late, the large rainbows and the Mackinaw, the latter in particular have been labelled as the culprits in the food chain that could drop the Kokanee of Lake Pend Oreille off the map in a population collapse. Long story here with many tangents...I could go on and on and on.
But nobody talks about or even broaches the subject of Brown Trout in Lake Pend Oreille and yet the Clark Fork River, which flows into the lake, is full of them above the Cabinet Gorge Dam. Seems a few have gone through the spillway. This 30-inch brown trout, coveted by you and me but taken by George Hendrix was caught in the second week of March off an unnamed point casting small brassy spoons from shore. It's a bonafide Salmo Trutta alright. Thirty inches in length and weighing a winter-lite eight and a half pounds. Whew! Where'd she come from?
"Nice goin', George. Say...next time you head out...if you have room...would you mind...you know...taking me along?"
###Dwayne K. Parsons