Idaho’s Biggest Fish Species: Enormous Aquatic Residents in the Gem State

Idaho biggest fish

Idaho, or the “Gem State,” is renowned for its stunning landscapes and abundant natural resources. While many may associate Idaho with its picturesque mountains, vast forests, and scenic rivers, this northwestern state is also home to an array of fascinating aquatic life, including some of the biggest fish found in the region. In this article, we will delve into the notable aquatic giants that call Idaho’s waters their home.

1. White Sturgeon (Acipenser transmontanus)

White Sturgeon

One of Idaho’s most impressive fish species is the White Sturgeon, a prehistoric behemoth that can grow to extraordinary sizes. These ancient creatures have inhabited Idaho’s Snake River for millions of years, and their presence adds a touch of primordial wonder to the state’s aquatic ecosystems. The White Sturgeon can reach lengths of up to 20 feet or more and can weigh several hundred pounds, making them the largest freshwater fish in North America.

2. Bull Trout (Salvelinus confluentus)

Another substantial fish found in Idaho’s waterways is the Bull Trout, a species known for its impressive size and strength. These native char are prized by anglers for their elusive nature and impressive fighting abilities. Bull Trout can reach lengths of up to 3 feet and can weigh over 20 pounds, making them one of the largest trout species in North America. They are primarily found in Idaho’s colder and clearer mountain streams and lakes.

3. Chinook Salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha)

Chinook Salmon

Idaho’s rivers and streams are also home to the magnificent Chinook Salmon, a species that embark on incredible migration journeys. Chinook Salmon are anadromous, meaning they migrate from the ocean to freshwater to spawn.

These iconic fish can grow to impressive sizes, with some individuals surpassing 40 pounds in weight and reaching lengths exceeding 3 feet. The rivers of central and eastern Idaho, particularly the Salmon and Clearwater rivers, provide crucial habitat for Chinook Salmon runs.

4. Northern Pike (Esox lucius)

Northern Pike (Esox lucius)
Source: superiorcountry.ca

Among the largest predatory fish in Idaho is the Northern Pike, a formidable species known for its voracious appetite and aggressive behavior. Although not native to the state, Northern Pike was introduced to Idaho’s waters and has thrived in certain lakes and reservoirs. These ambush predators can exceed 4 feet in length and weigh over 30 pounds, making them a sought-after trophy fish for anglers.

5. Lake Trout (Salvelinus namaycush)

lake trout
Source: tu.org

Idaho’s larger, deeper lakes are home to the Lake Trout, a species that can grow to impressive proportions. Lake Trout, also known as Mackinaw, is native to the northern regions of North America and were introduced to some of Idaho’s lakes for recreational fishing. They have thrived in these environments and can reach lengths exceeding 3 feet and weigh over 20 pounds. Some lakes in Idaho have even produced trophy-sized Lake Trout weighing over 40 pounds.

About Idaho Fishing

Idaho offers exceptional fishing opportunities. With its numerous rivers, lakes, and streams, Idaho offers a diverse range of fishing experiences that attract anglers from near and far. Here’s a closer look at fishing in Idaho:

Abundant Fishing Locations

Idaho boasts over 26,000 miles of fishable streams and rivers, including the renowned Snake River, Salmon River, and Clearwater River. These waterways provide ample opportunities to catch a variety of fish species, including trout, salmon, steelhead, bass, sturgeon, and more.

Additionally, the state has hundreds of lakes and reservoirs. For example, there are Lake Pend Oreille, Priest Lake, and Cascade Reservoir. They offer excellent fishing for various freshwater species.

Trout Fishing Paradise

Fishing Idaho's Famed Henry's Lake

Idaho is often hailed as a trout fishing paradise and for good reason. The state is home to several species of trout, including rainbow trout, cutthroat trout, brown trout, brook trout, and lake trout. Anglers can enjoy both fly fishing and spin casting in the crystal-clear mountain streams, high-elevation lakes, and iconic rivers that wind through the state.

The remote wilderness areas and scenic backcountry of Idaho provide incredible trout fishing opportunities for those seeking a peaceful and serene angling experience.

Salmon and Steelhead Runs

Idaho is famous for its impressive salmon and steelhead runs, drawing anglers and outdoor enthusiasts from around the world. The Salmon River, also known as the “River of No Return,” hosts one of the largest Chinook salmon runs in the United States.

Additionally, the Snake River and Clearwater River are popular destinations for catching steelhead, an anadromous trout species known for its spirited fight and acrobatics. These migratory fish offer exciting angling opportunities and contribute to Idaho’s rich fishing heritage.

Warmwater Fishing

While trout fishing may dominate Idaho’s angling scene, the state also provides excellent warm-water fishing opportunities. Lakes and reservoirs such as Dworshak Reservoir, Brownlee Reservoir, and C.J. Strike Reservoir have great populations of bass, crappie, perch, catfish, and other warm water species. These waters attract avid anglers who enjoy the thrill of chasing after these feisty and hard-fighting fish.

Regulations and Licenses

To maintain sustainable fisheries and preserve Idaho’s fish populations, the state has fishing regulations in place. Anglers must adhere to bag limits, size restrictions, and specific fishing seasons to ensure the long-term health of fish populations. Fishing licenses are a must. All anglers 14 and older need them. You can purchase them online or at various vendors throughout the state.

Guides and Services

For those seeking expert guidance or wanting to enhance their fishing experience, Idaho offers a range of professional fishing guides and outfitters. These experienced individuals or companies provide knowledge about local fishing hotspots, techniques, and regulations, ensuring a successful and enjoyable fishing trip.


Idaho’s diverse waterways provide a habitat for an assortment of impressive fish species, some of which rank among the largest freshwater fish in North America. From the prehistoric White Sturgeon to the powerful Chinook Salmon and the predatory Northern Pike, Idaho offers a unique opportunity for anglers and nature enthusiasts to encounter these majestic aquatic residents.

Whether you seek a thrilling fishing experience or wish to witness the awe-inspiring beauty of these enormous fish, Idaho’s waters have something remarkable to offer everyone.

All Posts


Related Posts