Reflecting on Panhandle fishing and spring trout on Mirror Lake

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  • Photo courtesy of GLENN LEFEBVRE Like most Panhandle lakes, Mirror Lake south of Sandpoint is regularly stocked with trout.

  • 1

    Photo courtesy of GLENN LEFEBVRE Glenn Lefebvre of Sandpoint with nephews Parker Munson, Colton Onica and a string of trout from a Panhandle lake.

  • 2

    Photo courtesy of GLENN LEFEBVRE Rainbows and brook trout on ice, getting ready for the smoker.

  • Photo courtesy of GLENN LEFEBVRE Like most Panhandle lakes, Mirror Lake south of Sandpoint is regularly stocked with trout.

  • 1

    Photo courtesy of GLENN LEFEBVRE Glenn Lefebvre of Sandpoint with nephews Parker Munson, Colton Onica and a string of trout from a Panhandle lake.

  • 2

    Photo courtesy of GLENN LEFEBVRE Rainbows and brook trout on ice, getting ready for the smoker.

Glenn Lefebvre grew up in North Idaho with a fishing pole nearby.

If it wasn’t in his hand, he knew where to find it, and the question of where to cast didn’t require a lot of reflection.

The Purcell Trench, a gouge between two mountain ranges formed by glaciers that pushed from Canada to the Rathdrum Prairie, left behind a lot of what are commonly referred to as fishing holes.

Lefebvre, of Sandpoint, knows them by other names. Smith, Robinson, Brushy and Dawson are lakes tucked just enough off the beaten path in Boundary County to have been stamped in his memory since he could walk the rutted two tracks to meet the lakes’ glassine grins.

“I caught my biggest fish back then in Robinson Lake,” Lefebrve remembers. “It was a five-pound cutthroat.”

He was trolling in the lake north of Bonners Ferry with his uncle, Tom Lefebvre, a local boxing coach who went on to coach young pugilists at Colorado Springs as they prepared for a shot on Olympic teams.

Lefebvre recalls pulling a small flatfish, a lure shaped like a sliver moon that dives and wobbles through the water.

On the return pass, as the pair trolled through the honey hole, Lefebvre said he caught another fish almost equally as big.

“I was probably 6 years old,” he said. “Tommy was real happy with me. It’s family lore now.”

As a kid, a fishing column in Lefebvre’s hometown newspaper, The Bonners Ferry Herald, was a staple weekly enticement.

Until his death at 91 more than a decade ago, Ralph Anglen wrote “Anglin’ with Anglen,” a precipitous engagement of fishing and gossip that aired the secrets of the Panhandle’s most unassuming fishing spots.

They were reached by rutted paths, had few accoutrements, and the fish there ate gear.

Lefebvre, 52, still visits those spots at every opportunity. This week, he trundled south of Sandpoint to Mirror Lake, a slim, deep cut that is ringed with weeds in the summer, but with water clear as a snifter in April.

“It’s been my go-to lake,” he said. “Mostly out of convenience.”

He carried home a batch of rainbow and brook trout that he smokes using a recipe handed down from his uncle Tom.

“It’s salt and brown sugar basically, add any spices you want,” he said.

Lefebvre trolled small spoons behind a punt he often carries on the canopy of his pickup truck just in case he finds himself within casting distance of a Panhandle lake.

In the spring, during the week, anglers get the out-of-the-way water pockets to themselves. Mirror Lake was like that, Lefebvre said.

“I was the only one on the lake for four hours,” he said.

Around 85 acres, Mirror, like many Panhandle water bodies, gets its share of stocked fish. Last year, cutthroat, kokanee and rainbows were stocked in the lake, with more than 2,200 rainbow trout more than 6 inches long planted by the Idaho Department of Fish and Game in September. The lake also has an abundant brook trout population.

Lefebvre used 1/8-ounce gold-colored Thomas spoon trolled along the edges of weedbeds.

In the 1970s, his family’s fishing outings often started at lakes in Bonner or Boundary counties and ended elsewhere.

“A lot of the time, we would end up creek fishing,” he said. “We’d pack home creels full of fish.”

Many of the trout were as long as a pocket knife.

“Those were my grandmother’s favorites,” he said.

These days, Lefebvre said, taking a page from his uncle’s playbook, he is passing on the fishing tradition to his own nieces and nephews.

“I’ve kind of taken over uncle Tom’s role,” he said. “Glad to do it … much less whiskey under the seat, though.”

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