Big browns, macks mark this year’s LPO spring derby

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  • Courtesy photo Dave Gillespie caught an almost 15-pound rainbow that placed fourth in the annual Lake Pend Oreille spring derby that culminated over the weekend. The Lake Pend Oreille Idaho Club derby, an annual event for more than 70 years, drew more than 400 anglers.

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    Courtesy photo Bert Dennette caught a 19 1/2-pound German Brown in the derby, one of the biggest brown trout pulled from Lake Pend Oreille in many years, anglers said.

  • Courtesy photo Dave Gillespie caught an almost 15-pound rainbow that placed fourth in the annual Lake Pend Oreille spring derby that culminated over the weekend. The Lake Pend Oreille Idaho Club derby, an annual event for more than 70 years, drew more than 400 anglers.

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    Courtesy photo Bert Dennette caught a 19 1/2-pound German Brown in the derby, one of the biggest brown trout pulled from Lake Pend Oreille in many years, anglers said.

Top placing anglers

Rainbow:

1.) Dan Harder 18.54 pounds. 34 inches

2.) Kevin Elmore 16.38 pounds. 32 inches

3.) Chadd MacKay 15.24 pounds. 32 1/4 inches

4.) David Gillespie 14.90 pounds. 32 1/4 inches

5.) Phil Lamothe 14.90 pounds. 32 inches

Mackinaw:

1.) Nathan Hansen 25.54 pounds. 38 1/8 inches

2.) Becky Morrison 23.96 pounds. 38 1/2 inches

3.) John LaFore 23.78 pounds. 41 inches

4.) Gary Thompson 23.64 pounds. 38 1/4 inches

5.) Scott Plue 21 pounds. 36 3/4 inches

Walleye:

1.) Greg Hoskins 8.8 pounds. 29 1/2 inches

2.) Mark Bove 8.36 pounds. 27 1/4 inches

3.) Justin Belgarde 1.78 pounds. 17 inches

Junior Mackinaw:

1.) Patrick Elmore 10.92 pounds. 29 3/4 inches

Youth A:

1.) Kailyn Gingerich 12.26 pounds. 32 1/4-inch Mackinaw

2.) Memory Hankel 10.12 pounds. 28-inch rainbow

3.) Carly Laybourne 6.80 pounds. 26-inch rainbow

Youth B:

1.) Owen Peterson 15.06 pounds. 31 inches

2.) Whailyn Belgarde 5.45 pounds. 25 inches

3.) Steven Junior Johnson 3.54 pounds. 21 1/2-inch rainbow

German Brown:

1.) Bert Dennett 19.5 pounds. 34 inches

By RALPH BARTHOLDT

Staff Writer

The water came up fast.

It floated mats of debris off the beaches and discolored the lake.

“It was really muddy,” Clint Nicholson said. “There were logs, weeds, sticks, branches.”

Despite the onerous conditions, the Lake Pend Oreille Idaho Club’s annual spring derby came and went as evenly as it has each year since the 1940s.

Nicholson, the club’s vice president fished on the weekends because, well, his job kept him off the water otherwise, but he monitored the catch of the more than 400 anglers who participated in the nine-day event.

“Overall, the fishing was good for all species,” Nicholson said.

The club’s awards ceremony is set at 7 p.m. Saturday at the Bonner County Mall.

Dave Gillespie fished the tournament in its entirety, moving an RV from his Priest River home to Athol, and keeping his 23-foot boat moored in Bayview so he could have lines in the water from sunup to dark.

Gillespie and his wife, Barb, the club’s treasurer and president respectively, spent days floating for rainbows with their springer spaniel pup, Dougal.

The bite was slow early on, Gillespie said, because water temperatures hovered near the 40-degree Fahrenheit spot, which makes the lake’s big Kamloop rainbows lethargic, but it invigorates lake trout.

“There was a lot of mackinaw caught,” Gillespie said. “They are a little bit more active.”

The increase in water levels and massive inflow from the Clark Fork River provided some unusual fishing conditions for the derby that required persistence.

“It was hard, hard, hard,” he said.

It was the second consecutive year anglers pulled in a 28-pound lake trout.

“It’s a patch fish,” Gillespie said.

That means the club now awards its coveted jacket patch — once reserved solely for wall-hanger rainbows — for lake trout as well.

Gillespie, was still tallying results, names and numbers this week, but the experience of nine days on the lake still makes his legs wobbly and brings a smile to his lips.

“There’s just so much more to it than the fishing,” he said.

His 32-inch, 14.9-pound Kamloops led competitors for four tournament days, but ended up officially in fourth place.

“It’s a rather puny fish for fourth place,” he said.

From his perspective, he said, since their population nosedived after the kokanee numbers crashed several years ago, rainbows haven’t reached the large size of years ago.

Both kokanee and rainbow numbers have since recovered.

“They haven’t gotten back to the size they were in the 1990s,” said Gillespie, who has fished the tournament since 1986.

Two walleyes weighing more than 8 pounds took top glass-eye honors. Gillespie thinks more anglers will target the introduced fish in future tournaments.

“We had our first walleye division,” he said. “I think we’re going to give a lot more credence to that down the road.”

Sagle’s Dave Ivy, the derby’s master of events, fished from his home port at Garfield Bay.

“It’s probably one of the worst catch rates I’ve ever had,” Ivy said. “There were a lot of mackinaw caught and not so many rainbow.”

He wonders if the big predators once targeted by the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, which still pays a bounty for mackinaw, are making a comeback instead of the big rainbows that the lake built its reputation upon.

“We haven’t had a 25-pound patch given out in quite a while,” Ivy said, and to see them go to mackinaw is unusual.

It used to be relatively common to give the patches out for Kamploops, he said.

“Not any more,” Ivy said. “It’s been hard getting (rainbows) back to historical sizes.”

The Lake Pend Oreille Idaho Club — which works hand in hand with the Idaho Department of Fish and Game toward fish and lake recovery efforts, as well as with communities to promote tourism — will give its first scholarship this spring to a Sandpoint student with ambitions to earn a college biology degree.

The experience of considering another derby from the view out the back window had Gillespie waxing affectionate.

“It’s the beauty of being on the lake,” he said. “There’s wildlife all around … there’s a lot more to fishing than catching fish.”

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