"Pend Oreille Country" can be seen online at https://www.pbs.org/video/pend-oreille-country-ierduv/
My connection to Lake Pend Oreille began as a child. I was born and raised in southwestern Idaho. In late summer, our family typically took a vacation before the start of a new school year. We traveled to North Idaho the summer I turned eight years old. It was my first time visiting this part of the state.
During that trip, we camped in Farragut State Park on the southern end of Lake Pend Oreille. I was young so don’t have many memories of the trip. However, I do remember canoeing on the lake with my dad and brother. At that age, I was mostly familiar with swimming and boating on reservoirs in southern Idaho. Lake Pend Oreille was different.
Author canoeing on Lake Pend Oreille with his father, Rich, and brother, Chris, during a family camping trip in 1986.
It was immense, had sparkling blue water, and was surrounded by heavily forested mountains. My dad told me the lake was over 1,000 feet deep, which added extra adventure to the canoe trip for me. We paddled around a peninsula into Scenic Bay and saw the U.S. Navy facility located there. I wondered if submarines really lurked beneath the surface and my imagination ran wild. Little did I know the influence this place would eventually have on my life.
For many years, I watched and learned about Lake Pend Oreille from afar. As my interest in fishing grew, it was hard not to notice the fishery here, particularly the trophy rainbow trout fishery which even in my youth I knew was world-class. My interest in fishing led me to the University of Idaho where I majored in Fisheries Resources. Soon I was learning about the Lake Pend Oreille fishery in my classes, even taking field trips to the lake and helping with fish surveys.
Author at the top of Schweitzer Mountain Resort with Lake Pend Oreille in the background during a University of Idaho field ecology course field trip in 2000.
Mostly by chance, my career path took all the right turns for me to end up working on Lake Pend Oreille. A particularly influential turn happened when I started graduate school at Montana State University.
My Master’s research focused on lake trout suppression feasibility in Glacier National Park. Coincidentally, I started this research during the same year Idaho Fish and Game began evaluating lake trout suppression in Lake Pend Oreille to recover the collapsing kokanee fishery. I frequently interacted with Fish and Game staff to exchange information, including a key finding from my research that suppression efficiency is higher when lake trout spawning aggregations are identified and targeted. Soon after, this approach was used in Lake Pend Oreille to learn that lake trout gather to spawn in only three shoreline areas during September and October. Targeting these areas with nets to remove adult lake trout has since proven to be highly effective.
Author prepares to release a lake trout in Lake McDonald, Glacier National Park after surgically implanting a transmitter in its abdomen to track its location. This was part of his graduate school research conducted at Montana State University in 2003-2005.
After graduate school, I got my first fisheries biologist job in Wyoming where I conducted research on lakes and reservoirs throughout the state. Three years later, a position opened with Idaho Fish and Game to supervise the Lake Pend Oreille research program. I jumped at the opportunity and was fortunate enough to be hired, thanks in part to my experience working on lake trout suppression issues. It was a perfect fit for me professionally, and it allowed me to move closer to family and friends in my home state.
I’ve worked on Lake Pend Oreille for 11 years now. Being part of a great team of fisheries professionals who study and manage this fishery has easily been the most rewarding experience of my career. It offers never ending challenges, with both biological and social complexities, and it has offered me the chance to be part of an incredible fisheries success story.
In my rather short time here, I’ve seen the Lake Pend Oreille fishery go from the brink of collapse to the best it has been in decades. Seeing this fishery return to popularity with anglers again is incredibly satisfying. Fishing is arguably better now than when I first visited the lake over 30 years ago and that’s pretty cool!
Author with a beautiful Lake Pend Oreille rainbow trout caught on a fishing trip in 2018.