Locals claim the St. Joe River may have the best cutthroat trout fly fishing in the U.S. The St. Joe is a beautiful freestone river that originates at St. Joe Lake high on the western slope of the Bitterroot Range along the Montana – Idaho border. More than 50 miles of the upper river glide through lush northwestern forest and are managed as catch-and- release water. Only flies and artificial lures with single barbless hooks are allowed.
Of the 50-plus miles of catch-and-release water, the lower 33 miles, from the mouth of Prospector Creek upstream to the Spruce Tree Campground, are paralleled by road. From Spruce Tree upstream, the river is roadless, but paralleled by a hiking trail for about 17 miles. On summer weekends anglers hit the roadside water in considerable numbers. If you want to enjoy excellent cutthroat fishing in solitude, backpack into the roadless area. Most of the lakes along the St. Joe and Coeur d’Alene Rivers offer a mix of bass, pike and panfish.
Seasonal fishing events stack up faster than the logs behind the mill booms along the St. Joe River. Third week in April: Pike fishing derby – restricted to chain lakes between Rose Lake and Harrison. Boaters and shore anglers compete on an equal level. Memorial Day: Annual fisherman’s breakfast, same morning as opening date of trout season. Mid May: Squawfish derby – prizes for biggest fish, most caught, junior and senior citizen divisions. Registration fee required. Must fish within the St. Joe, St. Maries Rivers and Coeur d’Alene drainage to Post Falls Dam to qualify.
The Idaho Department of Fish and Game can provide details on fishing seasons and regulations. Compulsive fisherman can find guides and information on the St. Joe River and other hot spots to cast your line at our local sporting goods stores and tackle shops.