The Priest Lake area offers a wide variety of choices to the angler. Fishing opportunities range from trophy size Mackinaw in Priest Lake, to cutthroat fishing in the nearby alpine lakes, to brook trout angling in the numerous streams in the Priest basin, to catch-and-release fishing for westslope cutthroat in Upper Priest Lake, to great ice fishing on Cavanaugh Bay.
Mackinaw (lake trout) is the predominate species in Priest Lake and trophy size fish are not uncommon. The Idaho state record for Mackinaw (57 1/2 pounds) was caught at Priest Lake in 1971. Mackinaw fishing methods include downriggers, leaded line, wire line and jigging -- all designed to present lures near the bottom especially during the summer months. It is not uncommon for successful lake trout anglers to fish at depths of 100-feet or deeper during the summer season. However, from late fall through spring when the water temperature is coldest, Mackinaw can be caught nearer the surface and in relatively shallow water. For the inexperienced Mackinaw angler or the trophy fish hunter, it is recommended that a fishing guide be hired. There are a number highly recommended and very experienced guide services listed under Guide Services in our Business Directory. Priest Lake is open year-round to fishing with a harvest limit of six lake trout per day.
Fishing in Upper Priest Lake and Upper Priest River is restricted to catch-and-release, no bait and single, barbless hooks. These restrictions are necessary to protect the bull trout which has been declared "threatened" under the Endangered Species Act and to assist in the recovery of the native westslope cutthroat population.
Stream fishing in the numerous creeks in the area is also a popular pastime. The predominate species in most of the creeks is brook trout although you may hook an occasional cutthroat or rainbow trout. Check the Idaho Fishing Regulations booklet for open season dates as the seasons vary from stream to stream and some streams are closed to harvest. This booklet is available at many businesses around the lake.
Priest River, downstream from the Priest Lake outlet dam, is open all year for fishing. Winter, late spring and early summer are the most productive fishing periods on the river. The skillful angler can hook trout and an occasional mountain whitefish --- and the picturesque beauty of the river in itself makes the trip well worth the time.
Various alpine lakes nestled in the Selkirks on the east side of Priest Lake are stocked with trout. These include the following lakes: Hunt, Standard, Two Mouth, Caribou, Mollies, Fault and Hidden. These secluded lakes offer a great opportunity to hike scenic trails, topped off with a backcountry fishing experience. Their pristine setting, coupled with the high probability of fishing success, make the alpine lakes an ideal family adventure.
On the west side, Petit Lake, located near Diamond Peak off USFS Roads 308 & 311, is a fly fisherman's delight. Muskegon Lake, located just off USFS Road 1013 north of Granite Pass also offers good fishing. Access to both of these lakes requires only a short walk from a vehicle parking area. Float tube fishing is recommended for both lakes -- and remember Washington state fishing regulations apply as both of these lakes are located in that state.
You may also join the many Priest Lake area residents who fish for bass in Chase Lake. It is located 1-1/2 miles south of Coolin, off East River Road. The Chase Lake season is open from July 1--December 31 for bass harvest and gasoline powered motors are prohibited on the lake.