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July walleye fishing produces big rewards for Lake Pend Oreille anglers

by T.J. ROSS Contributing Writer
| August 17, 2021 1:00 AM

Three lucky anglers each won $1,000 during the month of July for turning in reward-tagged walleye from Lake Pend Oreille

It’s not often a hobby comes with a paycheck, but for three lucky walleye anglers in Lake Pend Oreille, recent fishing efforts put fish meat in the freezer and money in the bank. During July 2021, each angler caught and turned in a reward-tagged walleye from the lake, which earned each of them a payout of $1,000. You read that right, a thousand bucks each!

James Vugrinec, an angler from Rathdrum who caught his lucky fish in the Pend Oreille River near the Long Bridge.

“The reward system is awesome," Vugrinec said. "My wife and I love to fish. Getting paid to fish is about as good as it gets.”

Vugrinec's winning walleye was 19 inches long and it was originally tagged in Morton Slough. The other two reward-tagged walleye were 19 inches and 24 inches, and were both caught near Windy Point in the lake.

Walleye fishing has been good lately, and it will likely only get better in the weeks ahead. More walleye heads were turned in during July than in any other month since the Lake Pend Oreille walleye lottery program started in March 2019. The number of walleye heads turned in by anglers during July nearly surpassed the total number of heads turned in from January to June 2021. In the past, the highest number of heads have been turned in during August, so right now is the time to get out and chase some walleye! 

Catching that lucky reward-tagged walleye isn’t the only way to win big. For every walleye head turned in, an entry is earned to a monthly drawing for 10 rewards worth $100 each. Think of it as a raffle, where each walleye head is a raffle ticket. The more tickets you have in the hat, the more likely you are to win. Click here to find a list of freezer locations where you can turn in heads.

During the first year of the walleye lottery, 40% of the reward-tagged walleye were caught in the northern portion of Lake Pend Oreille. During second year, over 60% were caught in the northern end. So far in the third year, almost 70% have been caught in the northern end of the lake. So if you’re looking to get out and fish for walleye, consider spending some time in the northern end of the lake.

Where to go to learn more

Fish and Game biologists provide regular updates on known walleye locations in Lake Pend Oreille to help get anglers and walleyes to cross paths. Make sure to check for walleye location updates on the Fish and Game website and Facebook page before heading out on your next walleye outing.

If you’re interested in learning more about walleye fishing in Lake Pend Oreille, the walleye lottery and general information about walleye in the lake, Idaho Fish and Game has plenty of resources to help.

• Learn more about the Angler Incentive Program for walleye and locations of freezers where you can turn in walleye heads.

• Learn more about how walleye fit into the fisheries make-up of Lake Pend Oreille.

• Learn more about the Clark Fork Settlement Agreement through Avista that funds the walleye lottery.

Check out our “Lake Pend Oreille fisheries” webpage and watch the 2021 State of the Lake virtual meeting to learn more about the world-class fisheries Pend Oreille is home to.

Please contact the Panhandle Regional office at (208) 769-1414 with any questions.

T.J. Ross is senior fisheries research biologist for Idaho Department of Fish & Game.