Spawning fish in North Idaho lakes

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  • (Photo by LOREN BENOIT) Post Falls resident Chuck Knapp catches a crappie Tuesday afternoon at Fernan Lake.

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    Jerry Wood fishes for crappie and bluegill fish as rain falls Tuesday afternoon near the east end of Lake Fernan. (LOREN BENOIT/Press)

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    Chuck Knapp reels in a fish Tuesday afternoon at Fernan Lake. (LOREN BENOIT/Press)

  • (Photo by LOREN BENOIT) Post Falls resident Chuck Knapp catches a crappie Tuesday afternoon at Fernan Lake.

  • 1

    Jerry Wood fishes for crappie and bluegill fish as rain falls Tuesday afternoon near the east end of Lake Fernan. (LOREN BENOIT/Press)

  • 2

    Chuck Knapp reels in a fish Tuesday afternoon at Fernan Lake. (LOREN BENOIT/Press)

The spring weather is one of the things early-season bank anglers must prepare for.

Muddy water that hides weeds and brush under its cloudy surface, waiting to snag a hook, is another.

“It’s warm when the sun is out,” Judd Reed said. “When the sun goes away and the wind kicks up, it’s cold again.”

Wearing a blaze orange coat and a red-checked cap that is referred by some as an Elmer Fudd hat, Reed sat in a lawn chair at the edge of Fernan Road paying attention to his bobber and the wind.

“It just changed again, did you see that, Ray?” Reed asked his pal, Ray Banka, who watched his bobber while standing nearby with his hands in his pockets and a Harrison Dock Builders hat on his head.

“It was coming from over there, and now it’s blowing directly to our right,” Reed said.

The two men went to school together in Coeur d’Alene and have for decades fished Fernan Lake where on Wednesday they cast out worms for panfish.

For a couple of weeks each spring when the ice has melted off the surface of the many lakes that freckle the Panhandle, panfish spawn in quick succession. The spiny rays feed voraciously and smash hooks tipped with worms that may drift into their shallow-water spawning areas.

“It happens every spring,” said Jordan Smith, who owns Fins and Feathers Tackle Shop and Guide Service on east Sherman Avenue in Coeur d’Alene.

“As soon as the ice is out, the crappies spawn first, then the bluegill right behind them, then the perch right behind them.”

The phenomenon that usually begins in March lasts a few weeks.

“It’s later this year because we had that cold weather, and all of that snow,” Smith said.

But once the spawning begins, it’s just like dominoes.

The quick action makes for excellent bank fishing, and not just on Fernan Lake, Smith said.

“It happens at every lake around here,” he said. “It’s fun for the kids.”

Once the water warms up, the fish start moving to deeper haunts and bank fishing is relegated to the cool morning hours.

Idaho Fish and Game recently planted catchable trout in Fernan Lake and will release more later this week — a total of 12,000 rainbows averaging 10 to 12 inches.

Around 30,000 rainbow trout averaging 12 inches will be stocked in Fernan this season with an average of 6,000 trout stocked each month during May, June and September.

Reed and Banka used worms on small fluorescent green jigs under rocket bobbers while fishing on the east end of Fernan Lake, where Banka said as a Boy Scout more than 50 years ago he used to camp on the lake’s southern shore.

After a gust of wind rippled the water’s surface Reed’s bobber disappeared and he reeled in a bluegill.

“That’s a pretty good sized bluegill,” he said.

“Bigger than most of the ones we catch,” Banka agreed.

Neither of the men wanted to take the fish home, so they tossed the bluegill back into the lake.

“I gave a bunch of them away the other day,” Reed said. “Along with a crappie.”

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