Thursday, March 30, 2023

Cast for burbot in Kootenai River

by T.J. ROSS/Contributing writer
| March 2, 2023 1:00 AM

Recent weather is a reminder that winter has not yet loosened its death grip on North Idaho, but there is a silver lining — fishing for burbot on the Kootenai River.

Burbot fishing in the Kootenai is most productive during the winter months as burbot prepare to spawn in February and March. Unlike the summer months when burbot often hunker down in deep pools or in Kootenai Lake in British Columbia, this time of year they can often be found in shallow water or in tributaries to the river.

Below are a few tips to improve the odds of catching a burbot when venturing out to brave the elements.

Try fishing in the evening. Burbot and other fish often move into shallower water to feed under the cover of darkness.

Try fishing at the mouths of tributaries or in tributaries themselves, such as Deep, Smith or Boundary creeks.

Burbot are similar to catfish, in that they cruise along the bottom of the river looking for other fish to eat. Try putting a piece of cut bait, shrimp or worm on a hook and soaking it on the bottom of the river, waiting for a burbot to latch on.

To give burbot fishing a try this year, remember to participate in the Kootenai River Angler Science Program to potentially win prizes and make burbot fishing even better in the years ahead.

And a reminder, if a burbot has a tag in its back, make sure to report it.

Reporting tags helps IDFG to collect data on burbot catch rates, harvest rates and survival rates, which improves the fishery.

Report a tag number and location where the fish was caught to Fish and Game. Reporting can be done over the phone 1-866-258-0338, online at or as part of the of the Angler Science Program creel packet.

Select tags carry a reward value of $100, so maybe this winter will be lucky! To claim the cash prize for a lottery burbot, physically bring the tag to the local Fish and Game office.

Please contact the Panhandle Regional office at 208-769-1414 with any questions or to learn more about burbot in the Kootenai River.

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T.J. Ross is the regional public information manager for the Panhandle district of the Idaho Department of Fish and Game

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