Idaho’s Top 5 Biggest Fish Species – Aquatic Giants

Idaho’s Biggest Fish Species

Nestled amidst the majestic Rocky Mountains, Idaho is a state that surprises many with its rich tapestry of natural wonders.

While its landscapes are undeniably breathtaking, beneath the shimmering surfaces of its lakes and rivers lie some of the most impressive aquatic giants in the U.S. From prehistoric behemoths to silvery heavyweights, Idaho’s waters are a treasure trove of fish tales waiting to be told.

5. The Burbot: Idaho’s Cold Water Cod


Often mistaken for an eel due to its elongated body, the Burbot is a unique freshwater fish that thrives in cold waters. With a single chin barbel and a mottled greenish-brown appearance, this fish is a nocturnal predator, hunting smaller fish in the dark depths of Idaho’s lakes and rivers.

  • Size and Appearance: Often referred to as the “freshwater cod,” the Burbot has an elongated body and a single chin barbel. It can grow up to 36 inches and weigh over 20 pounds.
  • Biggest Recorded: The state record for Burbot is a whopping 19.25 pounds, caught in the Kootenai River.
  • Fun Fact: Despite their somewhat eel-like appearance, Burbot are actually part of the cod family!

4. The Bull Trout: Idaho’s Native Char

Bull Trout

A native of Idaho’s clear, cold streams and lakes, the Bull Trout is a striking fish with a greenish-brown body adorned with pale yellow spots. As a member of the char family, it’s a fierce predator, often seen lurking in the shadows, waiting for its next meal.

  • Size and Appearance: With a greenish-brown body and pale yellow spots, the Bull Trout is a sight to behold. They can grow up to 41 inches and weigh over 32 pounds.
  • Biggest Recorded: The Idaho state record for Bull Trout stands at 32 pounds, caught in Lake Pend Oreille.
  • Fun Fact: Bull Trout are not actually trout but are a type of char, closely related to lake trout and brook trout.

3. The Channel Catfish: Nighttime’s Whiskered Giant

Channel Catfish

This bottom-dwelling behemoth is easily recognizable by its whisker-like barbels and smooth, scale-less body. With a keen sense of taste that extends across its entire body, the Channel Catfish is a master at navigating and hunting in murky waters, making it one of the most successful predators in Idaho’s warmer waterways.

  • Size and Appearance: Recognizable by its whisker-like barbels, the Channel Catfish can grow up to 40 inches and weigh over 30 pounds.
  • Biggest Recorded: The heaviest Channel Catfish caught in Idaho weighed in at 31.5 pounds from the Snake River.
  • Fun Fact: Channel Catfish have taste buds all over their bodies, which they use to detect food in murky waters.

2. The Gerrard Rainbow Trout: The Silver Heavyweight

Gerrard Rainbow Trout

A shimmering spectacle, the Gerrard Rainbow Trout is a strain of the Rainbow Trout that boasts a silvery body with hints of pink. Native to Lake Pend Oreille, this fish is not just a beauty to behold but also a prized catch for many anglers due to its impressive size and fighting spirit.

  • Size and Appearance: A strain of the Rainbow Trout, the Gerrard boasts a silvery appearance with a pinkish hue. They can weigh over 30 pounds.
  • Biggest Recorded: The state record for Gerrard Rainbow Trout is an impressive 28.5 pounds from Lake Pend Oreille.
  • Fun Fact: Lake Pend Oreille, where the Gerrard Rainbow Trout thrives, is Idaho’s largest and deepest lake, plunging to depths of over 1,150 feet!

1. The White Sturgeon: Idaho’s Prehistoric Monster

White Sturgeon

A living relic from the time of the dinosaurs, the White Sturgeon is an awe-inspiring giant that roams the depths of Idaho’s rivers. With its armored body, long snout, and shark-like tail, this ancient fish is a testament to the wonders of evolution, having remained largely unchanged for millions of years.

  • Size and Appearance: The White Sturgeon, with its shark-like tail and bony plates, is truly a sight to behold. Mature individuals can reach lengths of over 10 feet and weigh more than 1,000 pounds.
  • Biggest Recorded: The largest White Sturgeon ever caught in Idaho was an astounding 10 feet long and weighed over 400 pounds, caught in the Snake River.
  • Fun Fact: Sturgeons are among the oldest fish species, with some fossils dating back to the time of the dinosaurs!


Are all these fish species native to Idaho?

Most of these species are native to Idaho, such as the Bull Trout and the White Sturgeon. However, some species, like the Channel Catfish, were introduced to Idaho’s waters.

Can I fish for all these species year-round?

No, fishing seasons vary depending on the species and location. It’s essential to check the Idaho Department of Fish and Game regulations before heading out.

What’s the average lifespan of a White Sturgeon? 

White Sturgeons are known for their longevity. They can live for several decades, with some individuals reaching over 100 years!

Are there any specific lures or baits recommended for Gerrard Rainbow Trout?

Gerrard Rainbow Trout often respond well to spoons, plugs, and flies. However, local knowledge and current conditions can influence the best choice of lure or bait.

Is it safe to eat Burbot?

Yes, Burbot is edible and is often referred to as “poor man’s lobster” because of its firm, white flesh that tastes somewhat like lobster when cooked.

How can I differentiate between a Bull Trout and a Brook Trout?

While both belong to the char family, Bull Trout are generally larger and have pale yellow spots on a greenish-brown body. Brook Trout, on the other hand, have smaller, more numerous spots that are often surrounded by blue halos.

Do Channel Catfish have sharp teeth?

No, Channel Catfish have sandpaper-like structures called “papillae” instead of sharp teeth, which they use to grasp food.


It’s evident that the Gem State’s riches aren’t just limited to its landscapes. The tales of these aquatic titans, from the ancient White Sturgeon to the gleaming Gerrard Rainbow Trout, are a testament to the state’s diverse and thriving ecosystems.

Each fish, with its unique story and characteristics, adds a chapter to Idaho’s rich natural narrative. So, whether you’re casting a line in hopes of a record-breaking catch or simply admiring the beauty of Idaho’s waters, remember the incredible stories that swim beneath the surface, waiting to inspire awe and wonder in all who discover them.

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