Big fish on the big lake

The K&K Thanksgiving Derby returns to Lake Pend Oreille

By Ben Olson
Reader Staff

For more than 40 years, the Lake Pend Oreille Idaho Club has sponsored the K&K Fall Thanksgiving Fishing Derby on Lake Pend Oreille, giving local anglers a chance to reel in the big ones before the snow flies. This year, with fishing the best it has been in years, it should prove to be a banner event.

The derby will run Saturday, Nov. 23-Sunday, Dec. 1 (taking Thanksgiving Day off), offering more than $10,000 in cash and prizes to division winners. Divisions include adult categories for mackinaw and rainbows, two youth divisions (8 and under and 9-13 years) and a junior mackinaw and rainbow category. Entry fees are $40 for adults, $20 for juniors and youth 13 and under enter free.

The minimum length for the rainbows are 32 inches for the adult division, 28 inches for the junior division and no minimum length for both youth divisions and any mackinaw. Adults will also be awarded $150 for the largest mackinaw caught each day.

Weigh stations will be placed at Holiday Shores, Captn’s Table, MacDonald’s Hudson Bay Resort, Ralph’s Coffee House, Fins and Feathers, North Ridge Outfitters, Sandpoint Marine, Mark’s Marine, Black Sheep Sporting Goods, Odie’s Bayside Grocery, Captain’s Wheel, Priest River Hardware, North 40 Ponderay, White Elephant No. 1 and No. 2 and Bayview Mercantile. The derby will end at 4 p.m. on Dec. 1 with an awards ceremony at 7 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 7 at the Bonner Mall.

LPOIC member Clint Nicholson predicts the club will award a lot of patches this year.

“This year has been a banner year,” Nicholson said. “The club is going to give away more patches this year than we have in 20 years — you get a patch if your rainbow or mackinaw is 25 pounds or bigger.”

Nicholson, a member of the club since 2009 and vice president from 2013-2018, said the good fishing is an indication that the kokanee population is healthy.

“Idaho Fish and Game tells us that if we want to keep these big predator fish, concentrate your efforts on the kokanee, which is the biomass which trophy fish eat,” he said. “So it’s important to sustain healthy fishing practices on the kokanee.”

Nicholson said 25 years ago, the only predator fish that fed on kokanee were rainbows and mackinaw, along with bull trout, dolly vardens and cutthroat trout. But that has changed today.

“Now we have very robust largemouth bass and smallmouth bass fisheries,” he said. “Walleyes are here, pikes are here, and they’re here to stay. So there’s a lot more pressure on this biomass of food.”

Nicholson said he keeps coming back to the derby each year because it’s a tradition, as well as an opportunity to spend quality time with fellow anglers.

“It’s a good time to go out with your friends and fish, maybe have a few drinks, play cards, eat some good food,” he said. “I ended up winning the spring derby in 2013 and realized there were only 63 people that have ever won the spring derby. I became a part of a very small group of people who had won the derby. I felt like I was part of a fraternity.”

While he doesn’t fish every day during the Fall Thanksgiving Derby, Nicholson said he still enjoys the camaraderie and tradition.

“We’re all trying to do the same thing: Have a good time and catch a big fish,” he said.

For more information about the derby or the LPOIC, visit

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