Chad Landrum has been kicking the idea around for years to form a group of warm-water anglers to carry its solidarity for North Idaho walleye, pike and bass angling to the state’s fishery managers.
Every time he hooks a smallmouth bass and lets it swim back into the hideouts of Lake Pend Oreille’s northern shore, he thinks about it.
When he fields questions about Pend Oreille’s walleye or pike, and sees the enthusiasm of anglers hoisting toothy trophies for the camera, it crosses his mind.
What’s so bad about spiny rays or northern pike, he asks.
Pike and walleye have been in the Pend Oreille system for many years, he said, but only within the past decade have trophy-sized, glass-eyed fish been pulled with regularity from primarily the northern reaches of Pend Oreille. Many of Landrum’s clients have booked trips to catch 8-pound versions of the spiny rays. One trip last season produced five fish weighing a total of more than 40 pounds, he said.
Idaho Fish and Game, on the other hand, has been netting and killing walleye in an effort to remove from Pend Oreille the non-native species it considers a nuisance and a danger to the lake’s trophy Kamloops.
Landrum objects to the state’s game plan.
“There’s no need to take that stance,” he says.
There is food enough to go around, he said, and having another non-native trophy fishery — Kamloops were also introduced to the lake — would be a double boost to the region.
“We don’t want to take anyone’s opportunity to harvest fish from them,” Landrum said.
Landrum, who owns Go Fish Charters in Sandpoint, thinks a group of like-minded sportsmen and women with a goal to promote a North Idaho warm-water fishery will carry more weight when it comes to having their interests heard, then a few individuals.
Given his manifest, booked with clients who want to catch spiny rays or pike, he knows his idea will have a following.
Landrum’s North Idaho Sportfishing Association, or NISA, will cater to warm-water anglers who revel in the diversity of Pend Oreille’s fishery.
“We don’t say that one fish is better than any other fish,” he said.
Landrum’s background in fisheries and wildlife biology resulted, early on, in a few stints at graduate school and jobs all over the U.S. including Alaska — and Australia — before landing him as an ornithologist for the Kootenai Tribe in North Idaho.
The work entailed he motor the Kootenai River conducting bird surveys.
“From Montana to Porthill,” he said. “It’s a big, slow river. It’s deep and intimidating.”
When he changed gears and opened a guide business on the lake, it was an extension of his passion to be like many North Idaho anglers, close to the region’s fish and game species. Surveys show that Gem staters prefer to chase trout, but second in line are anglers who chase anything that bites.
That is NISA’s target audience, Landrum said.
A couple North Idaho clubs cater to bass, he said, and many others are trout focused but NISA will be for anglers who want to promote and take advantage of Pend Oreille’s pike, bass and walleye fishery that Landrum says is second to none.
NISA’s website, www.mynisa.net, like the notion to give credibility to Pend Oreille’s spiny rays, is a work in progress. Landrup is looking for volunteers to help him get the club running. He can be reached at 208-597-5020.