On the US-Canadian Border
Because it’s listed as a navigable international waterway, the Montana Board of Outfitters requires charter captains to obtain a USCG Merchant Mariners License to take people out for hire on this lake. In compliance with federal regulations on navigable inland waterways, only our USCG-licensed captains will be operating any of our charter boats on this lake.
Successful fishing on Koocanusa entails a significantly different approach than one might use in Flathead. The big predators are surface feeders and boat shy, meaning downriggers are of little help. Instead we use customized planer board systems that spread our trolled lures far and wide from the boat. Fishing is marked by long periods of inactivity interspersed with moments of exceptional excitement as a big Bull Trout smacks a lure and makes its signature underwater run, stripping off line fast enough to worry about being spooled. Other times a mighty Kamloop Rainbow will stop your heart with a howitzer leap after which the battle is on. An average day is 10-15 strikes with one in four fish being a Kamloop. Bull Trout are catch and release only. Finally, there are always the Kokanee Salmon, small but plentiful and wonderful for smoked salmon recipes.
Lake Koocanusa is 90 miles long and at full pool, 370 feet deep. Although it sounds like an ancient tribal name of some sort, Lake Koocanusa is not an Indian name. A lady named Alice Beers who lived in Rexford, Montana won a contest in 1971 to name the reservoir formed by Libby Dam. She creatively took the first three letters from the KOOtenai River, the first three letters of CANada and USA to make up her entry in the contest, and thus was born Lake Koocanusa (for the life of me I can’t remember what she won).