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The "shadowy" St. Joe, North Idaho


The headwaters of the shadowy St. Joe gather on the western slope of the Bitterroot Mountains, then flow west to Lake Coeur d'Alene. The river's gin-clear waters and flashing cutthroat trout draw fishermen from across the country.

The river is open all year from Coeur d'Alene to St. Maries (with special regulations for cutthroat).

As the river recedes in June and July, a variety of aquatic insects emerge, providing a cornucopia for fish and steady action for anglers. A variety of restrictions on tackle and catch limits are in place on the St. Joe to protect the fragile cutthroat population, so check the most recent IDF&G regulations.

Throughout its reach, the St. Joe offers a unique variety of fishing opportunities. Below Avery, the river flows through private lands that have been largely stripped of their timber.

Above Avery, forested slopes give meaning to the name shadowy St. Joe. Bass fishing is popular in the lower stretches near Lake Coeur d'Alene, while during the summer, the best trout fishing is generally above Marble Creek. From Prospect Creek upstream, the waters are reserved for catch-and-release fishing.

The St. Joe is accessed by paved road from its mouth to Red Ives. Above Spruce Tree, you walk or ride horseback. From Avery to Spruce Tree, the road is dotted with campgrounds, but summer weekend use is often heavy. Motel accommodations and restaurants are available in St. Maries. The St. Joe Lodge is operated by outfitters and accessible only by horseback or on foot. It is located about five miles above Spruce Tree. A small general store and bar are located in Avery, but no motel accommodations.

Joe Evancho is the author of Fishing Idaho, An Angler's Guide published by Cutthroat Press in 2004 ( This river profile was provided by Kent Henderson.