In his determination to reach every last corner of the state, Lonesome Larry will not be stopped–except perhaps to pick some huckleberries along the way.
The most interesting fish in the world traveled all the way to the US-Canada border through the Idaho Panhandle this week, attending farmer’s markets in Moscow, Sandpoint, and Coeur d’Alene and making several appearances at city beaches on Lake Pend Oreille and Lake Coeur d’Alene. These scenic lakes are the hub of recreation in North Idaho, where tourists from all over come for camping, swimming, boating, fishing, and para-sailing.
While it never contained migrating sockeye, Lake Pend Oreille was once home to millions of Kokanee, the land-locked version of the same species. Over the past century, habitat destruction caused by several factors, including dam construction and the introduction of invasive species to Lake Pend Oreille, caused Kokanee populations to plummet. Although they are still far below their historic numbers, an angler-incentive program to reduce populations of fish that prey on kokanee has had some success. Lake Pend Oreille is also home to native bull trout, a cousin of sockeye that has also become threatened due to habitat destruction.
Overlooking Lake Pend Oreille is one more of Lonesome Larry’s destinations from the past week: Schweitzer Mountain. The world’s most interesting fish could not resist the lure of another iconic Idaho native: the huckleberry. The state fruit of Idaho, huckleberries tend to grow best in damp, acidic soil on lower slopes of mountains. While sometimes compared to blueberries, huckleberries have a sweet and tangy taste that is all their own.
Lonesome Larry has another reason to love huckleberries: while humans have tried to domesticate the species for farms and gardens, they have had little success. Like sockeye, huckleberry plants do best when wild. Both species are native, nutritious, perfect pieces of Idaho that insist upon thriving on their own terms.