FWP Meeting Announcement and Comments
In order to remain effective in a constantly changing environment, all organizations must periodically evaluate their ability to meet the demands of their customers and constituents. Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks has initiated a process called ’15 and Forward. Our intent is to evaluate the Department’s vision and goals, which will help set priorities for the next 10 years. It has been nearly two decades since FWP last engaged in a critical self-evaluation. We believe it is time to do it again.
Your input is critical to the success of ’15 and Forward. FWP would like to understand if we are meeting your needs, what we can do to serve you better, and get your thoughts on FWP priorities for the next 10 years. What you share will be an integral part of identifying programs and services that are most valuable and relevant. We invite you to contribute and hope that you will be able to attend the session on July 29 at Montana Wild (2668 Broadwater Avenue, Helena) from 6-9pm. Please help us learn more about what FWP can do to serve you best in the decade to come. Light refreshments will be provided.
This listening session is open to anyone that is interested but will be most valuable if attendees represent a wide variety of interests and perspectives. We’ll have small and large group discussions and other activities that will help us understand your expectations, values, needs, priorities, and perceived issues and challenges related to our fish, wildlife, recreation, cultural, and state park resources.
Unfortunately, busy summer schedules mean that we’ll miss some of you at this session, but we still hope to get your input. If you are unable to attend, you can learn more and provide comments on our website.
We hope to see you on July 29 at 6pm. Please RSVP by Monday, July 27 and direct all questions to Deb O’Neill at FWP15andForward@mt.gov or (406) 444-3755.
Please send your thoughts to Patti, (Secretary of the URM chapter) at firstname.lastname@example.org or to my physical address, 3286 Grandview, East Helena, MT 59635. We appreciate your energy and support on the future of our fisheries.
Montana FWP AIS Program Update for July 10, 2015
The 4th of July weekend was incredibly hot and busy for our crews but they all did a great job. We would like to send a special thanks to our FWP wardens, our partners at MDT, and highway patrol and local law enforcement personnel for their presence and support of our crews at all times, but especially on the busy 4th of July weekend. We literally could not do our job without you.
Eureka has been open since May 24 but has been without a computer to enter their data, but that problem has been rectified and the next update should include numbers for that station. Also, the ‘total failed categories’ is lower than ‘total failed inspections’ because sometimes the additional data on failures is not entered into the database completely. Most of the time it is standing water or a dirty boat. That information will be more complete when the data is cleaned up at the end of the season. In the meantime, the ‘Total failed inspections’ is the more accurate figure.
Kids to Fish
FWP's “Kids to Fish” Program Allows Youths to Borrow Gear & Tackle for Free
A popular Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks Region 6 program that allows children and their families to check out free fishing rods and tackle is in full swing again this year.
Just in time for summer fishing, FWP staff is in the process of restocking the 49 (and counting) different location sites across Montana’s Hi-Line. The “Kids to Fish” program lets youngsters check out fishing rods and reels and basic tackle, such as hooks, bobbers, and sinkers.
Visit fwp.mt.gov to learn more and see where fishing rods and tackle are currently available.
Camp Walleye 2015Great Falls Walleyes Unlimited hosting Kids Fishing Camp on August 14-16 at Tiber Reservoir. We will be accepting 50 applicants from boys or girls from ages 11-15. Included in the 3 day, 2 night camp are safety courses, on and off water activities, and a Fish, Wildlife and Parks sponsored safety course. Seminars on fishing techniques, technologies, strategies, uses of current fishing technologies, and spinner making are planned. We plan on having 2 to 3 children per boat for on the water instruction. Life jackets will be provided and are mandatory any time kids are on the water.
This will be an Adult Supervised Camp. Meals and tents will be provided. Girls are encouraged to attend, and will be housed in an all-female tent with female chaperones.
Each student will be responsible for his or her own personal equipment such as sleeping bags, personal items and appropriate clothing for the weather.
There is a $50.00 DONATION SUGGESTED for the camp to cover expenses. For more information click on the link below or call Pat Volkmar at 406-590-8425
2015 Camp Walleye
May Hunting and Fishing News
Montana FWP AIS Program Update
As of May 21st, the FWP watercraft inspections station season has officially begun. As you likely know, the main purpose of the stations are to prevent the spread and introduction of aquatic invasive species in Montana and educate the boating public. A point of emphasis this season through FWP outreach avenues is simple: All vehicles hauling boats must stop at the stations, motorized and non-motorized (kayaks, canoes, etc.). I am sorry I didn’t get this email out to you all last week, but we were all feverishly getting ready for the season and conducting training
As of today, most stations have officially opened and according to the AIS team, this is the best suite of inspectors to date. We already have a few fouled boats with vegetation, standing water and minnows. So things are moving right along.
Another exciting note is that we are conducting a raffle this year, visit the FWP website for more information. You will also notice the AIS webpage has changed a bit to make it more user friendly.
Statewide Aquatic Invasive Species Liaison
Walleye News for you!
What’s New in the Walleye World?
By Dale Gilbert
It sure has been an interesting spring here in Montana this year. It is the earliest I can ever remember that I have been able to get out on open water – most places in the State in mid-March. Some really nice pre-spawn fish have been caught where people were able to get out. Normally there would have still been ice. Hopefully our snowpack will be adequate and we will have good water – although the most recent information as of today March 24th is that the snowpack is a fair amount below average for most of the drainages.
I have spent a fair amount of time this spring re-stocking and re-organizing some of my fishing tackle. Actually, it probably would have been cheaper if I had just gone fishing every day vs. checking out what was new with Berkley, Mack’s Lures, MotorGuide, Lowrance, Navionics, and Fin-tech, etc. because after seeing some of what is new this year. I couldn’t resist adding a few new items to my assortment of tackle and gear.
I went onto the Berkley website to look at what I might do this year for new line because spooling up some new line is always a good thing to do at least once a year and I had deferred doing it last year on some reels because my favorite line had been discontinued in 2014. Well, one on the really great things I saw this year, was that Berkley re-introduced the Berkley Fireline Tracer line in the 6# and 10# test that is my favorite. The 6# test – 1.5# diameter line is what I use for all my jigging and the 10# -3# diameter is what I use for long line trolling. The line has alternating 5' hi-vis Flame Green/5' low-vis Smoke coloration to easily measure your line and also, track your line and detect line movement. I typically put 100-125 yards over some backing on each of my reels and make sure they are all spooled up to the same level – especially on the Abu Garcia 5500 LC line counters I use for trolling.
Then I got to looking at some of the Berkley Gulp products and again I saw some newer products that are going to do very well for me this year. One of those was a 3” Gulp Alive Double Tail minnow grub in a watermelon pearl color.
Also, there are several new colors for the Berkley Powerbait Ripple Shad – and some new sizes. This 3” smelt has been a favorite for years. Now they have a Blue Silver, Racy Shad, Uncle Rico, and a Fire Perch that look awesome – in 2”, 3”, 3 ½” and 4” sizes. The Ripple Shad has a paddle tail that gives the bait a lot of added attraction/vibration when snap jigged and can be very good at times.
One of the other new things I noticed was a Mini Schooling Rig Kit – that looks like it might work really well and be legal here in Montana. (www.berkley-fishing.com)
Another new item in my tackle box this year is the Mack’s Lures Smile Blade Spindrift Walleye rig. This rig is almost identical to what has been my favorite rig for years. It has a VMC spindrift hook vs. the slow death hooks I have used, but I got to believe this is going to be a definite winner this year. (www.Mackslures.com).
Lowrance also just released a new Lake Insight HD West V 15 mapping card that for Montana has about 10 pages of lakes, including a new HD definition map for Canyon Ferry. It can be purchased for $159 and includes a one year subscription to the Lowrance Insight Genesis Program where you can create and download your own maps. For the walleye fisherman, it has Fresno, Tiber, Bighorn plus the HD for Canyon Ferry. Although if you end up with the Insight Genesis program you will want to check out Tiber where in a new “social layer” they are doing it will have 3’ contours. (www.Lowrance.com)
There are some significant changes in the new Navionics mapping coverage. Fresno and Tiber both now have HD 1’ contours. They have also added Tongue River Reservoir. My favorite is the Navionics + map card that allows you to download the areas of the country that you want on a blank Navionics card. (www.navionics.com). If you have a new card – less than a year old, you have free updates for one year and it would be worth going to their website and updating your card.
New last summer was the Fort Peck Doctor Sonar Lake Map – with satellite imagery and 10’ contours from the original USGS Geological survey data. This map works in the Lowrance HDS and Elite series as long as you have the most current software updates. (http://doctorsonar.com/collections/doctor-sonar-maps/products/ft-peck-lake-map). cost is $100 and they have them at Scheels or on line.
And last but not least is the new Gateway Connect kit from MotorGuide that interfaces the Lowrance Gen 2 and Gen 3 HDS units with their MotorGuide Xi5 bow mount trolling motor. What I have found is that it takes me about 30 seconds to set up a route that I want to troll. The routes can be created from an existing trail, recording a new trail, from viewing the contours on a map, or from the Lowrance StructureScan overlay on the chart – and those routes can be based on the structure you see is really there – weeds, trees, rocks, etc. It is pretty amazing. (http://www.motorguide.com/pinpoint-lowrance-gateway)
Lakes and Fishing Reports
Fishing Report -
July 27th Helena area fishing report
Canyon Ferry: Rainbow trout anglers are trolling cowbells, tipped with worms, in 15 to 35 feet of water and shoreline anglers are catching a few from shore using worms. Walleye fishing continues to be good. South end anglers are having success trolling worm harnesses, tipped with night crawlers or leeches, and crankbaits (orange, white, green, and silver). Jigging bay points, mid-reservoir to the dam, also continues to produce walleye. Yellow perch are being caught mid-reservoir and throughout the south end of the reservoir. Adam Strainer, FWP, Helena
Hauser: Rainbows are being caught while trolling cowbells in the mornings around Black Sandy and White Sandy. Shore fishing is slow for rainbows with a few being caught on Power Bait at Riverside and Black Sandy. Small walleye are being caught at the Causeway Bridge and in the Causeway Arm on jigs with a leech or worm. Perch fishing is slow. Troy Humphrey, FWP, Helena
Holter: Rainbow fishing is fair with a few being caught in the mornings around Split Rock and Black Beach while trolling cowbells. Abundant perch are being caught on jigs and worms in 10 to 15 feet of water around weedbeds and in bays. Walleye fishing is good around the clay banks in Lower Holter, Cottonwood Creek and mixed in with the schools of perch. Jigs and bottom bouncers seem to be working equally well for walleye. Troy Humphrey, FWP, Helena
Fort Peck and Canyon Ferry Spawning Report 2015
The 2015 walleye spawn is officially underway in the Big Dry Arm of Fort Peck Reservoir. However, Mother Nature isn’t sure what time of year it is. Two days ago water surface temperatures were approaching 55 degrees in the shallower areas were our trap nets are located. Today water temperatures dropped to 46 degrees due to the cold front that moved through. In fact, we actually experienced a few snowflakes while checking our trap nets. It’s hard to believe temperatures were in the upper 70’s a couple days ago and we were wearing t-shirts.
The warm and stable weather a few days ago managed to trigger a few walleye to start cruising the shorelines. As with the beginning of every walleye spawn, male walleye tend to be more abundant. That pattern holds true once again. A majority of the walleye captured in the trap nets were males, but we also captured a few green (not releasing eggs) females.
Photo: Jeff Brost with one of the first green female walleye of the season.
Water temperatures in the Big Dry Arm of Fort Peck Reservoir are still cool but have remained stable since the last update. Water surface temperatures this morning were 43-44 degrees throughout our trap netting locations. Since water temperatures are cool and it's still early in the season, walleye spawning activity remains slow. Even though we haven't captured large numbers of walleye yet, we've been collecting enough green females over the last several days where their beginning to add up. We're currently holding 79 green females in our holding pens. We'll continue to hold and monitor these female walleye until they ripen (release eggs). Warmer weather is needed for them to ripen, but it looks like another cold front may be headed our way.
Photo: Some great help from Tim, Justin, and Carl Zabrocki. Thanks a bunch guys!
Brrrrrr….. The weather has taken a turn for the worse in the Big Dry Arm of Fort Peck Reservoir. The cold front I mentioned in the last update made its presence known today. As you can imagine, water temperatures haven't warmed up. Water surface temperatures were 42-44 degrees today while checking our trap nets. This continued cooling trend hasn't prompted much of an increase in walleye spawning activity.
Numbers of green female walleye captured in trap nets decreased from 36 on Sunday to 21 today. However, we were finally able to capture enough ripe female walleye in the trap nets (over the last few days) and a few ripes from the holding pens to hold the first egg-take of the season. We collected 3.2 million eggs from 26 females on Sunday. We're on the board for the year, but we still have a way to reach our goal of 50 million eggs.
Photo: Rich Hjort with a nice walleye on a chilly day
Weather conditions have improved in the Big Dry Arm of Fort Peck Reservoir since the last update. The cold front that moved through the area wasn't as severe as it could’ve been. The snow has melted and water surface temperatures warmed to 43-45 degrees today while checking our trap nets. Walleye spawning activity also seems to be picking up slowly since the last update. Today we captured 12 green females compared to 9 green females on Tuesday. In addition, we are starting to see more ripe female walleye in the trap net and a few more ripen in our holding pens. The continued increase in ripe females allowed us to hold our second egg-take of the season. Approximately 8.5 million eggs were collected today from 43 large, egg-laden walleye. This brings the total to 11.8 million eggs for the season.
Photo: Matt Baxter striping eggs from a ripe female walleye.
The weather conditions continue to be favorable in the Big Dry Arm of Fort Peck Reservoir. However, the last two days have been a little bumpy in the boats when venturing out on the water. Water surface temperatures today were 47-49 degrees while checking our trap nets. This gradual warming trend has prompted an increase in walleye spawning activity over the last several days.
Numbers of green female walleye collected have increased up to 37 per day which is a good increase from the 12 we captured last Wednesday. In addition, numbers of ripe females captured in trap nets have steadily increased to around 20 per day. This is a definite sign that we're nearing the peak spawning period. We’ve also held three more egg-takes since the last update due to the increased numbers of ripe female walleye. These multiple egg-takes have allowed us to climb towards the 20 million mark as of today. Stay tuned for more up-to-date numbers on the egg total.
Photo: Ron Hunziker with a dandy walleye on a breezy day.
It was an enjoyable day to be on a boat in the Big Dry Arm of Fort Peck Reservoir. The winds finally subsided since the last update. In fact, we were unable to check our trap nets yesterday due to the high winds that gusted upwards of 40 miles per hour. Water surface temperatures today ranged from 48-51 degrees while checking our trap nets. These stable water temperatures continue to beneficial for walleye spawning activity.
Numbers of female walleye collected over the last few days are holding steady. Today we collected 30 green and 26 ripe females. It’s encouraging to still some green female being captured indicating the walleye spawn is still going. Egg collection efforts have been steady as well. We’ve managed to hold three additional egg-takes since the last update and each take has given us 4-5 million more eggs each time. This should put us somewhere in the neighborhood of 35 million eggs for the season.
Photo: Mallory Kelley and Daniel Kuske from Rocky Mountain College wrangling some Fort Peck walleye. Great job guys!
Weather conditions have remained stable in the Big Dry Arm of Fort Peck Reservoir since the last update. However, the wind has been anything but stable… Water surface temperatures today were 48-50 while checking our trap nets. These stable temperatures have still been conducive for walleye spawning activity.
Decent numbers of female walleye continue to be collected, but they seem to be tapering off slightly since the last update. Today we managed to collect 20 green and 24 ripe female from our trap nets. However, we’ve also collected some spent (released eggs) female walleye over the last few days while checking our trap nets. This is an indication that we are on the downhill slide of the walleye spawn. It’s not surprising since the walleye spawning activity has been taking place for nearly three weeks now.
Egg-taking efforts have remained steady as well due to the numbers of ripe female walleye captured in the trap nets and from our holding pens. These efforts have given us approximately 5 million eggs each day over the last four days. This brings the grand total to 55 million eggs for the year. This means we’ve met our goal, but we’ll collect a few more over the next couple days just to be on the safe side.
Photo: Daryl Northup with a hefty female walleye.
The walleye egg-taking operation has concluded in the Big Dry Arm of Fort Peck Reservoir. With the dwindling number of walleye and surpassing our egg-take goal, we’ve pulled our trap nets for the 2015 season. Walleye spawning activity has wrapped up as indicated by the spent females and lack of green females collected. However, other species such as smallmouth buffalo are now cruising the shorelines indicating that other spawning activity will soon be taking place.
So what were the results from this year? Well, we managed to collect a few more eggs since the last update bringing the grand total to 64 million eggs for the season. This will give us plenty of eggs that will turn into fry to stock all the rearing ponds at the Fort Peck and Miles City fish hatcheries. These fry will then grown into fingerlings after approximately one month.
On behalf of the fisheries and hatchery staff, I would like to thank all the volunteers who contributed to a very successful season. It was great to see lots of new and familiar faces, talk about the Fort Peck fishery, and see some truly amazing fish. Best of luck to everyone who ventures out to wet a line this summer!
Photo: Jeff Brost with a smallmouth buffalo
It has been a very foul spring on Canyon Ferry Reservoir and our annual walleye spawning survey numbers are proof. We launched traps this year on March 30th, which is the earliest date in the last 6 years, but only the west shore trap has been active since the launch date and has produce very few walleye. The trap near Pond 1 has only fish 4 nights, due to foul weather and wind, and conditions simply haven’t provided even close to optimal spawning conditions for walleye. To date we’ve handled 51 walleye and 685 rainbow trout. However, the peak of the walleye spawn is typically around April 20th, so next week things might just pop!
FWP is in the initial phases of a radio telemetry project to monitor how walleye, northern pike, and brown trout move between the reservoir and river upstream. Our task is to surgically implant 16 walleye, 10 northern pike, and 10 brown trout with radios and track them over the next two years. So far we’ve been able to implant two walleye and three brown trout with radios and plan to get the remaining radios out this spring/early summer. We’ll be implanting fish in the reservoir during the spring spawning survey and electrofishing, or using other capture techniques, for fish in the river. The attached picture is from the first walleye implanted with a radio this spring!
If you’re interested in joining us for a day on the water this spring please contact Adam Strainer at 406-495-3263
It’s been a while since our last report, but that’s due to the fact there really isn’t all that much to report. The spawn has yet to materialize at our standard locations on the south end of Canyon Ferry Reservoir or mother nature hasn’t allow us to leave our traps out fishing. Recent springtime weather patterns simply haven’t produced optimal conditions and the lack of fish continue to tell the same story. Also, water levels in the reservoir are higher than normal for this time of year and effective sampling may potentially be a factor in 2015. To date we’ve sampled 105 walleye, primarily males, and almost 900 rainbow trout.
We’ll continue to run traps through the end of this week or potentially for the duration of the current warm weather pattern. Smaller walleye, fewer rainbow trout, and an increase in the number of suckers is what FWP staff is seeing right now in the reservoir and is typically an indicator that the spawning window is closing. But FWP staff will stay after it until other standardized sampling surveys begin to overlap.
Also, in the previous update I mentioned that we’re at the beginning of a radio telemetry project to monitor movements of walleye, northern pike, and brown trout between the reservoir and river upstream. To date we’ve surgically implanted 7 brown trout in the river, 5 walleye in the river and 4 walleye in the reservoir. Our goal is to implant 10 total brown trout, 10 total norther pike and 8 walleye each in the river and reservoir, respectively. So, we’re getting closer to meeting our objectives for brown trout and walleye. We have yet to sample a northern pike this spring in either the river or reservoir. We’ll remain steadfast.
Cheers and enjoy the pleasant weather!
June Fishing Tips
Playing the Spread for Early Summer Walleyes
Gary Parsons and Keith Kavajecz
Early summer for walleyes is a transition period. Fish are past the “post spawn” period and are moving into more summer patterns. Traditionally, transition time can mean tough fishing, but if you go at it with the strategy of “playing the spread”, or in walleye fishing terms, covering as much water as possible, then you’ll up your odds of contacting and catching more walleyes this time of year.
Covering water encompasses spreading lures out both horizontally as well as vertically. Walleyes can be tight to the structure, or suspended in open water. It really depends on the particular lake you’re fishing. This is a time of the season that it’s to your advantage to be well versed in trolling tactics and have the right gear to get the job done.
Choosing the right baits is one step in the process. What is the main forage in the lake you’re fishing? Knowing this will help you determine the style lure you should at least start with. Typically we break this down to one of two shapes; shad-style and minnow-style. The shad-style baits like the Berkley Flicker Shad are great where the fish are feeding on stuff like shad, perch, crappie and similar forage. In lakes where the walleyes are feeding on things like smelt, cisco and alewives we opt for a longer bait like Berkley Flicker Minnows. Early in the year, the forage size tends to run smaller than later in the season, so start off with Flicker Shads in sizes 4 and 5, or Flicker Minnows in size 7. By no means does this mean you couldn’t catch walleyes on a “shad lake” using a size 9 Flicker Minnow, but it’s probably not the first lure you should tie on to start the day.
Running the right lures is just one part of the puzzle. You have to put those baits at the right depth for them to get bit. The right depth is what we call “the feeding zone”. As you move around graphing for fish to set up on, you may mark some fish suspended 25 feet down over 35 feet of water. Your first instinct might be to run your lures at 25 feet, but there’s a good chance you won’t get bites doing that. Walleyes normally feed “up”, meaning their feeding zone is above where they are positioned. Running your lures at 20 feet, just above the fish, will typically be a better plan of attack. Fish that are relating to structure and hanging tighter to the bottom are another story. While running lures just above these fish can trigger a few to bite, many times these fish are better triggered by running lures right in front of their faces.
Knowing exactly how deep your lures run is one of the most important keys to being successful at trolling for any species, especially walleyes. For years we have relied on the data provided by the gang at Precision Trolling to know how much line to let out to get certain baits to specific depths. It was simply a matter of referring to the depth chart for the particular lure we were fishing, first in their books (which are no longer in print), and then on stickers that can easily be attached to the lid of your crankbait box for easy reference. Now, with their convenient Precision Trolling Data App, available for both Android and iPhone formats, having this information is right at your fingertips.
Spreading lures vertically sometimes means using methods that allow lures to run deeper than they normally run on their own. This is a common practice this time of year since we are typically using smaller sized lures that are not designed to dive very deep on their own. In open water it may mean adding a weight in front of the lure, like an Off Shore Tackle Guppy Weight on an OR16 Pro Snap to gain more depth. Or in situations where we are trolling structure, we often incorporate lead core line to get the baits to the desired depth. The Precision Trolling App offers information on weighting systems too, and it offers some really neat new data with regards to lead core trolling.
Of course when we hear the term “covering water” everyone thinks about getting those baits out from the boat and covering a wider swath of water. In open water, that means utilizing boards and the best one’s out there are the Off Shore Tackle OR12 Side Planers. These boards are ballasted so they run true in the roughest conditions, and even sit upright when still in the water. These boards are rugged too, built to last you for many seasons of fishing.
When fishing structure however, you don’t want to get the lures too far away from the boat as you need more control to keep the lures on the right contour. This is where we opt to use long rods – really long rods, to get the baits just far enough from the boat to reduce any spooking factor. The Bass Pro Shops Walleye Angler Series offers both 10 and 12 foot 2 piece trolling rods that are ideal for structure trolling applications.
Early summer can bring some unique challenges when it comes to walleye fishing. But understanding how to “play the spread” to cover the water both horizontally and vertically will go far in helping you get your Next Bite.
If you have questions or comments on this or other articles from Gary Parsons and Keith Kavajecz, visit their website www.thenextbite.com.