April Hunting and Fishing News
2015 Noxon Reservoir Walleye Study Plan
In February 2013, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks (MFWP) released an Environmental Assessment (EA) to investigate suppression of walleye in Noxon Reservoir for public comment. This project was proposed to determine if suppression efforts could effectively halt increasing trends in illegally introduced walleye abundance and avoid negative impacts to the area’s established fisheries. In June 2013, a decision notice was released which stated that further analysis and an updated EA was needed to address public comments and additional issues raised. Currently, this information is still being collected.
In 2014, MFWP initiated three separate studies with outside researchers intended to aid in the next Environmental Assessment. The first was an update of the case histories from the “Walleye Expansion EA” originally conducted in 1991 (Colby and Hunter 1991). This contract was awarded to Dr. Bob Bramlett from Montana State University. The second was a science-based predictive model which will look at the future of Noxon Reservoir’s fishery under two possible management scenarios- suppression or no-action. It will be similar to work completed on Canyon Ferry Reservoir prior to an illegal walleye introduction there (McMahon 1992). This contract was awarded to Dr. Dennis Scarnecchia of the University of Idaho. The third was an economic analysis which will quantify Noxon’s current economic value and predict future outcomes based on observed trends and results from the previously mentioned studies. This contract was awarded to Dr. John Duffield of the University of Montana. Drafts of all three reports are expected by early summer, 2015.
Additionally, MFWP will continue to conduct field work on Noxon Reservoir at different times of the year in order to answer several scientific questions and to monitor populations of all fish species, including walleye. In 2014, we conducted fisheries surveys on Noxon Reservoir, including electrofishing upper Noxon Reservoir during April and May. Sixty nine adult walleye were captured in 12 nights of sampling. This catch rate was lower than that observed during the previous two years of spring sampling. Thirty-five fish were released alive with PIT tags, and the rest were killed for PCB and dioxin sampling, collections of otoliths, or to estimate female fecundity (most often it was a combination of the three.) Our annual fall gillnetting captured 47 walleye (two of which were PIT tagged in the spring). This was the second highest catch rate on record. In 2015, we will continue our annual fall gillnetting. Additionally, we plan to complete the following tasks specific to walleye:
Click here to read the entire 6 page report
Bootlegger dock help wanted!
Wanted: Support for a dock at South bootlegger ramp site. There is an interest for a dock at South bootlegger. Great Falls Walleyes unlimited has some committed funds. The Tiber power plant has funds that could be committed. Bureau has some available funds ( uncommitted). A smaller version similar to those by the dam costs. $14000. The ramp at Bootlegger must be widened to facilitate moving up and down with the water levels. Highest estimates for this is $25000. Wanted are ideas, sponsors and any other support to accomplish this project.
Contacts; Richard Headley ,406-452-4862 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Bob Bahr, 406-965-2915 or email: email@example.com
Grant Grisak 406-450-5853 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Lakes and Fishing Reports
Fishing Report -
Ice is off the lakes and the FWP fishing reports should start coming in more regularly. April 2nd Montana Fishing Report
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.
Double Your Ice Fishing Success!
Gary Parsons and Keith Kavajecz
We do realize it’s pretty bold to state that we have found a system that will help you double your fish catches when ice fishing, but we wouldn’t say it if we really didn’t believe it. For those of you that have followed our careers, you will remember that in the late 90’s we put together a “system” of trolling for walleyes that broke new ground and launched a trolling revolution that still dominates today. Well, this Targeted Jigging System will do the same thing for ice fishing. And this truly is a “system”, as well as a totally new technique! Perhaps the best way to tell you about this system, is to explain how, over the past 12 to 18 months, this has developed.
When we ice fish, we have always used the same Lowrance graph units like the ones we use on our boats in the summer. It’s been our contention from the beginning that these types of units offer so much more information and show a better picture of what’s happening below the surface than flasher-type units often touted as being the so-called best units for ice fishing. Last winter, on one of his many ice treks to Lake Gogebic, Gary was fishing with Jon Sibley, a hardcore ice guide who happened to also be a “flasher guy”. On one of the warmer days, as they were setting up to do a little perch fishing from their shelter, Gary watched as his friend set up 3 holes – one inside the shelter and two outside the shelter with one of them being about 8 to 10 feet away. On that close outside hole Jon set up a flasher unit (in addition to the one at his jigging hole in the shack). He positioned the flasher located at the closest outside hole so that he could see it from the open door of his shack. Gary asked why he did that. Jon explained that sometimes he could see a fish near the bait because the flasher was located in that hole (obviously he had very good eye sight). When he did, he’d go to the hole and try to coax the fish to bite, and if he did catch a fish, he would immediately see if more were there so he could drop to them quickly and maybe catch even a second or a third fish.
Well, Gary being Gary, instantly saw the advantage to this, but having only one graph with him at the time he was hog-tied. However, the next time he hit the ice with his friend that was not the case. This time he brought 2 Lowrance units, both Elite -7x HDI’s. One was used inside the shelter like normal, and one for the closest outside hole. With the Elite-7x Gary zoomed in the display to show only the bottom six feet – which was the area with historically the most fish action. With the larger screen and having it zoomed in, Gary was able to set the Elite-7x twice the distance from the shack as compared to how Jon had fished his flasher. With the screen zoomed in this way the jig looked like it was a quarter of an inch thick and the incoming fish would look like sturgeons coming in….making the whole screen highly visible from a greater distance. He could watch as fish moved into the areas of his jig, and run out to tease those fish into biting or to simply set the hook on the ones that had already bitten. The one thing that was immediately apparent, were the great numbers of fish that would come to this dead stick set up and not bite unless you were right there to jig them!
It really seemed like this was a great system, but they ran into a snag … literally. As soon as the weather turned cold, the holes would immediately freeze and fishing outside holes like this was impossible. Both Gary and Jon knew that they had to find a way to keep those holes from freezing over in order for this to work on a consistent day to day basis.
After an exhaustive internet search, Gary found The Hot Box; a neat device created by JT Outdoor Products owned by father and son Tom and Joe Bricko. Gary and Jon contacted them, told them how we wanted to use the Hot Box, and after meeting with them at a sport show were able to get a couple Hot Boxes to put to the test. The Hot Box is a foldable aluminum “box” that fits over the ice hole and is equipped with a small heat generating lantern inside. It’s open on the hole portion of the top, and with the use of their rod-holder option, creates one half of the ideal Jigging Station. The Hot Box worked perfectly and both Jon and Gary knew that they were really on to something.
With the hole-freezing issue conquered, Gary set his sights on a way to extend the distance he could set the Jigging Station from the shelter. He contacted Chris Meyer, a friend and Rep with Lowrance, and asked him about the range of his GoFree Wi-Fi antennae that he used in his tournament boat. He explained to Chris that he wanted to stream a sonar signal from a graph back to his shack to a tablet inside the shelter, therefore having the capability to monitor fishing holes placed a distance from his shelter. Chris immediately saw what Gary was eluding to, and was more than happy to let Gary know that Lowrance was just weeks away from announcing that they were releasing the Gen III line of units that would come with Wi-Fi built right in. “Awesome”, Parsons thought – this was a perfect situation. Now he had the Hot Box and an easy way to stream the signal from his outside sonar to inside his shelter. This is the technology that makes the Targeted Jigging System complete.
Using this system on a trip to Red Lake in Minnesota, the TNB crew slayed walleyes and what we learned, (as Gary had suspected) was just how many fish were coming to those outside lines that could be coaxed into biting. Had those lines been tip-ups, they would have gone untouched. Being able to see the fish approach those lines, then being able to run out and start jigging made all the difference. Catch rates doubled! The real beauty of this system is that it works with many species and already the guys have used it with great success on not only walleyes, but panfish, particularly deep basin crappies and perch.
Ice fishing as a sport has exploded in recent years, and by taking the same technology we use in our boats to the ice the “catching” part of the equation will vastly improve…generating many more smiles from happy anglers!
There will always be a place for the relaxing, peace and solitude style of fishing whether it’s on the ice or on open water, but if you are serious about the sport of fishing and are the type that feels the need to push the progression of how you view your craft, then embracing technology and using the Targeted Jigging System will absolutely help you double the number of times you get your Next Bite.
If you have questions or comments on this or other articles of ours you may have read, contact us through our website at www.thenextbite.com.