FWP Watercraft Inspection Stations
It has been a busy spring for the Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS) crew as we have hired, trained, and deployed 68 employees for our watercraft inspection station crews for the 2013 season. This year we will have a total of 20 crews operating across the state, please see the attached map showing station locations. Helena Roving Crews will be focusing on the Missouri River, Hi-line waters, eastern waters, and Fort Peck. Anyone interested in more details on areas and waters covered by these crews please contact Stacy Schmidt.
One change for 2013 is that FWP is now operating those stations in the NW and Fort Peck area that were formerly run by Department of Agriculture (MDA), including Troy, Noxon, Thompson Falls, and Fort Peck. This change is due in part to a transition in management of aquatic weeds from MDA to FWP. MDA continues to have authority over terrestrial weeds. Another change is that Department of Transportation is now an official partner agency in the statewide AIS Program. This addition reflects the many ways that DOT provides assistance in the fight against AIS, including monitoring commercially-hauled boat traffic, providing sites for watercraft inspection stations, installing permanent signs for the stations, and more.
As of June 10 watercraft inspection crews have inspected a total of 4130 boats—3505 from in-state and 625 from out-of-state. Alert inspectors have already intercepted a total of 5 Dreissenid mussel-infested boats that were passing through our stations. All were dead and the boats were not bound for Montana waters, so they were given a basic cleaning at our station and the destination state was alerted. Those boats will be treated according to that state’s protocols once they arrive at their destination. An additional two boats were called in, meaning members of the public or other agencies asked FWP to look at suspicious watercraft. Both of these boats were found to have mussels, and one was ultimately destined for Flathead Lake so that boat was given a complete, 5-hour decontamination by FWP crew members with the assistance of Gull Boats in Missoula. The other boat was headed for Canada so the appropriate provinces were alerted and the boat was allowed to proceed. The 8th Dreissenid-mussel boat was a boat that passed through our Dillon station and passed inspection but was then found to have some mussels on it by an Alberta inspector. While we are disappointed that one of our crews missed a mussel-infested boat, the incident illustrates the excellent communication and coordination we have with our AIS counterparts in the Region. Additionally, the Dillon crew had attached a tamper-proof seal to this boat and the Alberta inspectors found this seal intact which indicates that the boat never launched in Montana waters. We continue to work on improving our crew’s accuracy and effectiveness. Overall we believe they do a great job.
Other AIS that have been found include one instance of Eurasian watermilfoil (EWM), 14 findings of non-EWM aquatic vegetation, 13 instances of standing water, 1 case of illegal live bait (out-of-state leeches with no bill of sale), and 2 cases of marine organisms. All in all, staff have found a total of 39 AIS violations so far. Great job to our inspectors in the field!
As FWP gains more authority for AIS activities and expands the program, it is more critical than ever that we work closely with our Enforcement staff. An AIS Field memo detailing recent changes and current priorities has been prepared by Jim Kropp and Mike Korn and distributed to all Enforcement staff. Thanks to Jim, Mike, Brian Shinn, and all the wardens who have been of assistance to our staff this year and last. We also thank R6 wardens for making the effort to come and meet all the watercraft inspectors on opening day in May. Meeting our staff in person goes a long way towards making them comfortable in placing calls to enforcement and following protocols correctly.
The link below shows a summary of the number of inspections done at our seasonally permanent and roving watercraft inspection stations from the beginning of the season (May 13) through June 10, 2013.
Corps of Engineers lays out new plans for Intake Diversion Dam
Click on the pdf below to read all about what the Corps of Engineers are trying to accomplish at the Lower Yellowstone Irrigation Project in Sidney Montana.
Camp Walleye 2013
Great Falls Walleyes Unlimited will be hosting a Kids' Fishing Camp on August 16th, 17th, and 18th at Tiber Reservoir. They are accepting 50 applicants, both boys and girls from the ages of 11-15. This is a 3 day, 2 night camp and safety course.
June Hunting and Fishing News
Click on the link below to read the latest Montana Hunting and Fishing News!
FWP 2013 Fishing Newsletter
The newsletter is a compilation of fisheries projects and results from across the state.
This is an incredible resource to track the latest techniques and findings.
A few hard copies are available at FWP headquarters for those who would prefer to browse at your leisure, perhaps on a stream bank or lake.
Fishing Report - June 17th 2013
Canyon Ferry: Some rainbow trout are being caught
throughout the reservoir. Shore anglers are doing best at
near the Outhouse, Chinamen’s, Confederate and at Pond 4
using worms, spinners or nymphs. Boat anglers are catching
some fish tolling cowbells (tipped with worms), crankbaits
or spoon variations (copper or gold) in 5 to 20 feet of
water. The walleye bite is slowly picking up with anglers
catching fish on the south end of the reservoir, when the
weather allows, trolling mostly trolling worm harnesses at
shallow depths. Jigging bay points (orange or perch
colors) has also been producing walleye in 5 to 35 feet of
water. Some perch are being caught while searching for
walleye. Water levels are slowly coming up and all major
boat launches are safe to use. Adam Strainer, FWP, Helena
Hauser: Rainbow fishing is good around Black Sandy and Devil’s Elbow while trolling cowbells with a worm. Shore action for rainbows is slow with a few being caught at Black Sandy from while using brown or green wooly worms. Walleye fishing is picking up with fish being caught in the Causeway and around Devil’s Elbow using deep running crankbaits or Marabou jigs. The Causeway Bridge has produced a few walleye from shore while using floating jig heads with a worm. Troy Humphrey, FWP, Helena
Holter: Very good rainbow fishing can be found while trolling cowbells tipped with a worm between Split Rock and Log Gulch and Cottonwood Creek to Mann Gulch. Shore action for rainbows is slow. A few walleye are being caught while using bottom bouncers with a leech around Cottonwood Creek and the bays around the dam. Perch are being caught on worms in 12 to 18 feet of water from the Oxbow Bend area to Mann Gulch. Troy Humphrey, FWP, Helena
May 12, 2013
The weather has improved and water temperatures have finally warmed in the Big Dry Arm of Fort Peck Reservoir. Water surface temperatures throughout the trap netting area ranged from 60 degrees in shallow areas of Nelson Creek to 50 degrees past McGuire Creek. Despite the increase in water temperatures, walleye spawning activity hasn’t increased much. Fewer walleye have been collected along with more spent females. These indicators have signaled us the spawn is coming to a close and it’s time to pull our trap nets for the season.
In 2013, we noticed a greater number of small to medium-sized walleye during the spawn compared to previous years. Most of these fish ranged from 15 to 25 inches in length which can be attributed to good growth and survival over the last several years. This is due to an increase in reservoir elevations that provided a greater amount of habitat and forage fish. Anglers should be encouraged to know we still captured some very large walleye during this time. One of the largest females weighed was 15.3 pounds and measured 33.2 inches.
We were able to hold a few more egg-takes since the last update. However, we were only able to collect roughly a million eggs each day. These small egg-takes will give us a total of 40 million eggs for the 2013 season. While this number is lower than other years, these eggs will give us enough fry to stock all rearing ponds at the Fort Peck and Miles City fish hatcheries. These ponds will provide walleye fingerlings to meet the statewide stocking requests in 2013.
On behalf of the reservoir and hatchery staff, I would like to thank all the volunteers who assisted with this year’s effort. Best of luck fishing this summer!
Photo: Kimball Brost with a green female walleye.
May 5, 2013
The weather has started to warm again after a brief cold spell rolled through the Big Dry Arm of Fort Peck Reservoir. Water surface temperatures were back down to 45 degrees on Wednesday but have slowly climbed back to 50 degrees throughout our trap netting area as of today.
The number of walleye collected from the trap nets continues to remain the same. There hasn’t been a large increase in numbers of green or ripe female walleye collected from the trap nets. Good numbers of male walleye are still present though. We have also come across several spent female (already released their eggs) during our trap netting efforts. Green female walleye were ripening up in the holding pens until the recent drop in water temperature.
The egg-taking effort has continued to produce small batches of eggs on a daily basis. Since the last update, we have collected 10 million more eggs. This brings the grand total to approximately 34 million total for the season. We will continue trap netting and egg-taking during the upcoming week to see if some warmer temperatures bring in some more walleye and hopefully collect a few more eggs.
Photo: Tom Rau with a green walleye and Bob Lipscomb with a large northern pike.
April 29, 2013
The weather continues to cooperate in the Big Dry Arm of Fort Peck Reservoir. Water surface temperatures have reached 53 degrees in the shallower areas and 46 degrees at some of our trap nets further down the reservoir. However, the wind continues to through a wrench in things by making it difficult to check all of our trap nets.
The continued warming trend has spurred a bit of walleye spawning activity. Some of the better trap nets are still seeing close to 20 walleye per net, but we are now starting to capture a few more females. Most of the females collected continue to be green, but we are starting to see more ripe females in the trap nets. We are also seeing more green female walleye ripen up in the holding pens as result of the warmer water temperatures.
Since the last update, we’ve been holding an egg-take each day. Each egg-taking effort has resulted in three to four million eggs per day. Today was the largest egg-take with 6 million more eggs collected. This will bring our grand total to approximately 24 million eggs as of today. It looks like we will see a slight drop in temperatures in the upcoming days, but hopefully it doesn't damper the walleye spawning activity too much.
Photos: Matt Baxter collecting eggs from a ripe female walleye and Craig Russell with a green female walleye.
April 25, 2013
The weather has slowly started to improve on Fort Peck Reservoir. Since Monday, we’ve been seeing a gradual warming trend develop in the upper Big Dry Arm. Water surface temperatures have finally approached 45 degrees in some of the shallower areas. This has been the warmest water temperature we've observed this year during the walleye spawning operation.
With the warming temperatures, we are starting to see a few more walleye in our trap nets. Some of our best trap nets are containing close to twenty walleye with a majority of them still being males. However, we are beginning to capture a few more green females and occasionally some ripe female walleyes.
Some of the green female walleye have finally ripened up
in our holding pens due to the warming water temperatures.
This allowed us to hold our second spawn of the season.
Today we collected nearly 5 million eggs from 39 females.
This will bring our total to 8 million eggs thus far. It
looks like the warming trend should continue for the next
few days so hopefully the walleye spawning activity will
Photo: John Gregory and Chris Reiquam hoist a couple of green female walleyes.
April 22, 2013
Well, the weather hasn’t improved much on Fort Peck Reservoir. The daytime high was around 37 degrees with wind gusts to 35 miles per hour on Sunday. As a result, were unable to check all of our trap nets. Much of our equipment that got wet froze on Sunday night. When we returned on Monday, we were greeted to layers of ice on and in the boats. Even the simple task of unloading a boat becomes a bit more difficult when it gets froze to the trailer bunks!
Water surface temperatures in the upper Big Dry Arm area warmed slightly to 42 degrees on Sunday but decreased to 40 degrees on Monday. We are seeing a few more walleyes in the trap nets but it still isn’t a runaway. Most of the walleye collected continue to be males but there have been a few more green females collected over the last few days. This is good news as we are now holding close to 80 green females in the holding pens. However, we really need some warmer water temperatures so they will release their eggs.
We have also been able to collect 3 to 4 ripe female walleye per day which allowed us to hold our first walleye egg-take for 2013. We ended up spawning 20 females which gave us close to 3 million eggs on Sunday. Let’s hope the weather forecast starts to warm in the upcoming days and stays there!
Photo: David Simpson with a green female walleye.
The 2013 walleye spawning operation is officially
underway on Fort Peck Reservoir. However, it appears Mother
Nature still has her own agenda. The Fort Peck area received
almost 7 inches of snow over the weekend and daytime
temperatures have only been in the low 40's and down into
the 20's at night. Reservoir elevations are approximately 13
feet lower than they were at this time last year. This means
we are having to relocate many of our trap net locations.
Water surface temperatures are 38-39F in the upper Big Dry Arm. As you can imagine, walleye spawning activity is pretty slow. We have been capturing a decent number of males but only a few females thus far. The female walleye are still really green and not ready to release their eggs yet. The colder water temperatures have actually been very conducive to northern pike spawning activity. Some trap nets have had upwards of 40 northern pike per net with both both green and ripe (releasing eggs) female pike. This definitely a sign that things are still early.
It looks like there is a slight warming trend in the forecast so let’s hope the weather eventually cooperates and the walleye spawning activity picks up.
Photos: Trap net and Joe Wiles with a Burbot
The 2013 Canyon Ferry Reservoir walleye spawning survey officially came to a close on May 8th. The survey was marked by many tough days battling traps in extreme weather, which meant many days of setting and resetting traps. FWP crews tagged 338 walleye this spring, down from 448 in 2012, with fish averaging 14.9-inches. There were 24 females (7%) sampled, with the largest at 24.6-inches and 6.5-pounds. Over half of the ‘new’ walleye were captured from April 26th to 28th (55%), just after the full moon period, and another large portion of the catch occurred in April during an early warming trend. Considering how many days traps were pushed to shore to avoid weather, we captured quite a few walleye. Ten total northern pike were sampled in 2013 which averaged 38.4-inches and 17.4-pounds.
Please contact me if you have any question or are interested in volunteering at any time during the summer months. Thanks.
Photo Caption: Technician Chris Hurley with a 6.5-pound burbot captured on the south end of Canyon Ferry Reservoir.
Foul weather continues to make the spring walleye spawning survey on Canyon Ferry Reservoir very interesting. Traps have only fished a handful of days since the last report due to inclement weather. However, conditions reached optimal spawning conditions (48-52°F) for a few days late last week and crews were able to tag nearly 150 walleye, which pushes the spring total to just over 250 walleye sampled. Some mid-20 inch female walleye continue to cruise the shoreline and most of the females are either green or ripe. Look for fish to continue cruising shorelines throughout the reservoir for the next couple weeks and FWP staff is planning to run traps into early May. Over 1,200 rainbows have been sampled this spring and only one more northern pike to report since the last update.
If you have any questions or are interested in volunteering for a day during the field season, give me a call at 495-3263.
Photo Caption: FWP Fisheries Technician Chris Hurley with a 24.2-inch green female walleye near Pond 1 on Canyon Ferry Reservoir.
The annual spring spawning survey on Canyon Ferry Reservoir
is underway and battling mother nature seems to be the only
constant thus far. Three trap nets were launched, two on the
east shore at standard locations and one on the west shore,
during the week of April 3rd and traps have been monitored
at least three days weekly over the past two weeks. Rainbow
trout numbers in the traps have been at or above average,
but cool water temperatures and wind have slowed the walleye
spawn thus far. Just over 100 walleye have been captured as
of April 15th and the majority of the catch have been ripe
males. Only a few green females have been captured to date,
but look for that to change with the forecast calling for
warmer temperatures and a full moon on the horizon. The most
interesting capture this spring has been the presence of 8
northern pike larger than 10-pounds.
If you have any questions or are interested in volunteering for a day during the field season, give me a call at 495-3263.
Photo Caption: Fisheries technician Chris Hurley with a 22.5-pound northern pike captured on the south end of Canyon Ferry Reservoir.