August Montana Hunting and Fishing News
Sidney Bridge Fishing Access - FWP
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Boat Ramp Use at Sidney Bridge Fishing Access Site
Anglers and boaters using the boat ramp at Sidney Bridge Fishing Access Site need to be advised of a potential drop off at the end of the concrete ramp. River flows have receded to a point that may cause boat trailers to reach the end of the concrete ramp.
When the Yellowstone River drops to or below 6,000 cubic feet per second or a gauge height of 4.4 feet as measured at the USGS Gauging Station at Sidney the end of the concrete boat ramp can be encountered when backing trailers into the water. Use the following link to access river flow data for all USGS Gauging Stations in Montana before using local boat ramps: http://waterdata.usgs.gov/mt/nwis/current?type=flow
River flows are also expected to be static or drop throughout August and September. For these reasons, boaters are advised to inspect the condition of this and all boat ramps before each and every use.
FWP Meeting Notice
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Public Meetings for Montana Fish Regulation Changes
Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks (FWP) is seeking public comment on tentative changes to Montana's fishing regulations for the 2016 season. The Fish and Wildlife Commission approved the tentative regulations for public comment at the August 6, 2015 meeting.
Some Eastern Montana fishing regulation proposals include:
* Ten fish species allowed as live bait in the Eastern and Central Fishing Districts
* Seven fish species allowed as live bait at Tongue River Reservoir
* Mandatory paddlefish harvest reporting
* Paddlefish harvest tag lottery for Fort Peck – Missouri River fishery only
* Increase smallmouth bass daily bag and possession limit on the Yellowstone River to 10
Anglers are invited to participate by reviewing these and other FWP proposals and contributing comments. Comments can be submitted online or at public meetings. A single public meeting has been scheduled in Region 7 at 7 p.m. on Thursday August 20th, 2015 at Dawson Community College’s Ullman Center, room 102 in Glendive (300 College Dr.).
To view all the proposed changes, visit FWP's website at fwp.mt.gov, then click Fishing Regulations- 2016-19. Public comments must be submitted by September 9th. Comments can also be sent by mail to: Montana FWP Fisheries Division, P.O. Box 200701, Helena, MT 59620-0701.
After incorporation of public comments the tentative regulations will be submitted as final recommendations to the Fish and Wildlife Commission in October 2015.
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.
Lakes and Fishing Reports
Fishing Report -
August 8th Helena area fishing reportCanyon Ferry: On the north end, rainbow trout anglers are trolling cowbells, tipped with worms, in 20 to 40 feet of water and shoreline anglers are catching a few from shore using worms. The south end trout bite continues to be good fishing worm harnesses tipped with night crawlers. Walleye fishing continues to be good, but the bite is headed to deeper water with warmer, late summer water temperatures. 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: Rainbow fishing is slow with a few being caught while trolling cowbells in the mornings around Black Sandy and White Sandy. Shore fishing for rainbows is slow with some action happening at Riverside on worms. Some small walleye and a few perch are being caught at the Causeway Bridge and in the Causeway Arm on jigs with a leech or worm. Troy Humphrey, FWP, Helena
Holter: Rainbow fishing is fair with a few being caught in the mornings from Split Rock to Holter Dam while trolling cowbells at 20 to 25 feet deep. Abundant perch are being caught on jigs and worms in 18 to 20 feet of water around weedbeds and the mud line around the clay bluffs in lower Holter. Some walleye are being caught 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!
September Fishing Tips
Size Does Matter – to Walleyes
Gary Parsons and Keith Kavajecz
Choosing the right size of crankbait to trigger walleyes to bite may seem like a simple case of “match the hatch”, but we assure you, there is a great deal more to it. Just because the walleyes in your favorite lake primarily feed on minnows or young perch in the 2 to 3 inch range most of the year, doesn’t mean that a 4 or 5 inch bait wouldn’t trip their trigger now and then. And of course, a smaller offering may also be the ticket on other days.
When Keith does his annual Kids Fishing Seminars around the local schools in the spring, he always tells the kids that “Small baits catch any size fish”. To flat out catch more fish, often smaller baits do the trick – numbers wise at least. That said, there are many situations where anglers target larger fish (4 pound plus walleyes) and often a larger profile bait will be the top producer.
Lure size is just another part of the puzzle that needs to be fine tuned when you are putting together the pattern for a day of walleye fishing, along with color and lure shape. Shape is one of those that is often overlooked, but a crankbait’s shape has a great deal to do with the action the bait has and therefore the vibration it puts out. When we were working with the designers at Berkley on the Flicker Shad line of cranks, we always knew we would need to also develop a minnow-style line of baits to complete the arsenal and thus the Flicker Minnow lures came about.
As effective as the Flicker Shad lures are, there are times that a more slender profile will get more bites, and when the 7 cm and 9 cm sizes of Flicker Minnows were first introduced, the fish-catching results were phenomenal. It didn’t take long however for anglers around the walleye belt to begin asking for more sizes of these deadly baits. So, plans began for a smaller 5 cm version and a larger 11 cm to be added to the mix.
The new 5 cm Flicker Minnow is a great fish catcher. It is really the only "deep" diving minnow style bait in its size category, diving to a surprising 14 feet deep with 153 feet of 10 pound test Berkley Trilene XT let out (according to the Precision Trolling Data App). And of course, it has all the great walleye crankbait attributes like roll rate, side flash and tail wag too. We really put these cranks to the test, fishing them from small waters like the glacial lakes of eastern South Dakota, to the large waters like Wisconsin’s Lake Winnebago and the Bay of Green Bay on Lake Michigan, as well as in rivers like the Mississippi and countless other bodies of water. The results were the same everywhere; the action on these lures attracts walleyes.
As for the new 11cm Flicker Minnow; that proved to be one of the harder baits we have ever test and proto-typed to get the action right; right meaning the bigger walleyes liked it. Large baits like this not only need the right roll (and side flash) but also the right swimming action. Finally, after 3 years of testing, we felt the bait was ready for release.
This bigger lure was tested in waters where big walleyes swim – primarily big western reservoirs and the Great Lakes. The 11 cm Flicker Minnow proved to be a fish magnet, working great at speeds all the way down to 1.4 mph and as fast as 3 mph. With 217 feet of 10 pound test Berkley Trilene XT out, the bait dives to 24 feet, but what is impressive is that this big bait does not pull excessively hard making it a dream to use on boards like the Of Shore Tackle OR-12 Side Planers. Bites are easy to read with this set-up too … a good thing since with these lures, bites tend to come often.
If you need to get more depth with the 11’s, you can do so by running them on 10 pound test Berkley FireLine. This line’s thinner diameter line lets it go to 31 feet with 247 feet of line out.
So with all these great crankbaits available to you, what determines which ones you use in what situation to get the most bites? You might think it has to do with the forage base in the water you’re fishing. Many anglers hit the water with a predetermined game plan as to what baits “should” work. That’s a mistake! Our best advice; Never assume you know what the walleyes want! If there is one thing we have learned over all our years of fishing, it’s that you need to let the fish tell you what’s the best bait to use on a given day. That’s the reason we carry so many different colors, sizes and shapes of cranks.
Oh sure, there are basic guidelines you can go by, and matching the local forage is always a good place to start. And general rules-of-thumb like ‘bright colors – bigger baits’ in dirty water and ‘natural colors – smaller lures’ in clear water are good strategies to begin with. But keep an open mind and always be willing to try something different. The plan is to fine tune your presentation to get the best results. Say you’re catching some fish with a 9 cm Flicker Minnow in the Slick Mouse color. On one of your lines, tie on an 11 cm Flicker Minnow in that same color and see if the bites are more frequent, or maybe that lure triggers fewer bites but bigger fish.
Keeping a wide range of lure sizes, shapes and colors in your tackle box will ensure you have options. Use those options … experiment all the time. One thing most anglers don’t get is the best time to experiment is when you are catching fish! If you’re catching fish, it’s the perfect time to throw out some different lures to see if you can target bigger fish, or even more fish. Don’t settle for “good fishing” … go for “great fishing”!
Good walleye anglers often don’t hesitate to experiment with color, but if you are looking to be a great walleye angler, try experimenting more with lure size. Changing up the lure size may just be what’s needed to help 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.