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March News




2016 Noxon Reservoir Walleye Study Plan

In 2015, a large amount of work was conducted regarding the Noxon Reservoir Walleye population. Approximately 50 genetic samples were submitted for laboratory analysis from two separate cohorts (2010 and 2012) of Walleye in Noxon in order to produce estimates of effective population size (Ne). It is hoped that these estimates will provide insight into the actual number of female Walleye which are successfully reproducing on an annual basis. A creel survey was also conducted on Noxon and Cabinet Gorge Reservoirs which, among other objectives, will calculate catch and harvest rates of sport fishermen in both reservoirs. Estimates of Ne and effective numbers of breeding females will be compared to overall capture rates during spring and fall sampling, as well as catch and harvest rates collected during the 2015 creel survey. Additionally, mercury (Hg) concentration testing of Walleye and other sport fish was conducted on both reservoirs in 2015. It is hoped that the higher sample sizes obtained in 2015 will increase the precision of Hg concentration estimates and lead to more standardized consumption guidelines between the reservoirs. Finally, three contracted studies specific to Walleye in Noxon were conducted by outside researchers. Results from all of this work will be finalized and applied in 2016.

Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks (FWP) will continue a spring sampling schedule for Walleye in upper Noxon Reservoir in 2016. During April and early May, FWP will conduct nighttime electrofishing surveys approximately two times per week in order to achieve certain objectives related to the Noxon Walleye population. The majority of fish sampled will be PIT-tagged (left cheek) and released alive. Routine gillnet monitoring will be conducted during October in Noxon and Cabinet Gorge Reservoir in order to continue to monitor trends of all fish species. Specific 2016 objectives for Noxon Walleye are outlined below:

Objective 1- Continue to build on genetics based estimate of effective population size (Ne).

In addition to genetic samples collected and submitted in 2015, 13 samples were also collected during 2015 gillnetting from another cohort (2013). We hope to collect an additional 37 samples from the 2013 cohort, which will begin to show up in 2016 spring sampling as age-3 males. These fish will be approximately 410 mm (16”) in length or less, and will not need age verification. It is also likely that some age-3 fish will be captured during routine fall gillnetting and those samples will also be used and combined with otolith verified ages. Additionally, it would be useful to verify last year’s 2012 Ne estimate with additional samples. Approximately 50 age-4 fish may be collected between spring and fall sampling. It is much more difficult to visually assess an age-4 fish. This is due to several factors. The first is that female walleye begin to show up at the spawning grounds and typically have faster growth rates early in life than males. The second is that growth of some fish, but not all, slows down dramatically after they reach sexually maturity. Our target length range for age-4 fish is 420-460 mm, however many age-4s will fall outside this range. Because of this, and the potential overlap between age-3 and age-5 fish, it will be necessary to verify certain ages. Approximately five fish from five separate length classes will be sacrificed and aged by otolith (411-420mm, 421-430mm, 431-440mm, 441-450mm, 451-460mm) (Maximum potential total of 25 fish). The rest will be released alive with a PIT tag. Additional samples may be collected during routine fall gillnetting.

Objective 2- Continue to evaluate capture techniques.

Since 2012, MFWP has conducted some form of spring sampling for Walleye in which catch per unit effort has been collected. Certain trends indicate that catch rates are highest during low-flow spring seasons, and in year’s with stronger classes of age-3 fish. 2016 may have both. By releasing most fish with PIT tags we will be able to compare captures of unique fish to re-captures and better gauge the amount of spawning fish in Upper Noxon. Catch rates generally increase through the first few weeks in April before peaking and diminishing rapidly in early May. Abundance on the spawning grounds appears to peak when water temperatures approach 10°C (50°F), and decreases as flows increase. This may coincide both with post-spawn migrations as well as inefficient capture rates during higher flows.

In past years, sampling on consecutive nights has resulted in diminished catch rates. For 2016, we will further evaluate this by sampling up to four nights in a row during the peak of abundance. With the majority of fish released alive we will be able to evaluate re-captures on a daily basis. This will provide information on potential maximum catch rate during spring sampling, which can then be compared to population estimates obtained in Objective 1.

Contact:
Ryan Kreiner, FWP Fisheries Biologist, Thompson Falls Area Office, 406-827-9320, rkreiner@mt.gov


Change to live bait rules!

INVASIVE SPECIES:
Fishing - Region 7
Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Discussion on New Rules, Including Live Bait, To Manage Eurasian Watermilfoil Contamination On Montana Waters Set For May 31 in Miles City Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks is seeking public comment on proposed rules on the possession, transportation, and seining of bait within two Eurasian watermilfoil management areas recently proposed by the Montana Department of Agriculture to control the spread of Eurasian watermilfoil, an aquatic invasive species that threatens rivers, lakes and irrigation infrastructure. State law prohibits the possession and transportation of bait within an invasive species management area, unless approved by FWP.

The proposed list of contaminated waters includes:
• Fort Peck Reservoir,
• For Peck Dredge Cut Ponds,
• Jefferson River,
• Missouri River from Fort Peck Dam to the North Dakota border, and the confluence of the three forks of the Missouri River to the headwaters of Canyon Ferry Reservoir, and Toston Reservoir.

The public may comment at a series of public meetings set to begin at 6 p.m. in: Great Falls- May 24, FWP Region 4 office, 4600 Giant Springs Rd.
Helena- May 24, FWP Headquarters office, 1420 East 6th Ave.
Lewistown- May 29, FWP office, 215 West Aztec Dr.
Fort Peck- May 30, Fort Peck Fish Hatchery, 277 Highway 117.
Miles City- May 31, FWP Region 7 office, 352 I-94 Business Loop.
Billings- May 31, FWP Region 5 office, 2300 Lake Elmo Dr.

To review the proposed rules and comment online, go to the FWP website at fwp.mt.gov, and click Public Notices, or comment in writing to by the June 1 deadline to FWP at: Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks, Attn: Eileen Ryce, P.O. Box 200701, Helena, MT, 59620-0701; or by fax: 406-444-4952; or email: fwpexotics@mt.gov. To learn more about aquatic invasive species, go to the FWP website at fwp.mt.gov and click on the Fishing page.

Fishing
Thursday, February 25, 2016
Preventing the transport and infestation of aquatic invasive species continues to be a priority for FWP.

The proposed rule changes clarify that decontamination at AIS inspection stations may include appropriate drying time of a boat or vessel, which may mean locking the vessel to the trailer or storing it in a secure place to prevent launching.

Additionally, the proposal includes a new rule that would require boat operators to remove any “drain plug, bailer, valves or other devices that prevent water drainage from bilges, ballasts or livewells” during transport.

The proposed new rule would also require boat operators to remove all aquatic vegetation from their vessel, trailer and equipment before leaving the boat ramp or parking area.

The proposed changes acknowledge the threat AIS pose to Montana’s waterways and attempt to address high-risk vectors of contamination.

Public hearings on the proposed amendments and adoption will be held March 15 at 6 p.m. at FWP Headquarters in Helena and at regional offices in Missoula, Bozeman and Great Falls; and on March 16 at 6 p.m. at FWP regional offices in Kalispell, Billings, Glasgow and Miles City.

Written comments may be submitted to Fisheries Division, Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks, P.O. Box 200701, Helena, Montana, 59620-0701; or e-mail fwpfsh@mt.gov, and must be received no later than March 25, 2016


On-Line Angler Tools - need your help!

Montana FWP is currently in the process of updating two of the most important on-line angler tools and we need your help. Here’s a brief description of what a Montana FWP internal working group has been working on:

Montana FWP is asking anglers and those interested in accessing fish information for their assistance in improving a replacement to the existing Fishing Guide and MFISH web query applications on the FWP website. The current Fishing Guide and MFISH applications are the primary means FWP uses to disseminate fish and angling data for waterbodies, accounting for more than 230,000 unique page visits per year. New technology and new methods for storing fish survey and inventory data have allowed fisheries staff to enter and store more information on fish populations than was previously available and in a much more timely fashion. The benefits of this new technology are that more options exist for storing and reporting fisheries data, and data are more detailed, comprehensive, and up-to-date. FWP seeks to gather input from the public to determine what information is most valuable, usable, and understandable. Those interested can provide feedback and offer suggestions through a survey, by clicking the link provided here: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/fishPortalSurvey . The survey will be open from March 1 through March 31, 2016. Weekly prizes such as a 1-year subscription to Montana Outdoors or FWP fish t-shirts will be awarded to survey participants. Following the conclusion of the survey, priorities identified from this effort will be used to inform development of the new application, which may be available in 2017. Please forward this e-mail onto other individuals you know who are interested in accessing Montana FWP fish information. Thank you for your participation.

Montana FWP is very interested in what you have to say and making sure what fisheries data/information you would like to see is paramount to our agency.

Thanks for your time and considerations. Please call or write if you have any questions.

Adam Strainer
Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks
Canyon Ferry Reservoir Fisheries Technician
Helena Area Resource Office
930 W. Custer Ave.
Helena, MT 59620
(406) 495-3263

Lakes and Fishing Reports

Lakes and Ramps Info


Fishing Links


Aquatic Nuisance

 


Fishing Report -

Fishing Report - April

Montana Outdoor Radio Show Fishing Report

Canyon Ferry: Rainbow trout are cruising shorelines throughout the reservoir and anglers are doing well. Shoreline anglers are having success at traditional access points using worms, spawn sacks or various bead head nymph patterns. Boat anglers are doing well on the north end of the reservoir while anchored and casting to shore or trolling attractors at shallow depths. Fishing has been fair for walleye, but look for things to pick up with the current warming trend. Boat access is very good this year. Adam Strainer, FWP, Helena

Hauser: Rainbow fishing is very good from both shore and boat. Shore fishing is best at York Bridge while using flies and at Riverside while using jigs tipped with a worm. Boat anglers are finding rainbows while trolling crankbaits around York Bridge and White Sandy. Lake Helena is producing walleye while trolling perch or blue & gray colored rapalas. There have been reports of good walleye fishing at night from shore around the Causeway Bridge. Troy Humphrey, FWP, Helena

Holter: Very good rainbow fishing can be found from shore around all the boat docks while using small pink or orange flies. Boat anglers are finding rainbows while trolling gold/silver crankbaits along the shorelines throughout the reservoir. Walleye and perch action are slow. Troy Humphrey, FWP, Helena

Spawning

2015 Canyon Ferry and Fort Peck Spawning Report

2014 Canyon Ferry and Fort Peck Spawning Report

2013 Canyon Ferry and Fort Peck Spawning Report

2012 Canyon Ferry and Fort Peck Spawning Report

2011 Canyon Ferry and Fort Peck Spawning Report

Fort Peck and Canyon Ferry Spawning Report 2016

 

FORT PECK

 

4/1/2016
The 2016 walleye egg-taking operation is officially underway in the Big Dry Arm of Fort Peck Reservoir. Despite the early ice-out, water surface temperatures have still been relatively cool. Cold fronts have occasionally moved through the area and nighttime lows have still been hovering in the mid-20’s. This has caused temperatures to decrease slightly over the last few days. From Tuesday through Friday, water surface temperatures have gradually decreased from 43 to 40 degrees while checking our trap nets.

Due to the cooler temperatures, walleye spawning activity has been slow. We have captured a decent number of male walleye in a few of the trap nets, which is a typical pattern early on during the walleye spawn, and an occasional green female walleye. However, northern pike spawning activity seems to be going strong with ripe female pike being captured on a fairly consistently basis. In fact, we collected approximately 1.2 million northern pike eggs today. Once these eggs hatch, the fry and fingerlings will be used to meet stocking requests for several water other water bodies in the state of Montana.

The extended forecast looks promising with daytime temperatures climbing into the upper 60’s. Let’s hope this spurs an increase in walleye spawning activity!

4/5/2016
The warm spell we experienced over the weekend quickly took a turn for the worse in the Big Dry Arm of Fort Peck Reservoir. Daytime highs that were once hovering near 70 over the weekend quickly dropped into the mid-30’s today due to a cold front that moved through the area. The cold front brought in some breezy conditions followed by periods of snow. This caused water surface temperatures to drop from 50 degrees on Monday to the low 40’s today. As you might imagine, this will likely throw a wrench into the walleye spawning activity.

The good news is we were able to capture a few green (not releasing eggs) and ripe (releasing eggs) female walleye over the weekend before the cold spell hit. This allowed us to hold two small egg-takes since the last update. On Saturday we collected approximately 1.7 million eggs, and today we managed to collect another 1.4 million bringing the total to 3.1 million eggs. This puts us on the boards for the 2016 season, but we still have a way to go to reach our goal. Let’s hope the weather starts to cooperate so the walleye will start cruising the shorelines once again in an attempt to spawn.

Photo 1: Sorting green female walleye in the holding pens
Photo 2: Fish culturist Ryan Lott collecting eggs from a green female walleye
Photo 3: Snow falling over the holding pens in the Big Dry Arm of Fort Peck Reservoir

4/10/2016
Weather conditions have been interesting in the Big Dry Arm of Fort Peck Reservoir. Temperatures have managed to warm since the last update, but the wind has been a bit breezy the past few days. The cold front wasn’t as severe as it could have been. Water surface temperatures have warmed from 43 to 48 degrees. This has triggered a few more walleye to start cruising the shorelines once again. Good numbers of males have been captured as well as a few more green and ripe female walleye.

The slight increase in walleye numbers have allowed us to hold two more small egg-takes since the last update. We collected 3.2 million eggs on Friday and another 4.9 million on Saturday. This will bring the total to approximately 11 million eggs. The weather forecast looks promising for the next few days so let’s hope the walleye spawning activity continues.

Photo: Trap net with walleye
Photo: Tyler Nemetz and Butch Shockley with a nice green female walleye

4/14/16
The weather in the Big Dry Arm of Fort Peck Reservoir continues to cooperate for the time being. The stable and warm weather has allowed water surface temperatures to average around 50 degrees throughout our trap netting locations. These temperatures have been very conducive for walleye spawning activity as indicated by the increased numbers of walleye collected in our trap nets.

We’ve still been collecting good numbers of male walleye, but we’ve seen a large increase in both green and ripe female walleye throughout our trap nets. In fact, some of our better trap nets have allowed us to collect upwards of 20 female walleye from a single trap net! It appears that we are nearing the peak in walleye spawning activity because we are now capturing equal numbers of green and ripe female walleye.

With large numbers of female walleye captured, we’ve been able to hold several large egg-takes since the last update. Three more egg collection efforts have resulted in the 16 million more eggs. This should bring the total to approximately 26 million eggs thus far. It looks like some cool and rainy weather will be headed this direction so hopefully it doesn’t throw too much of a wrench into the spawning operation.

Photo: Roy Arves with a dandy walleye captured from one of the trap nets
Photo: Gabe Peck with a green female walleye being transferred to the spawning barge

4/18/2016
The cool, rainy weather we experienced last Friday has passed, but it didn’t pass without leaving its mark in the Big Dry Arm of Fort Peck Reservoir. Fortunately, water surface temperatures didn't decrease as much as expected. Water surface temperatures dropped from 50 degrees to 46-48 degrees throughout our trap netting locations. This is good news as water temperatures in the upper 40's are still within the desired range for walleye spawning activity.

Numbers of walleye captured throughout our trap netting locations have remained stable, but the proportion of ripe to green female walleye has shifted. Numbers of ripe females collected have increased while numbers of green females have started to decrease. We have also captured a few spent (released eggs) female walleye over the last few days indicating we may be on the downhill slide. This is not surprising since walleye spawning activity has been occurring for nearly three weeks now.

The continued collection of ripe female walleye captured in trap nets, as well as green females that ripened in the holding pens, have allowed us to hold four more egg-takes since the last update. Each egg-take has allowed to collect approximately 7 million eggs each time. This has doubled the amount of eggs collected since the last update bringing the total to approximately 56 million eggs. We are approaching the goal of 60 million eggs and will likely start to wrap the operation up towards the end of this week. Stay tuned for one last update of the season.

Photo: Holding tank with a big load of female walleye headed back to the spawning barge and holding pens.
Photo: Cooper Axtman with the big catch of the day!


CANYON FERRY

 

4/13/2016
FWP staff kicked off the 2016 Canyon Ferry Reservoir walleye spawning survey on the south end of the reservoir on April 4th. The current weather pattern has only allowed traps to fish for a handful of days, but a few nice days late last week had walleye cruising the shoreline. As per usual, most of the fish we’ve seen thus far have been males, both mature and immature, but about 10% of the total catch has been green (unripe) females. FWP staff has only handled one ripe female so far during the survey, which is typical this early in the survey.

Snow and inclement weather are projected to wreak havoc on the area for the next 2-3 days, so it’s safe to say that optimal walleye spawning temperatures (48-52 degrees F) likely won’t be reached until the current weather system moves out. The peak of the walleye spawn in Canyon Ferry is typically around April 20th each year and the current forecast looks to be lining up with that timeframe once again in 2016.

FWP staff is also concurrently monitoring walleye movements in the area, using radio tagged fish, to better understand how walleye move between Canyon Ferry Reservoir and the Missouri River upstream to Toston Dam. In 2015, walleye migrated into the river, were relocated throughout the entire 23+ miles of river to Toston Dam, and then out-migrated to the reservoir in the fall of 2015. Some of those same walleye, along with recently implanted walleye, have been relocated in the river, specifically between the river delta and the HWY 12 Bridge (near Townsend), within the last week. So, if you’re interested in fishing in the river for walleye, I’d say wait until the current fowl weather subsides, then get after it because they’re headed your way.

Please call 495-3263 if you’re interested in volunteering for a day out on the water or just want to talk fishing!

Monthly Fishing Tips

Taking “Boat” Control of the Situation



By Gary Parsons and Keith Kavajecz



One of the things that help to keep us at the top of our game as Professional Anglers is to continually learn and improve on our fishing skills. Much of that has to do with learning to implement new technology and the latest “tools of the trade” into our on-the-water activities. If there is one area that we feel we were able to make huge strides in this past couple seasons it is in boat control, and a huge part of that improvement has to do with the advancements in electric trolling motor design and the marriage of bow-mount steering and GPS to dramatically increase the boat control aspects of our fishing.

The tool that has lead the way in our boat control advancements the past couple seasons is MotorGuide’s Xi5 bowmount trolling motor. It wasn’t that long ago that a bowmount trolling motor on a walleye boat was something that was used in only a couple techniques and many walleye anglers considered it an after-thought or optional device in many cases. That is no longer the case. The bowmount has become one of the proprietary tools on walleye boats and with the advent of GPS technology and remote control convenience, the bowmount now makes many different walleye presentations so much easier to perform than in the past.

First of all, let’s talk about our favorite feature of the Xi5 that really adds to the ease of control with this motor. It has a Key Fob-style Remote Control!! Talk about a feature every guy (and gals too) can fall in love with! And unlike the remote for your TV, you won’t be so apt to lose this one because it comes with a lanyard so you wear it around your neck … (which actually gives us a good idea regarding the TV remote at home …).

Seriously though, as anglers, we always have a lot going on in the process of fishing so a remote control for the bowmount motor just makes a ton of sense. Having all your motor’s controls at your finger tips simply makes fishing with this motor a pleasure. Controls include the basics like on/off, turn left, turn right, speed up and slow down. But there are some very special features with the Xi5 that make it stand out, like Heading Lock, Cruise Control, Record Route, Play Route and Anchor Mode.

In order to fully explain these features of the Xi5 and how we use them, let’s look at some key situations where this motor has dramatically changed the way we fish so you may better understand how you too can make your walleye fishing more effective by using it.

By now many of you have seen the TV episode or read our article where we highlight the tactic of Shivering for walleyes. That technique is one in particular that is greatly enhanced by utilizing some of the key features of the Xi5. In this technique, we graph likely areas until fish are actually marked on our locator, and then use the Xi5 to hold us in position over those fish to target them. This could obviously be done with a conventional trolling motor, but consider how

much easier it’s made with the Xi5. Once we have marked fish on our sonar, we mark them with a waypoint on the GPS, position the boat within casting distance and utilize the Key Fob control for our MotorGuide Xi5 to set the motor in “Anchor Mode” which then holds the boat in place. No worries about having to constantly adjust the motor manually to stay on the spot! Once you set the Anchor Mode, the motor takes over to hold your position. It works whether you’re fishing in flat calm conditions or 4 foot rollers. And making small adjustments to your position is effortless; just use the Key Fob control to “jog” slightly in any direction with the touch of a button.

Another situation we highlighted on The Next Bite TV this past season was using the Xi5, again in Anchor Mode, to hold in current in order to cast to cover in a small river. Think about it – the Anchor Mode alone has so many applications to a walleye angler that that feature alone will change the way you fish.

Heading Lock is another feature of the Xi5 that can be invaluable to help you stay on fish. We’ve used it for techniques such as Dragging (whether you’re fishing bottom bouncer rigs or a tactic like Jig Trolling). You simply line up the motor in the direction you want the boat to go, press the Heading Lock button, and the motor keeps you on that heading until you change it.

In trolling situations, we use Heading Lock to keep the boat direction on course while the kicker motor provides most of the speed control; this really helps keep you on course, hands free, in those pesky cross winds that can make trolling structure a real challenge.

You can combine the Heading Lock and Anchor features too. Say you’re fishing a long contour with live bait rigs using the heading Lock to keep you on course, and then you catch a fish. You can then hit the Anchor Mode on your Key Fob and fish that area more thoroughly before heading on to cover the rest of the structure.

Another cool thing with the MotorGuide Xi5 is you can marry it to your Lowrance electronics HDS unit using a MotorGuide Gateway. The Gateway is basically a cord that uses the NMEA Network port on the Lowrance HDS units allowing you to control the Xi5 right from the HDS unit. This adds a whole new dimension to your boat control. Once configured, you basically have the same controls on your HDS unit that you have on your Key Fob Remote, but with the addition of being able to do things like tell the trolling motor to anchor on a specific waypoint.

For instance, before when we talked about rigging along a contour, if you were to catch a fish, you could set a waypoint on that spot and then use the HDS unit to set the motor to anchor on that waypoint and it would take the boat to that spot and then go into Anchor Mode. Or, if you have a number of spots on a lake you can make a “milk run” from spot to spot by using a combination of the waypoints on your HDS unit and motor’s Anchor Mode feature.

Few things on our boats have changed the way we fish in the past couple seasons like the MotorGuide Xi5 trolling motor. If you struggle with boat control and feel that improving your ability to stay on active fish would be a huge factor in improving your walleye fishing, you need to seriously consider looking into

mounting a MotorGuide Xi5 on the bow of your boat. We guarantee you it will go a long way to helping you get your Next Bite!

Editor’s Note:
If you have questions or comments on this or other articles from Gary Parsons and Keith Kavajecz, visit their website www.thenextbite.com.

Photo Captions:
Keith with a Walleye:
Few things on our boats have changed the way we fish in the past couple seasons like the MotorGuide Xi5 trolling motor.