Walleye News

News

February News

The Magic River, by Gary Parsons

Who doesn't love a good magic show? The music, the lights, and the awe of wondering how the magician made the trick happen. A great magician knows how to plan for a spectacular show. A good river angler knows where to be and what to use to get a bite. Both are masters of creating illusions.

Before you can create the illusion of an easy meal for a walleye, you need to locate the fish. On a river system early in the spring, walleyes will concentrate up to a mile below natural barriers, such as rapids or dams, between the pre-spawn and spawn period. Exactly where the fish are located will depend on the amount of current present. Very early in the season, before the snow begins to melt, the current is slower and the water is clearer. This causes the walleye to be near the primary break where the bottom drops into the main channel.

Spots where you find an irregularity close to the channel edge, such as a jetty, a rock pile, wing dam or point will most likely be holding walleyes. These pieces of structure provide visible current breaks and create back-eddies that are perfect holding areas both walleyes and baitfish.

The first nice weekend of the year typically means that there will be a lot of boat traffic on the river, which can cause a traffic jam at the dam and the fish may move. To stay on the fish, you will have to make a change in location, most likely to the middle of the channel. While the current is stronger here, the fish will be gathering near structure on bottom where there are "unseen" current breaks, such as dunes in the sand, boulders, and wood on the bottom.

To navigate the river with our lines in the water, we use a MotorGuide Xi5 bowmount trolling motor. If we get a bite, or see a fish on the sonar we will put the motor in "Anchor Mode". This will hold us in that spot until we are ready to move downstream again. If we are fishing a visible break, vertical jigging with minnows, ring worms and Gulp! Minnows or Twitchtail Minnows can be very productive. For most early-season vertical jigging scenarios, subtle action jig tails work well. The Berkley Power Jig Worm is a favorite! This 3-inch worm has a paddle on the back and is very limber. This allows the bait to have a lot of action without a lot of effort on your part. Natural colors that resemble a real night crawler work well.

When using Berkley PowerBait Minnows, the 2 or 3-inch size mimic real minnows quite well, especially when doubled up by threading a 3-inch minnow on the jig up to the jig head. Follow it with a 2-inch version hooked through the nose. This rig increases the profile of the bait and gives it extra action. Don't rule out putting on a 4 or 5-inch bait to entice a bite either!

Begin working these baits with a sharp "pop" off the bottom, followed by holding it for a couple seconds. Then slowly lower the bait back down and pop it again. Since the walleyes are relating to bottom, you don't want to pop the bait more than six inches. Ba careful to not let the bait sit on bottom for too long or it will drag in the current and become snagged.

For aggressive fish, a 3-inch Berkley PowerBait Twitchtail is dynamite! This durable and flexible bait comes in a few different colors. In clear water we use Black Shad, while in tanic water Golden Shiner is a good choice. If we need a bait with more scent, especially in murky water, we go a 3-inch Berkley Gulp! Minnow. When fished slowly, this bait will slowly disperse scent like a blood trial, expanding the strike zone.

Using blade baits, like the Johnson Thin Fisher, with a bit of a twist on the technique is another great option. For years these baits have been vertically jigged, but if you cast it out and work it back to the boat in the same manner you would a jig, you can trigger some pigs to bite!

Getting bites off of the unseen current breaks calls for a few different techniques. For those areas with wood on the bottom, a drift over the top with weedless jigs baited with crawlers or ringworms will often do the trick!

The best way to fish the dunes is to use lead core line while trolling over them with a Berkley Flicker Shad or Flicker Minnow. When it comes to rod selection for pulling lead core, the new 9 1/2 foot Bass Pro Shops Walleye Angler Rod is a must have! Not only is this rod made of high-tech materials, but it also collapses down to easily fit in a rod locker.

While trolling, we keep the boat on course with a FOB that is worn around the neck that controls the PowrTran Python Kicker Steering System from anywhere in the boat! Instead of using two throttles to keep the boat to control the trolling speed, this system works in conjunction with the iTroll, which can fine-tune speeds to a 1/10th of a mile!

Don't rule out fishing back water areas either, such as the back channels on the Mississippi River. If you head to the back channels, rigging creek chubs and red tails or casting jigs and Twitchtails is the way to go! We like to use Berkley FireLine Ultra 8 Carrier Braided line with a Berkley 100% Flurocarbon leader when doing this, as it is made for casting into structure!

As you can, there are plenty of tricks that you can use to get you Next Bite when you are fishing a river system, and it will be much easier than pulling a rabbit out of a hat!

2017 Jim Rettig Award

The Jim Rettig Memorial Scholarship is awarded each year with a minimum of two $500.00 Scholarships for members of Walleyes Unlimited of Montana and their dependent children. Funding comes from the $100.00 profit realized when the miniature Jim Rettig Memorial bronzes are sold, donations from chapters and individuals. Scholarship funds will be accumulated/collected from January 1st through December 31st which is the Walleyes unlimited of Montana (WUM) fiscal year. Funds for scholarship awardees will be paid on an academic year basis (starting with the Fall semester). Applications will be accepted through May 1.
If you would like to apply, please see the below links
Jim Rettig Memorial Scholarship Application
Example of Scholarship Application and how applicants will be scored

Congratulations to the two selected recipients of this year’s honorary Jim Rettig Award!
Haylee Storlie - parents Bruce and Kay from Glendive, MT
Bailey Stevens - parents Dan and Kristen of Moore, MT

Lakes and Fishing Reports

Lakes and Ramps Info


Fishing Links


Aquatic Nuisance

 


Fishing Report -

Fishing Report - February 2018

Montana Outdoor Radio Show Fishing Report

Ice fishing forums on IceShanty

Canyon Ferry: Rainbow trout fishing has slowed down, but successful anglers continue to find fish at shallow depths between Pond 4 and the Silos using jigs or flies tipped with worms or maggots. Yellow perch and a few walleye are being caught between Hole-in-the-Wall and Confederate Bay using Hali jigs or Swedish Pimples, tipped with maggots, in 25 to 40 feet of water. Ice conditions from this past weekend were reported at 14 to 20 inches from Pond 4 to Hole-in-the-Wall and 10 to 12 inches at the Shannon Access boat ramp on the north end of reservoir. Adam Strainer, FWP, Helena

Hauser: Rainbow fishing is fair in the Causeway while using jigs and maggots or worms in ten to fifteen feet of water. Rainbows are also being caught in open water below Canyon Ferry Dam on worms. Perch, walleye and ling fishing are very slow. The ice in the Causeway is 12 to 14 inches and around Black Sandy there is 14 inches of ice. Troy Humphrey, FWP, Helena

Holter: Perch fishing is good around Black Beach and the prairie dog town. Most perch are being caught in 45 to 50 feet of water on jigs and maggots or worms. These areas plus the Gates of the Mountains are producing a few rainbows as well on jigs and maggots 5 to 10 feet below the ice. A few ling are being picked up while perch fishing. There is 10 to 12 inches of ice around Log Gulch, Departure Point and Holter Ramp. Troy Humphrey, FWP, Helena

Helena Valley Regulating Reservoir: Kokanee action is good with best action occurring while using Swedish Pimples or jigs tipped with maggots or corn in 35 feet of water. Perch are being caught just off the bottom in 10 to 20 feet of water. There is 14 to 15 inches of ice. Troy Humphrey, FWP, Helena

Spawning

2016 Canyon Ferry and Fort Peck Spawning Report

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

April 26th, 2017

The 2017 trap netting and walleye egg collection effort has come to a close in the Big Dry Arm of Fort Peck Reservoir. For the most part, weather conditions remained steady and favorable since the last update. Water surface temperatures have been ranging from 53 to 51 degrees in some our shallower trap netting areas. These locations continue to be the most productive for capturing ripe female walleye. However, numbers of green female walleye are dwindling, while numbers of spent female walleye captured are on the rise. This would suggest that walleye spawning activity is winding down.

Due to the good number of ripe female walleye captured in trap nets and green female walleye that ripened in holding pens, we managed to hold several more good-sized egg collections since the last update. These egg-takes have allowed us to collect approximately 5 to almost 8 million eggs each time. That brings the grand total to just over 81 million eggs for the season. This surpassed the 60 million goal, but additional eggs were collected in the event of poor hatching success.

On behalf of the fisheries and hatchery staff at Fort Peck, I’d like to send a big THANK YOU to all the volunteers who contributed to a very successful season. As always, 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 this summer wherever you decide to fish!

Tom Becker and Bill Nankind with an impressive female walleye.
Ron and AJ Hunziker with one of the last female walleye captured during the 2017 season.
Jay and Carson Fleming with a big birthday walleye for Carson!

April 20th, 2017

The weather has been interesting the past few days in the Big Dry Arm of Fort Peck Reservoir. Windy one day, rainy the next, and pretty darn nice as of lately (knock on wood!). We did experience a slight warming trend that increased water surface temperatures back up to 51 degrees in some of our shallower trap netting locations. As a result, we managed to collect a few more walleye from our trap nets.

The numbers of walleye captured continue to vary by location and water temperature. We have noticed a shift in the proportion of ripe and green female walleye captured. The last few days have resulted in more ripe female walleye captured compared to the higher numbers of green that we saw earlier during the spawning operation. In addition, we’ve started to capture a few more spent female walleye (released eggs) indicating some walleye spawning activity could be winding down.

We’ve managed to hold three more egg-takes since the last update due to the good numbers of ripe female walleye captured. These egg collection efforts should bring the total close 56 million eggs. We’ll continue efforts for a few more days so stay tuned for one last update.

Lane and Owen Thompson with big female walleye being transferred to the holding pens.
Don Schlegelmilch with dandy female walleye on nice day!

April 17th, 2017

It’s been a windy past few days in the Big Dry Arm of Fort Peck Reservoir. We were unable to check our nets on Friday due to the 40 mph gusts that swept through the area. In addition, the wind has caused a few of the trap nets to roll. This causes a twist in the lead line that runs to shore and intercepts fish as they cruise in the shallow water. As you could imagine, this has allowed some of the fish to bypass the trap nets resulting in a decrease in catch rates.

Water surface temperatures were hovering around 52 degrees this weekend, but dropped back down to 48 degrees as of today due to the wind and cooler temperatures mixing the water. There still seems to be an equal portion of ripe to green female walleye being captured throughout our trap netting locations. However, trap net catches of ripe female walleye have been better in the warmer, shallower areas indicating they are searching for more favorable temperatures for spawning.

We’ve managed to hold three more smaller egg-takes since the last update due to the slow and steady collection of ripe female walleye. These smaller egg-takes should bring the total to 44 million eggs so far. It looks like we could see a slight warming trend headed this direction so stay tuned for more updates on egg-take numbers.

Ryan Derr with an egg-laden female walleye.
Ryley and Brytta Berry transferring a green female walleye to the holding pens.
Madison Zabrocki with a big green female walleye from one of the trap nets.
Tyson Pisk with a big green female walleye from one of the trap nets.

April 13th

Well, it was a bit breezy in the Big Dry Arm of Fort Peck Reservoir today. We managed to check nearly all of our trap nets but had to leave a few due to the gusty winds. Water surface temperatures have been averaging close to 50 degrees throughout our trap netting locations the last two days. These are very favorable temperatures for walleye spawning activity and it has been apparent in most of our trap netting catches.

Numbers of walleye collected in trap nets have remained steady and slightly increased over the last few days. We actually managed to bring in 44 green female and 48 ripe female walleye from today’s efforts. Based on the water temperatures and the proportion of green and ripe female walleye captured, it appears we could be nearing peak walleye spawning activity.

In addition to the female walleye being brought in from the trap nets, there have been a few ripening up in the holding pens. Due to these good catch rates of walleye, we held two more egg-takes since the last update. A little over 4 million eggs were collected on Tuesday and approximately 10 million more today. This should bring the total to approximately 36 million eggs. The forecast is calling for some gusty winds the next couple days so we’ll see what we can do.

Photo:
Chase Sanderson with big female walleye!
Charles Durbin wrangling a large northern pike!
Ricci Olson with a great walleye on a breezy day!

April 10th, 2017

The weather has cooled in the Big Dry Arm of Fort Peck Reservoir due to a cold front that moved through the area. Water surface temperatures dropped from 52 to 48 degrees as of today in some of the shallower trap netting locations. It appears this has slowed walleye spawning activity a bit as our trap net catches were down from previous days. However, we’ve managed to capture a good number of ripe and green female walleye prior to the decrease in water temperatures.

Due to the steady number of ripe female walleye captured over the last several days, we’ve managed to hold three more egg-takes since the last update. Each collection day has averaged approximately 5 million eggs. That should bring our total to 21 million eggs thus far. The forecast is calling for a warming trend in the next few days so let’s hope this triggers another round of walleye spawning activity.

Photo:
Ernest Uy rewarded with a big green female on cold day.
Sean Uy rewarded with a big green female on cold day.
Daryl Ridenour with a large male walleye.

April 7th, 2017

The walleye trap netting and egg collection efforts have commenced in the Big Dry Arm of Fort Peck Reservoir. It’s been a busy and productive week. We’ve managed to get our spawning barges, holding pens, and a good number of trap nets all set over the last few days. The first trap nets were actually checked on Wednesday and the results look promising so far.

Based on these first few days of collection, it appears we’re still a bit early. We’ve seen good numbers of male walleye and green female (not releasing eggs) walleye which is a typically pattern early on. Water surface temperatures earlier this week were around 46 degrees but have gradually warmed to around 52 degrees in some of the shallower trap netting areas as of today. With these warming temperatures, we’ve also managed to capture a few ripe (releasing eggs) female walleye.

Due to good number of ripe walleye collected over the last couple days, we managed to hold our first egg-take of the season today. A total of 24.5 quarts of walleye eggs were collected today which should give us a little over 6 million eggs. The weather looks still looks decent for tomorrow, but the forecast is calling for a cold front to move through the area Sunday. Hopefully this doesn’t throw too much of wrench into things.

Photos:
Rich Hjort holding a green female walleye from a trap net.
Bill and Sandy Jensen getting ready to transfer a green female walleye to one of the holding pens.
Transporting a tank full of walleye to the spawning barge and holding pens.

Monthly Fishing Tips

The Magic Show

By Gary Parsons

Who doesn't love a good magic show? The music, the lights, and the awe of wondering how the magician made the trick happen. A great magician knows how to plan for a spectacular show. A good river angler knows where to be and what to use to get a bite. Both are masters of creating illusions.

Before you can create the illusion of an easy meal for a walleye, you need to locate the fish. On a river system early in the spring, walleyes will concentrate up to a mile below natural barriers, such as rapids or dams, between the pre-spawn and spawn period. Exactly where the fish are located will depend on the amount of current present. Very early in the season, before the snow begins to melt, the current is slower and the water is clearer. This causes the walleye to be near the primary break where the bottom drops into the main channel.

Spots where you find an irregularity close to the channel edge, such as a jetty, a rock pile, wing dam or point will most likely be holding walleyes. These pieces of structure provide visible current breaks and create back-eddies that are perfect holding areas both walleyes and baitfish.

The first nice weekend of the year typically means that there will be a lot of boat traffic on the river, which can cause a traffic jam at the dam and the fish may move. To stay on the fish, you will have to make a change in location, most likely to the middle of the channel. While the current is stronger here, the fish will be gathering near structure on bottom where there are "unseen" current breaks, such as dunes in the sand, boulders, and wood on the bottom.

To navigate the river with our lines in the water, we use a MotorGuide Xi5 bowmount trolling motor. If we get a bite, or see a fish on the sonar we will put the motor in "Anchor Mode". This will hold us in that spot until we are ready to move downstream again. If we are fishing a visible break, vertical jigging with minnows, ring worms and Gulp! Minnows or Twitchtail Minnows can be very productive. For most early-season vertical jigging scenarios, subtle action jig tails work well. The Berkley Power Jig Worm is a favorite! This 3-inch worm has a paddle on the back and is very limber. This allows the bait to have a lot of action without a lot of effort on your part. Natural colors that resemble a real night crawler work well.

When using Berkley PowerBait Minnows, the 2 or 3-inch size mimic real minnows quite well, especially when doubled up by threading a 3-inch minnow on the jig up to the jig head. Follow it with a 2-inch version hooked through the nose. This rig increases the profile of the bait and gives it extra action. Don't rule out putting on a 4 or 5-inch bait to entice a bite either!

Begin working these baits with a sharp "pop" off the bottom, followed by holding it for a couple seconds. Then slowly lower the bait back down and pop it again. Since the walleyes are relating to bottom, you don't want to pop the bait more than six inches. Ba careful to not let the bait sit on bottom for too long or it will drag in the current and become snagged.

For aggressive fish, a 3-inch Berkley PowerBait Twitchtail is dynamite! This durable and flexible bait comes in a few different colors. In clear water we use Black Shad, while in tanic water Golden Shiner is a good choice. If we need a bait with more scent, especially in murky water, we go a 3-inch Berkley Gulp! Minnow. When fished slowly, this bait will slowly disperse scent like a blood trial, expanding the strike zone.

Using blade baits, like the Johnson Thin Fisher, with a bit of a twist on the technique is another great option. For years these baits have been vertically jigged, but if you cast it out and work it back to the boat in the same manner you would a jig, you can trigger some pigs to bite!

Getting bites off of the unseen current breaks calls for a few different techniques. For those areas with wood on the bottom, a drift over the top with weedless jigs baited with crawlers or ringworms will often do the trick!

The best way to fish the dunes is to use lead core line while trolling over them with a Berkley Flicker Shad or Flicker Minnow. When it comes to rod selection for pulling lead core, the new 9 1/2 foot Bass Pro Shops Walleye Angler Rod is a must have! Not only is this rod made of high-tech materials, but it also collapses down to easily fit in a rod locker.

While trolling, we keep the boat on course with a FOB that is worn around the neck that controls the PowrTran Python Kicker Steering System from anywhere in the boat! Instead of using two throttles to keep the boat to control the trolling speed, this system works in conjunction with the iTroll, which can fine-tune speeds to a 1/10th of a mile!

Don't rule out fishing back water areas either, such as the back channels on the Mississippi River. If you head to the back channels, rigging creek chubs and red tails or casting jigs and Twitchtails is the way to go! We like to use Berkley FireLine Ultra 8 Carrier Braided line with a Berkley 100% Flurocarbon leader when doing this, as it is made for casting into structure!

As you can, there are plenty of tricks that you can use to get you Next Bite when you are fishing a river system, and it will be much easier than pulling a rabbit out of a hat!