FWP takes another look at Tiber access options
Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks is looking at other options for boating access to Tiber Reservoir that will allow for adequate access while ensuring watercraft won’t leave the reservoir without going through decontamination.
In early March, FWP proposed limiting boater access at the reservoir to Tiber Marina and the VFW Campground. This proposal was meant to address the concern that in 2017 watercraft were leaving the reservoir and launching in other state waters without being decontaminated. Inspection station reports from 2017 illustrated this problem. Additionally, records showed that some boaters leaving Tiber were directed to inspection stations but never showed up.
“Since Tiber is the only waterbody in the state that has come back positive for invasive mussel veligers, we need to ensure all boats are inspected before leaving the reservoir” said Thomas Woolf, AIS Bureau Chief at FWP. “It’s a balance of providing access and protecting Montana’s waters.”
At a March 21 meeting in Chester, several people voiced concerns about limiting access at Tiber to only one end of the reservoir. Some of this concern was due to limiting recreational opportunities, some were safety concerns that could exist if boat ramps on the west end of the reservoir were closed.
FWP is seeking options to allow motorboats to launch at an additional access site and would provide considerations for non-motorized boats to launch. Access for emergency or search and rescue operations need to be addressed as well.
With the spring fishing season coming fast, the department sees the need to make a final decision on access management at Tiber quickly. FWP is asking for public comment on Tiber Reservoir boating access. Comments can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org and must be received by April 9. Written comments must be postmarked by April 9 and mailed to: Fisheries Division, PO Box 200701, Helena MT, 59620-0701.
Staffing watercraft inspection stations at Tiber is an ongoing challenge. FWP is still recruiting watercraft inspectors for positions at Tiber and other sites. Applicants must be at least 18 years old, possess a valid driver’s license and a clean driving record. Full time and part-time positions are available. AIS watercraft inspector job information can be found at statecareers.mt.gov.
Watercraft Inspection Stations opening for the season
Snowbird coming home? Have a boat? Be sure to get it inspected.
The watercraft inspection station south of Dillon on Interstate 15 opens on March 31. The station will be open on weekends until mid-April then it will be open 7 days a week. Opening dates for all inspection stations will vary depending on location, boat traffic and risk of transporting aquatic invasive species. The Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes and the Blackfeet Tribe also opened watercraft inspection stations in March, in partnership with FWP.
“One of our concerns is snowbirds bringing boats home.” said Thomas Woolf, AIS Bureau Chief at FWP. “A boat that has been in Lake Havasu for the winter will have quagga mussels on it that are smaller than a grain of rice. Boats like this must be inspected to ensure they are not transporting mussels into Montana.”
All watercraft are required to stop when a station is encountered including all motorized boats, canoes, kayaks, rafts, drift boats, personal pontoons and stand-up paddle boards. An inspection is required for all watercraft entering the state prior to launch as well as all watercraft crossing west over the Continental Divide and entering the Flathead Basin. Inspections are quick and easy if the boat is clean, drained and dry.
These heightened efforts at protecting Montana’s waters are in response to the detection of invasive mussel larvae found in water samples from Tiber Reservoir and a suspect sample from Canyon Ferry Reservoir in the fall of 2016. As in past years, watercraft owners should always practice Clean, Drain and Dry.
• Clean all debris from the watercraft and trailer.
• Pull drain plugs and make sure all compartments, bilges and ballasts are drained.
• Dry out your watercraft, including dry wells, storage areas and compartments.
Follow these simple steps to help protect our waters from aquatic invasive species.
For more information and a map of watercraft inspection stations, go to cleandraindrymt.com.
Watercraft Inspection Stations Opening in Northwest Montana
Boaters entering the Flathead Basin required to undergo inspection
Kalispell, MT — The first watercraft inspection stations of 2018 are opening in Ravalli, Blue Bay and Kalispell, and vessels traveling into the Flathead Basin are now required to undergo inspections to prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species.
Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks is implementing a pilot program requiring motorized and non-motorized vessels traveling into the Flathead Basin (see attached map) that have been used on waters outside of the basin to be checked at an official inspection station prior to launching. Emergency response vehicles engaging in emergency response activities are exempt.
Watercraft that are already within the Flathead Basin when the pilot program takes effect March 16 do not require a new inspection. If a boat leaves the basin and launches on any body of water, it must be inspected upon return before launching in the Flathead Basin. Inspection is also required for all watercraft entering the state and crossing west over the Continental Divide prior to launch in the waters of Montana.
FWP is opening its first certification station of the year on Thursday, March 15 at its regional office in Kalispell, 490 N. Meridian. The station will be open weekdays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. The Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes will open the Ravalli check station on Friday, March 16 at 7 a.m. Similar to last year, additional check stations will open in spring across the basin and statewide.
“Protecting the Crown of the Continent Ecosystem against the threat of aquatic invasive species is important for sustaining fishery resources into the future,” Sam Bourret, FWP Region 1 acting fisheries manager, said. “The pilot program is part of FWP’s joint effort with the Confederated Salish & Kootenai Tribes to add further protections to the Flathead Basin.”
The Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes is requiring all watercraft that are participating in Spring Mack Days to undergo inspections. Inspections will be conducted at Blue Bay starting March 13. Spring Mack Days runs March 16-May 13.
Inspections can also be arranged at CSKT offices at 406 Sixth Ave. E. in Polson, Monday through Thursday, 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Call (406) 675-2700, ext. 7280, or (406) 261-6515 to arrange a time.
“The Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes are dedicated to ensuring that the Flathead Basin and all of the Tribes’ aboriginal territory are protected from the introduction of Aquatic Invasive Species,” said Erik Hanson, CSKT AIS Coordinator.
Watercraft access to Flathead Lake is dependent on weather, ice conditions and lake levels.
State parks staff are rebuilding the dock at West Shore State Park after it was damaged during winter, and the state park should open for spring by late March. The boat launch and day-use area at Big Arm State Park is open but the concrete boat ramp is currently unusable due to ice. Yellow Bay State Park is also open for day-use and the floating dock will be installed when ice clears along the shoreline. Finley Point State Park historically remains closed to boater access until lake levels rise in springtime. Wayfarers State Park is open and the fixed dock is dependent on lake levels.
The seasonal dock at the Somers Fishing Access Site will be installed when ice clears from the shoreline. Other fishing access sites allow lake access depending on water levels.
Watercraft inspections are a vital way to defend Montana’s waterways by checking vessels and equipment that have the potential to spread aquatic invasive species, such as zebra and quagga mussels.
Anyone carrying or towing any watercraft or water-based equipment -- non-motorized and motorized -- must stop at all open watercraft inspection stations they encounter in Montana. Inspections consist of a boater interview, a watercraft inspection and decontamination (if necessary).
To ensure a speedy inspection, CLEAN, DRAIN, DRY your watercraft prior to arrival at a watercraft inspection station.
For more information about Montana’s efforts to defend against aquatic invasive species, visit cleandraindrymt.com and the “Protect Our Waters Montana” Facebook page.
For more information about the CSKT AIS prevention program, visit CSKTnomussels.org.
Lakes and Fishing Reports
Fishing Report -
Fishing Report - May 2018
Montana Outdoor Radio Show Fishing Report
Canyon Ferry: Rainbow trout are being caught at Goose Bay and Chinaman’s. Shoreline anglers are having success using worms, spawn sacks or various nymph fly patterns. Boat anglers are catching rainbows trolling worm harnesses and crankbaits near the Silos. A few yellow perch and walleye are being caught on south end of the reservoir from shore using worms, jigs tipped with worms, and crankbaits. No report for yellow perch and walleye from boat anglers. The reservoir is VERY low and boat access is limited.
A useful resources for monitoring boat ramp accessibility can be found at: https://www.usbr.gov/gp/boat/index.html
Hauser: Rainbows are being caught from shore below Canyon Ferry Dam on spawn sacks or jigs and worms. A few still remain around the York Bridge ramp. Rainbows are also being caught around Black Sandy while trolling cowbells. Lake Helena is producing a few small walleye while trolling light colored crankbaits. Troy Humphrey, FWP, Helena
Holter: A few rainbows are being caught from shore around all the boat ramps while using egg pattern flies or wooly buggers, but most have moved off shore. Boat anglers are finding rainbows while trolling silver or perch colored crankbaits or cowbells along the shorelines throughout the reservoir. Perch and walleye action is slow. Troy Humphrey, FWP, Helena
Fort Peck and Canyon Ferry Spawning Report 2018
April 24, 2018
After what seemed to be a winter that would never end, things have finally decided to break loose on Fort Peck Reservoir. We managed to get holding pens, barges, and trap nets set over the weekend even though there was still ice cover on most of the main lake. Today was our second day of the season checking trap nets and collecting walleye. Water surface temperatures varied greatly from one location to another in the upper Big Dry Arm where our trap nets have been placed. In some of the shallower locations, we’ve observed water surface temperatures close to 55 degrees, but water surface temperatures towards the main lake are still in the low 40’s. As a result we’ve been seeing a combination of green (holding eggs), ripe (releasing eggs), and spent(released their eggs) female walleye.
We’ve managed to hold two egg-takes since we’ve started due to a decent number of ripe female walleye collected. We collected approximately 3.2 million eggs on Monday and 2.7 million eggs on Tuesday giving us 5.9 million walleye eggs thus far. We also collected 1.1 million pike eggs that will be used to meet stocking requests for certain waterbodies in eastern Montana for 2018.
Photo: Ripe female walleye waiting to be spawned
Photo: Ryan Lott collecting eggs from a ripe female walleye
Photo: Hank Poeschl, Mark Sigler, and Ed Dodge with a female walleye collected from a trap net
April 28, 2018
The weather has cooperated for the most part over the last few days in the Big Dry Arm of Fort Peck Reservoir. Water surface temperatures today in our trap netting locations ranged from 55 degrees in the far upper portions to 44 degrees further down the reservoir. As a result, we continue to see a mixed bag in the condition of female walleye being collected with a combination of greens, ripe, and spent fish.
Given the much later start and variable water temperatures throughout the reservoir, it’s not surprising we’re seeing spent female walleye along with ripes and greens in our trap net catches. The good news is we’ve still managed to capture enough ripe and have a few more green females ripen up so we can collect a few more eggs. Since the last update, we’ve managed to hold two more small egg-takes which will bring our total close to 12 million eggs. It looks like there might be a cold front moving our way, but we’ll continue to plug along and see what we can do.
Photo: Sorting through a trap net full of fish
Photo: Sean Lott with a big green female walleye being transferred to a holding pen
Photo: Ron, Jacob, and AJ Hunziker with a female walleye
April 30th 2018
The weather has cooled a bit from the warm temperatures we experienced over the weekend in the Big Dry Arm of Fort Peck Reservoir. It’s hard to believe air temperatures yesterday were in the 70’s, and today we only had a daytime high in the upper 40’s and bundled up! Water surface temperatures are ranging from 47 degrees to 56 degrees throughout our trap netting locations. We’re continuing to collect good numbers of walleye, but the condition of females captured hasn’t been conducive to collecting large amounts of eggs.
Trap net catches continue to be comprised of either ripe or spent female walleye with very few greens. The lack of green females, which typically ripen up in the holding pens and contribute to our effort, have given us fewer fish to spawn this season. However, we did manage to hold another small egg-take since the last update due to the ripe females captured the past couple days. We managed to collect approximately 3.5 million eggs on Sunday which should put us a little over 15 million eggs thus far. It looks like the weather will start to warm up over the next few days so we’ll plug along and see what we can do.
Photo: Jack Boonstra wrangling some wily walleye
Photo: Jack Boonstra with a huge smallmouth buffalo
May 4, 2018
The weather has really warmed in the Big Dry Arm of Fort Peck Reservoir. Water surface temperatures throughout our trap netting locations have been ranging from 50 to 58 degrees. However, we haven’t seen much of an increase in walleye spawning activity and it’s likely things may be winding down based on what we’ve been finding in our trap nets.
A majority of the female walleye captured in trap nets continue to be spent with very few greens. We’ve continued to capture ripe female walleye, but their numbers appear to be decreasing as well. Despite the decrease in numbers, the numbers of ripe females captured have given us a few more fish to spawn.
The steady trickle of ripe females captured has allowed us to hold three small egg-takes since the last update. Each egg-take we’ve managed to collect roughly 1.5 to 2 million more eggs. This should bring our total to approximately 20 million eggs. We plan on continuing through the weekend in hopes to collect a few more eggs to add to the total.
Photo: Richard Lockman with a healthy green female walleye
Photo: Sorting through a trap net full of fish
May 15, 2018
Well, it’s been an interesting walleye spawning season this year on Fort Peck Reservoir. It seems like the weather went from winter straight into summer. Water surface temperatures in the upper Big Dry Arm have been ranging from 56 to 66 degrees throughout our trap netting locations. These warmer temperatures have led to a dwindling number of walleye, but other species have taken their place as temperatures are becoming favorable for their spawning. Based on this, we’ve decided to pulled our nets for the 2018 season.
Not only have there been fewer numbers of walleyes collected in the trap nets, but a majority of females collected continue to be spent. Fortunately, we have managed to collect a handful of ripe female walleye to hold two more small egg takes since the last update. These two small egg collections have given us close to 2 million more eggs to add to our total. This should give us close to 22 million total eggs for the season which was half our goal of 50 million eggs. So what does this mean?
It looks like there should be enough eggs, which will turn into fry, to stock the rearing ponds for fingerling production; however, there will likely be very few walleye fry plants. Fort Peck Reservoir receives a majority of the walleye fry stockings so it will be impacted the most. Even though fewer eggs were collected this year, it is possible that the high number of spent females captured this year spawned on their own which could compensate for the loss of fry plants. Increasing water levels have created more spawning and rearing habitat which should also lead to improved forage conditions. These factors can greatly aid in the survival of any naturally reproduced or stocked walleyes.
On behalf of the fisheries and hatchery staff, I would like to thank all the volunteers who assisted in this year’s walleye spawning operation. We all look forward to seeing you again next year and best of luck fishing.
Photo: Fish culturist Bob Braund with a large female walleye
Photo: Sean Uy with a BIG bigmouth buffalo
Photo: James Poitra with a channel catfish enjoying the warm water
Monthly Fishing Tips
New Honey Holes on Old Favorites
By Next Bite
We've all had those moments while fishing where we simply can't believe what just happened. Maybe it was watching a larger fish latch onto a smaller fish that you were reeling in or the time you put on the ugliest lure in your tackle box and caught the biggest fish of your life. Of course, it is always fun to watch someone fight a huge fish and when it comes to the surface it turns out to be an old shoe!
Chances are if you fish small lakes for walleyes you have your "go to" spots, but there are probably a lot of areas that are holding fish that you have passed by for years not even knowing it. By learning how to dissect a lake, we guarantee you will add another one of those "I can't believe it" moments to your memory bank when you start catching fish in a spot you never thought to try.
Beginning with opening weekend, through the next three weeks after, one of the easiest ways to find new places where fish congregate is to pull up the map of the lake on your Lowrance. During this time of year, you will want to pinpoint areas that are six feet or less on or near shorelines. This is done by going to "Depth Highlighting" on your unit and setting the maximum to six feet. This will shade in all the areas that are six feet and under, giving you a quick visual of all these spots on the lake. In addition to working shorelines and back bays, you can check out sunken humps, but only if they are close to shore.
The purpose of this is to be able to easily identify places to hit while trying to cover the entire lake looking for fish. You will hit each of these areas with a 1-2 punch. The first punch you will throw is casting a #6 Berkley Flicker Shad and letting it slowly bounce bottom as you reel it back in. The #6 Flicker Shad is neutrally buoyant and made with casting in mind. If there are active fish in the area they will smack the bait!
To get the most casting power, you will want to use a one-piece Bass Pro Shops Walleye Angler 7' Medium Light rod with an extra fast tip (Model WY70MLLXFS) If you prefer longer rods, you can go up to a 7'6" model. Pair the rod with a Bass Pro Shops Johnny Morris spinning reel (Model JMS10) which is made for delivering long casts. By spooling the reel with gray or green 8lb. or 10lb. Berkley NanoFil you will be able to cast a mile! Ok, maybe not a mile, but quite a distance! Since this line is also very sensitive, it will telegraph if there is debris stuck on the hooks or if a fish takes a swipe at the bait.
You will want to move through the targeted areas quickly, trying to get the first bite. Once you find one fish, put the MotorGuide Xi5 trolling motor into "Anchor" mode to hold the boat in place while you continue casting to search for more fish. You can move a few feet in either direction by hitting the "jog" button.
When you stop getting bites on the Flicker Shad, it is time to mop up the area by hitting them with the second punch. This is the time to bring out the jig and artificial tail to get a few bonus fish! We like to have two rods ready to go. One with a 1/16 oz. Bass Pro Shops XPS jig and the other with a Berkley Snap Jig, which is new to the market this year. Both jigs have different actions to try to entice a bite. The Bass Pro Shops XPS Walleye Jigs have a "semi-stand-up" design. This means that as the jig sits on the bottom, the hook is angled up, putting it in perfect position for a fish to inhale the offering and increasing your odds of getting a hook-up. The Berkley Snap Jig has a "V" shaped fin that gives it a gliding action on the fall and a darting action when snapped.
Both jigs are dynamite when paired with a 2 1/2-inch Berkley Gulp! Minnow. Work the bait by letting the jig drop down to bottom, then hold the rod still and let the jig swim back to you. Keep repeating this cadence all the way back to the boat. If you move up to an 1/8 oz. jig, use a 3-inch Gulp! Minnow or Berkley PowerBait Twitchtail Minnow. One of the neat things about the Twitchtail Minnow is no matter how hard you try, the tail never stops moving! Just cast it out and do a slow lift and hold as you retrieve it. If you are fishing in tannic water, go with the Clear Golden Shiner color. In clear water we like to use Watermelon Pearl for a natural looking bait.
Once you have thoroughly covered the initial area where you caught fish, don't be afraid to move 100 feet in either direction in case there is a large school in the area. This approach is very similar to what bass fishermen do to dissect a spot they believe is holding fish, by showing them several presentations to see which one gets the best reaction. After you have exhausted an area, check the map you highlighted on your Lowrance for the next place to hit. It’s not uncommon to be able to cover an entire lake in half a day. You will be amazed at how easy it is to get your Next Bite with how many fish you will find!