Canyon Ferry Public Meeting - July 12
BILLINGS, Mont. -- The Bureau of Reclamation is hosting a Canyon Ferry Public Meeting on
July 12,2016, to discuss information on marinas, the Shoreline Management Plan, and OHV
(Off Highway Vehicles) use on Reclamation lands around Canyon Ferry Reservoir.
"Reclamation appreciates the opportunity to share information about Canyon Ferry resources and
recreation management with the public, and to receive input on these important programs," said
Montana Area Manager, Steve Davies. "The public meeting is conducted annually to allow
managers to better understand the interests and needs of the public."
The Public Meeting will be held from 6:00 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at the following location:
Montana Association of Counties (MACo)
2715 Skyway Drive
Helena, Montana 59602
For more information please contact the Canyon Ferry Field Office at 406-475-3310 or visit Reclamation's website at http://www.usbr.gov/gp/mtao.
2016 Montana Warriors On The Water
We are fast approaching our big event for the summer! Our Hell Creek Marina Fishing Trip will kick off on July 11 when some of the veterans fly into Billings. We have a few driving as they are closer and have needs unsuited to air travel (like bringing their service dog) but the majority will come into the Billings airport on July 11. They will arrive in an approx. 2 hour window starting about 10:00 AM. We will be there with the Miles Community College bus to bring them back to Miles City.
We have had a few roster changes with some vets having to cancel for either personal or medical reasons but we have filled their spots with other vets that applied back in January. We have 2 female vets coming and there will be some Vietnam veterans on the year’s trip. There are also vets with Montana connections. We also have several other vets who are donating their time and money to come help us this year. I have included them on the attached list also. MWOTW is blessed that these veterans want to come help at the Hell Creek Trip on their own!
All the vets will be in Miles City the afternoon on the 11th and there will be a welcome prime rib dinner furnished to them at the VFW.
One of our guests this year will be Mark “Oz” Geist of the book and movie “13 Hours”. He will join us for a few days but has to leave early as he is slated to speak at the Republican National Convention 2 different times and he needs some additional time to prepare. He has graciously offered to speak to the public and share the details of the moments, decisions and results of that historic day in Benghazi. He has told us that we can charge to get into the event and he has set us up to get copies of the book he co-authored at his cost. He has told us that he will autograph any book that is purchased and MWOTW can keep all the proceeds for the admission charge and the book sales. He will give his 1 hour presentation followed by a questions and answer period along with the book signing at the Miles City Livestock Commission in Miles City on Monday, July 11 at 8:00 PM. There will be a $15 admission fee and there is limited seating.
On Tuesday morning, we will head to the Hell Creek Marina! After a stop in Jordan for lunch, we will get to the lake that afternoon and get the veterans settled in to their cabins. There will be boats available that afternoon to do some fishing, water skiing, tubing or whatever they want to enjoy! Later, as in every day we are at the lake, a different family and/or group from Jordan will bring a full meal to us for the evening. We can’t stress enough how much help we are getting from the people of Jordan and Garfield County as well as the Jordan Walleye Chapter. The success of this entire event at the lake is directly related to their unselfish commitment!
Wednesday, Thursday and Friday will be devoted to getting these veterans on the lake to enjoy some good fishing and water sport activities. Our boat committee has worked diligently to line up boats and drivers for all and there has been a great response from lots of boat owners and drivers.
Friday night will bring about the fish fry and concert at the lake. It is open to the public and will be a great time. Walleye, hamburgers, hot dogs and good music – what a deal!
Saturday morning after a good breakfast, we will load everyone up and head back to Miles City. The vets will get a little time at the motel for some R&R but not too much! One of Miles City’s newest businesses, TopKut Barbershop, has set aside a 2 ½ hour window that afternoon and will give each vet a free haircut, straight razor shave and/or a beard trim. They are a 3 chair shop and are really looking forward to seeing these veterans. Not to be outdone, the Alibi Salon is giving our women vets a free manicure at that time also!
There will be a steak fry that is open to the public around 4:00 that afternoon at the VFW and then we will gear up for a big evening at the Fairgrounds. There will be a huge benefit concert featuring one of the hottest regional bands in the country, Chancy Williams and the Younger Brothers. (I will enclose a poster at the bottom of this email). Lots of fun things that evening with good music, a cash bar, concessions, 50/50, a heads and tails game, silent auctions, live auctions and much more! C’mon and join us!
Sunday will see us saying goodbye to the 2016 Hell Creek Tour veterans as they depart Miles City and we take those that are flying back to the Billings airport.
We have lots of other things slated for this year as well. One of the original veterans that was slated for the Hell Creek Trip could not come in July due to summer school conflict so he and his wife are coming in August. Jace Ball of Glasgow has volunteered to host them and take them on some fishing and site seeing adventures! We have some donated trips we will fill with other veterans this fall also. From deer and antelope hunting, bird hunting trips, river jet boat fishing trips, drift boat trips and more. We want to get as many veterans out as we can!
I want to acknowledge some groups, companies and people that have really stepped up to the plate to assist us this year. We have enjoyed monetary support from several different Walleye chapters in Montana - from Billings, Bozeman, Great Falls, Lewistown, Wolf Point and Glasgow. We have had tremendous physical support from Jordan and Miles City Chapters.
There have also been several individuals from the Jordan area that have went “above and beyond” whether it’s running fundraisers or organizing help for our 2016 Hell Creek Trip. We were in need of a large cargo trailer to help us haul all our equipment and etc. around in and the people of Glasgow responded in a huge way. Several people donated toward the project and then Jace Ball of Glasgow took the lead and got Northeast Montana STAT Air Ambulance and the First Interstate Bank system in Montana to team up and purchase us a large cargo trailer and get it wrapped. We are so grateful for all their generosity!
We are fortunate to have the physical and monetary help to put on this year’s Hell Creek Trip but we are already gearing up for next year too. This is a $30-35,000 project we have to fund so we are always looking for help if anyone has any ideas for us. We are also looking into acquiring a tracked wheelchair and an UTV that has been modified for use for veterans that have suffered the loss of a limb. We want to eventually have the equipment necessary to take any veteran out hunting or fishing – regardless of their physical challenges. The members of Walleyes Unlimited of Montana has been our rock – we hope it continues!
We hope to see some of you either at the lake, at the concert or at one of our other events!
(on a side note, we are looking for a ride for 2 veterans that have to leave the Hell Creek Marina early for get back home. They need to be in Billings by Noon on Friday, July 15.)
John Morford - Co-Director
Montana Warriors On The Water
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.
Ryan Kreiner, FWP Fisheries Biologist, Thompson Falls Area Office, 406-827-9320, email@example.com
Change to live bait rules!
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: firstname.lastname@example.org. To learn more about aquatic invasive species, go to the FWP website at fwp.mt.gov and click on the Fishing page.
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 email@example.com, and must be received no later than March 25, 2016
Lakes and Fishing Reports
Fishing Report -
Fishing Report - July
Canyon Ferry: Fishing slowed down this past week with cooler temperatures and rain in the area. Successful rainbow trout anglers caught fish on the north end of the reservoir using cowbells, tipped with worms, or cranks in 20 to 50 feet of water. Shore anglers had some success fishing for rainbows using worms and/or marshmallows throughout the reservoir. Walleye are being caught throughout the reservoir tolling worm harnesses or slow-death rigs, tipped with worms or leeches, in 35 feet of water or less. Jigs tipped with worms are also producing walleye throughout the reservoir. Yellow perch are being caught from shore using worms or while trolling for walleye. Adam Strainer, FWP, Helena
Hauser: Rainbows are being caught trolling cowbells between Black Sandy and York Bridge and in the Riverside area. Shore fishing is fair while using worms or Powerbait around Riverside. Small walleye are being caught at the Causeway Bridge on jigs and in the Causeway Arm on perch colored crankbaits or bottom bouncers and a leech. A few perch are being caught in the Causeway as well on jigs. Troy Humphrey, FWP, Helena
Holter: Good rainbow fishing continues for those trolling cowbells throughout the reservoir; especially from Split Rock to Holter Dam. Shore fishing for rainbows has been fair around Gates of the Mountains on worms. Night fishing for rainbows and walleye has been very productive while using jigs and worms. Walleye are being caught around Split Rock, Cottonwood Creek and the bays by Holter Dam. Most walleye are being caught on jigs and a worm in 8 to 15 feet of water. Perch are being caught throughout the reservoir in small bays and around the boat docks in 10 to 20 feet of water while using jigs and worms. Troy Humphrey, FWP, Helena
Fort Peck and Canyon Ferry Spawning Report 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!
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
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
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
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!
Well, the 2016 walleye egg collection effort has concluded in the Big Dry Arm of Fort Peck Reservoir. Weather conditions remained favorable last week causing water surface temperatures to warm into the low 50’s throughout the trap netting locations. This allowed walleye spawning activity to continue, but there are some definite signs the walleye spawn is winding down.
Numbers of female walleye captured have gradually decreased with a majority of the females collected being ripe. Very few green female walleye have been captured and more spent females have made their appearance in the trap nets. In fact, even some of the ripe female walleye collected weren’t as plump with eggs as they were a week ago indicating they too have released a few of their eggs.
Due to the good number of ripe females captured in the trap nets, we managed to hold three more egg-takes since the last update. These egg-takes allowed us to collect approximately 7 million eggs each time. That brings the grand total to 79 million eggs for the season! This surpassed the 60 million goal, but additional eggs were collected in the event of poor hatching success.
Last, but especially not least, I’d like to thank all the volunteers who contributed to an extremely successful season. It was great to see lots of new and familiar faces, talk about the Fort Peck fishery, and see some truly remarkable fish. Best of luck to everyone in 2016 wherever you choose to wet a line!
Photo: Judy Becker with healthy walleye on a drizzly day.
Photo: Tom Becker also with a nice walleye on a drizzly day.
Photo: Xander Pugh with one of the last female walleye captured of the season.
Photo (courtesy of BJ Kemp): Jeff Remus and JoAnn Elrod with one of the larger walleye captured during the trap netting and egg collection effort.
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!
Canyon Ferry Wrap-up
The 2016 Canyon Ferry Reservoir walleye spawning survey on the south end of the reservoir is officially over. Survey results indicate that the peak of the spawn may have occurred before FWP staff launched their first trap on April 4th. Seventy four total walleye were sampled from April 4th to April 25th and the majority of the walleye were captured this spring between April 4th and 11th. Captured walleye averaged 13.7-inches and 0.9-pounds. Eleven percent of the captured walleye were females and ripe females were only captured during the first 7 days of the survey. Optimal walleye spawning temperatures (48-52 degrees F) were reached on multiple occasions during the survey, but FWP staff was starting to see fewer total fish toward mid-April. When traps start to capture primarily immature males it typically indicates that the spawning period is ending. Again, survey results indicate that the spawn may have occurred up to a month earlier than normal.
FWP staff also continues to monitor walleye in the Missouri River upstream of Canyon Ferry Reservoir via electrofishing. Weekly electrofishing surveys have resulted in capturing 84 walleye that averaged 17.2-inches and 1.51-pounds. Eleven percent of the walleye surveyed in the river were females. Walleye started moving into the river in early April and have only been surveyed thus far between Crimson Bluffs and the river delta. However, the majority of the walleye surveyed this spring in the river have been between the HWY 12 Bridge and Cottonwood Boat Ramp on the Canyon Ferry Wildlife Management Area.
Please contact me if you have any questions about either of the surveys or if you happen to catch a tagged fish. Tag returns from anglers are one of the most valuable fisheries management tools that FWP has, so get out there and catch some fish!
Photo Caption: FWP Fisheries Technician Chris Hurley holds up a large female walleye surveyed during the 2016 Canyon Ferry Reservoir walleye spawning survey.
Monthly Fishing Tips
Dominating the Dog Days BiteBy Gary Parsons and Keith Kavajecz
It’s hot and the bite’s not. Are you sure about that? Many people think that walleyes become hard to catch in July and August. This isn't true. The walleye aren’t harder to catch, they have just changed their feeding patterns and you need to adjust to them. By this time of year the open water basin bite has begun to occur. On Lake Erie this bite is already happening in April. On many inland lakes it begins in late June and is in full swing by the beginning of July.
Finding the Fish
Early in the season, walleye tend to relate to structure and shorelines. As the water temperature changes and bug hatches occur, or as smelt and alewives begin to school up, the walleye begin to roam the open water basins. The first thing we do when we go to a lake this time of year is look at a map. A prime area to concentrate on is a 25-30 foot flat. The flat could be sand or mud, which is the perfect place for insects to hatch, so a lot of baitfish will be in the area. While a lot of people tend to think of mayflies when they think of a bug hatch, there are actually various hatches happening throughout the summer. These same flats can also hold an abundance of red worms and wigglers. Another key feature to look for is a basin that has a smattering of underwater humps. The fish like to relate to these humps, usually staying within a quarter mile of them during the day and feeding on them at night. Once we have identified areas to target, we use our Lowrance HDS to look for suspended schools. A huge advantage of the HDS is the ability to pick up on these schools while cruising at 18-19 mph, instead of having to slow down to trolling speed. With the scroll speed set on the HDS at two times normal and the ping speed set at maximum, unless the fish are tight to the bottom, they are easy to find.
Getting the Bite
There are a couple of ways to fish these flats. It is important to understand that these fish are wandering nomads. The fish you find today could be a couple hundred yards, a half-mile, or clear across the lake tomorrow. Structure is not as important when deciding if you should chase after open water basin walleyes as weather is. Very high winds seem to turn these fish “off”, especially when a N or NE wind pushes a cold front through. Yet when the weather is stable it is lights out! If we are looking to cover water, we tend to lean towards cranks over spinners because of their specialized actions. If you have a good crankbait, you can get a good bite in most conditions. Traditionally, the thought has been to use crankbaits until the water gets warm and then switch over to spinners. This line of thinking has changed with the introduction of cranks like the Berkley Flicker Minnow and Flicker Shad. One of the biggest mistakes people make when they are trolling warm water is trolling fast. Boat speed should not be predicated on the temperature of the water, but the crank and the action of that crank. While some people think 2 mph is a great trolling speed, we have found it can be too fast for some cranks. There are many cranks that have a great trolling speed of 1 mph. You should constantly be changing your trolling speed to get the best action for your bait. In many cases you can troll spinners and cranks together. The beauty of this kind of fishing is unlimited flexibility and experimentation. If you are bored trolling then you are not doing your job as an angler. You should constantly be mixing up your speeds and your bait until you find what trips their trigger. We love it when we are fishing in a state where we can use several lines, as it gives us an even greater opportunity to experiment. We lean heavily on Berkley baits because we have had a hand in their design. We don’t prejudge, we let the walleye tell us if they will work and keep playing around with the action until it is right. The absolute epitome of a day is when you have dialed it in so well that you have all of the lines running with the exact same lure in terms of brand, size and color. Just as important as selecting the right bait and speed is the proper planer board selection. Not a lot has changed over the years with Offshore planer boards. They have a very heavy ballasted system that allows you to troll slow without the boards tipping. They are also great for handling rough conditions. We like to modify the clip set-up on the boards when trolling crankbaits to what we call “The Pro Set-Up”. We remove the release hardware and the OR16 (Red) release from the back of the board. The board comes from the factory with an OR19 (Orange) release that is mounted straight out on the arm and we add another OR19 just behind that one so it’s aimed back at about a 45 degree angle (the board comes with a pre-drilled hole for this modification). The advantage to the “Pro Set-Up” are that it makes the boards easier to read because they will “tip back” more when a fish is on. It also makes removing the boards easy, especially when you are fighting a fish by yourself. When we are trolling spinners we always use an Offshore board equipped with a Tattle Flag. There are way too many instances when we are able to tease a walleye into biting with a Tattle set-up, in which the flag moves when you have a strike. There are many times when you will see that the fish bit the worm, but then let it go. When the flag indicates this, you should free spool your line, count to three and then tighten up. Usually the fish will slam it! We don’t know of any other board that will let you see those light strikes.
Keeping the Fish On
Whenever you can, you should build stretch into your trolling system, whether you are trolling spinners or cranks. For years we have used monofilament 10# Berkley XT line because it allows the fish to suck it in better and there is a lot of forgiveness in the line. This minimizes the chance of putting a hole in the mouth of fish. It also minimizes the chance of losing a big fish on a headshake. We have also begun using 14# Berkley XL when trolling. It is tough as nails, has more stretch than XT and is the same diameter at 10# XT. We refer to the Precision Trolling app to know how much line needs to be let out for our lure to run at a desired depth in the water column. The calculations for the 10# XT are the same for the 14# XL. If you are trolling with lead core line, it is important to keep the drag somewhat loose since you will have stretch limitations. This prevents the fish from ripping a hole in his mouth. After you have worked hard to locate the fish, get them to bite, and keep them on the line, the last thing you want to do is lose them at the boat. One of the biggest mistakes we see are people losing fish just out of netting range with the pole pointed straight up to the good Lord in the sky. As soon as you get the board off, put the rod close to the water at a right angle to the fish. You don’t want the fish to come close to the surface until it is within good netting range. By keeping the rod down and at this angle, you should hardly ever have to reach out to net a fish. So remember, don't give up when you think the fish have shut down! With a little bit of homework and experimentation you will be able to land your Next Bite!