BE RESPONSIBLE WITH BAIT FISH - Jan 20th
Winter Anglers Can Help to Protect Montana's Waters
Montana's fishing regulations restrict anglers from importing live bait fish into Montana. It is also illegal to release live bait fish of any kind into Montana waters. Bait fish and the water they are contained in can carry disease, invasive species or foreign organisms. If released into a body of water the biological impacts can be devastating and irreversible. "It is illegal to move bait fish between states," said Eileen Ryce, Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks. "While this regulation is particularly easy to forget for anglers who may cross state lines during a single fishing trip, it is critical these days that we all take responsibility for monitoring our use of bait fish." For details on the use of live bait in Montana check the Montana fishing regulations online at fwp.mt.gov; click Fishing. Ryce said anglers should dispose of live bait in a zip-lock bag that is put into a landfill or in a garbage bag bound for a landfill site.
2015 Proposed Fishing Contest
Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks is seeking public comment on fishing contests proposed for the open water season of 2015. Participants must comply with state fishing regulations, including daily and possession limits. Most contests require catch-and-release fishing and participants in these contests may not keep any fish. Applications for contests may be approved, denied or approved with conditions. Conditions placed on contests may help to minimize fish mortality, regulate harvest, reduce user conflicts or require additional access site maintenance when needed. The public may comment on the proposed contests through December 28, 2014.
Click on the link to post your comments: http://fwp.mt.gov/news/publicNotices/fishing/pn_0026.html
2015 Montana Legislature
Its that time of year again where Helena hosts the 2015 Montana Legislatures. Bob Gilbert is the official Walleyes Unlimited of Montana officer. Click on the link below to follow the bills of interest
Montana Legislature Bills
Lakes and Fishing Reports
Fishing Report -
Ice fishing reports from around Montana. www.IceShanty.com
Anglers are reminded that ice conditions can be extremely variable on the reservoirs. Ice thickness can range from thick enough to support a vehicle to open water. Extreme caution should be used when accessing the ice.
Canyon Ferry: Rainbow trout fishing continues to be good from the Silos to Pond 4. Successful anglers are using dark colored ice flies or jigs tipped with maggots or worms. No anglers ventured out in search of perch due to the current poor ice conditions. Ice conditions have been reported at 10 to 14-inches from the Silos to Pond 4, 0 to 6-inches mid-reservoir, and 0 to 6-inches on the north end. Warm temperatures have caused VERY unsafe ice conditions, please use caution. Adam Strainer, FWP, Helena
Hauser: There is no ice in the Causeway, but anglers are catching rainbows from shore on nightcrawlers and spawn sacks. Fishing is slow around Black Sandy where there is 10 inches of good ice. There is also no ice at Devil’s Elbow and York Bridge. Troy Humphrey, FWP, Helena
Holter: Ice has become too unstable to access and is pulling away from shore. A few rainbows are being caught around Gates of the Mountains. The Gates of the Mountains boat ramp is now ice free. Troy Humphrey, FWP, Helena
CANYON FERRY AND FORT PECK 2014
Optimal surface water temperatures over the past week brought in a number of large female walleye during the 2014 spring spawning survey on Canyon Ferry Reservoir. Eight ripe or spawned out females, larger than 28-inches, have graced our trap nets since the last update and the number of walleye captured, tagged and released increased to more than 600 total . The largest walleye captured to date was a 31.7-inch, 15.0-pound ripe female and numerous other spawning aged females, greater than 20-inches, were also captured. However, due to lack of males and the number of spawned out females being captured, FWP crews will likely conclude the 2014 spawning survey later during the week of April 28th.
Two more northern pike were sampled since the last update, bringing the spring total up to five. The largest of the most recent pike captured was a 46.5-inch, 30.04-pound giant. Over 1,600 rainbow trout have now been released from traps, as well as hundreds of other fish.
If you have any questions or would like to volunteer, give me a call at 495-3263.
Volunteers Jason Rigsby with a 31.1-inch, 11.8-pound female walleye from the south end of Canyon Ferry Reservoir.
FWP personnel with a 46.5-inch, 30.04-pound northern pike captured during the 2014 spawning survey on the south end of Canyon Ferry Reservoir.
The ice is officially gone and the annual spawning survey on Canyon Ferry Reservoir is under way. Two trap nets were launched, one near the north end of Pond #1 and the other at the south end of the Silos Recreation area, on April 10th and traps have only been checked three days. We’ve already handled close to 700 rainbow trout and 200 walleye despite cooler temperatures and lower than normal reservoir levels. A handful of smaller female walleyes (17 to 24 inches) have been surveyed, but the bulk of the catch, as per usual, has been ripe males. The weather forecast appears to be promising, so the spawn could really turn on over the next week or so.
The most notable captures this spring thus far have been the presence of two northern pike greater than 25-pounds. The largest of the two was a whopping 44.5-inches and 33.8-pounds with a 23.5-inch girth…a true specimen.
If you have any questions or are interested in volunteering for a day during the field season, give me a call at 495-3263.
Fisheries technician Chris Hurley with a 33.8-pound northern pike captured on the south end of Canyon Ferry Reservoir.
Here's a photo of a fine female walleye captured, tagged and released on the south end of Canyon Ferry Reservoir.
Adam Strainer - Region 4
Warm water temperatures have the annual spawing survey on Canyon Ferry Reservoir in full swing. Over 450 walleye have been captured, tagged and released to date, already nearly 100 more than in 2013, and some large females have started to show up. The largest walleye captured to date has been a 29.9-inch ripe female, but five additional 20-inch plus females were also sampled during the same timeframe. The weather forecast continues to be promising, at least short term, so look for walleye numbers to increase throughout the week of April 21st.
One more northern pike was sampled late last week, bringing the spring total up to three. Over 1,000 rainbow trout have been released from traps, as well as hundreds of other fish, during the annual spring survey. Come out and see for yourself if you’re interested!
If you have any questions or would like to volunteer, give me a call at 495-3263.
Volunteers John Palmer and Sean Buchanan pose with two large spawning aged walleye on the south end of Canyon Ferry Reservoir.
Volunteers assist FWP personnel with removing fish from large traps that are used to monitor spawning fish on the south end of Canyon Ferry Reservoir.
Adam Strainer - Region 4
The winds have calmed and we finally experienced some warmer weather in the Big Dry Arm of Fort Peck Reservoir. However, that lingering cold front left its mark throughout our trap netting area. Water surface temperatures actually dropped to 43 degrees yesterday in some of the shallower trap netting areas. As a result, we’ve observed fewer numbers of walleye while checking the trap nets and they’ve been either ripe or spent females. Very few green female walleye have been collected. That means numbers in holding pens have started to decrease and we are now holding 76 green females compared to the 100+ females last week. This is definitely a sign that things are on the downhill slide.
We’ve held two smaller egg-takes since the last update. These two egg collections have given us approximately 8 million more eggs and should bring the total to approximately 55 million for the year. With that being said, we’ve surpassed our goal of 50 million for the year. However, we will likely try to collect a few more eggs between now and sometime next week to give us a little buffer in the event we have poor eye-up and hatching success.
Fertilizing a batch of walleye eggs
Gordon Radke with a dandy walleye
It’s been a cold, wet, and bumpy past few days in the Big Dry Arm of Fort Peck Reservoir. A cold front has moved into the area and doesn’t appear to be leaving anytime soon. Daytime high temperatures have dropped to the upper 40’s. This is quite the change compared to the mid 60’s we experienced at the end of last week. As a result, water temperatures have dropped and so have the number of walleye collected in our trap nets. Water surface temperatures are now back down to 48 degrees throughout most of our trap netting locations.
We’ve still managed to collect enough ripe female from the trap nets and holding pens for three more egg collections since the last update. These three egg-taking efforts have given us an additional 14 million eggs which brings the total to approximately 47 million. There are still 92 green female walleye in the holding pens waiting to ripen up, but it might be slow going with the cooler temperatures.
Ernest Uy with a state record river carpsucker
Weather conditions continue to be favorable in the Big Dry Arm of Fort Peck Reservoir. Water surface temperatures have gradually increased to 52 degrees in some of the shallower trap netting areas. This means more walleye have been cruising the shorelines in an attempt to spawn and filling up the trap nets. In fact, one of the better traps contained 35 walleye and 13 of them were ripe females.
Because of the surge in fish, another large egg-take was held from 98 females. This yielded 10.9 million eggs and brings the total to 32.3 million eggs. We are also holding 131 green females in the pens. This is great news but we still need some warmer weather to ripen those fish up. However, a cold front is expected to move through the area with cooler temperatures and rain/snow mix.
Transporting a boat load of female walleye from the trap nets
The weather has remained stable over the last couple days in the Big Dry Arm area of Fort Peck Reservoir. Water surface temperatures are still around 50 degrees near some of our shallower trap netting areas but gradually cool down to 45 degrees when moving down the reservoir towards McGuire Creek. This warm weather has kept the walleye cruising the shorelines in an attempt to spawn. However, the winds have made things a bit challenging when checking our trap nets.
Tuesday we held our first walleye egg-take for the 2014 season. We managed to collect 14 million eggs from 97 female walleye. Today we were able to collect an additional 7.4 million eggs. This will give us a little over 21 million eggs total for the 2014 season. In addition, we have a 105 green females in the holding pens waiting to ripen up. This is a much better start compared to last season and the weather forecast looks promising for at least a couple more days.
Matt Baxter collecting eggs from a ripe female walleye
Marv Johnson with a green female walleye
The weather has really warmed over the weekend in the upper Big Dry Arm of Fort Peck Reservoir. Water surface temperatures have increased from 43 degrees to 50 degrees in some of the shallower areas. As a result, we’ve observed an increase in numbers of walleye collected in our trap nets. Not only have the numbers improved, but we are beginning to see a few more green and ripe female walleye. This is definitely a sign that walleye spawning activity is beginning to pick up.
With today’s catch, we’ve managed to bring the total number of green females to 74 in the holding pens. We are also holding 56 ripe female walleye that will be spawned tomorrow. Hatchery personnel collected approximately 1.4 million northern pike eggs today that will be used to meet the stocking requests for a few select Montana waters this spring.
Mike McNamee with a large female northern pike
The walleye egg-taking operation on Fort Peck Reservoir has commenced even though there is still some lingering ice cover. Most of the ice is near the dam and in the middle portions of the reservoir. However, the upper Big Dry Arm has opened up a bit and allowed us to place a few trap nets in some of the shallower, open areas. Similar to the last few years, lingering ice cover and cooler temperatures have delayed the start of the egg-taking operation.
Water temperatures are cool so walleye spawning activity is slow for the time being. The warmest water temperature obseved was 42 degrees. We are seeing some walleye, but a majority of them are males which is the typical pattern early on. We did manage to capture a few green (not ready to release eggs) female walleye and are holding them in hopes they will release their eggs once water temperatures start to warm. The forecast looks promising for the next several days so hopefully we will see an increase in walleye spawning activity.
Dale Spitzer with one of the first green female walleye of the season
Double Your Ice Fishing Success!
Gary Parsons and Keith Kavajecz
We do realize it’s pretty bold to state that we have found a system that will help you double your fish catches when ice fishing, but we wouldn’t say it if we really didn’t believe it. For those of you that have followed our careers, you will remember that in the late 90’s we put together a “system” of trolling for walleyes that broke new ground and launched a trolling revolution that still dominates today. Well, this Targeted Jigging System will do the same thing for ice fishing. And this truly is a “system”, as well as a totally new technique! Perhaps the best way to tell you about this system, is to explain how, over the past 12 to 18 months, this has developed.
When we ice fish, we have always used the same Lowrance graph units like the ones we use on our boats in the summer. It’s been our contention from the beginning that these types of units offer so much more information and show a better picture of what’s happening below the surface than flasher-type units often touted as being the so-called best units for ice fishing. Last winter, on one of his many ice treks to Lake Gogebic, Gary was fishing with Jon Sibley, a hardcore ice guide who happened to also be a “flasher guy”. On one of the warmer days, as they were setting up to do a little perch fishing from their shelter, Gary watched as his friend set up 3 holes – one inside the shelter and two outside the shelter with one of them being about 8 to 10 feet away. On that close outside hole Jon set up a flasher unit (in addition to the one at his jigging hole in the shack). He positioned the flasher located at the closest outside hole so that he could see it from the open door of his shack. Gary asked why he did that. Jon explained that sometimes he could see a fish near the bait because the flasher was located in that hole (obviously he had very good eye sight). When he did, he’d go to the hole and try to coax the fish to bite, and if he did catch a fish, he would immediately see if more were there so he could drop to them quickly and maybe catch even a second or a third fish.
Well, Gary being Gary, instantly saw the advantage to this, but having only one graph with him at the time he was hog-tied. However, the next time he hit the ice with his friend that was not the case. This time he brought 2 Lowrance units, both Elite -7x HDI’s. One was used inside the shelter like normal, and one for the closest outside hole. With the Elite-7x Gary zoomed in the display to show only the bottom six feet – which was the area with historically the most fish action. With the larger screen and having it zoomed in, Gary was able to set the Elite-7x twice the distance from the shack as compared to how Jon had fished his flasher. With the screen zoomed in this way the jig looked like it was a quarter of an inch thick and the incoming fish would look like sturgeons coming in….making the whole screen highly visible from a greater distance. He could watch as fish moved into the areas of his jig, and run out to tease those fish into biting or to simply set the hook on the ones that had already bitten. The one thing that was immediately apparent, were the great numbers of fish that would come to this dead stick set up and not bite unless you were right there to jig them!
It really seemed like this was a great system, but they ran into a snag … literally. As soon as the weather turned cold, the holes would immediately freeze and fishing outside holes like this was impossible. Both Gary and Jon knew that they had to find a way to keep those holes from freezing over in order for this to work on a consistent day to day basis.
After an exhaustive internet search, Gary found The Hot Box; a neat device created by JT Outdoor Products owned by father and son Tom and Joe Bricko. Gary and Jon contacted them, told them how we wanted to use the Hot Box, and after meeting with them at a sport show were able to get a couple Hot Boxes to put to the test. The Hot Box is a foldable aluminum “box” that fits over the ice hole and is equipped with a small heat generating lantern inside. It’s open on the hole portion of the top, and with the use of their rod-holder option, creates one half of the ideal Jigging Station. The Hot Box worked perfectly and both Jon and Gary knew that they were really on to something.
With the hole-freezing issue conquered, Gary set his sights on a way to extend the distance he could set the Jigging Station from the shelter. He contacted Chris Meyer, a friend and Rep with Lowrance, and asked him about the range of his GoFree Wi-Fi antennae that he used in his tournament boat. He explained to Chris that he wanted to stream a sonar signal from a graph back to his shack to a tablet inside the shelter, therefore having the capability to monitor fishing holes placed a distance from his shelter. Chris immediately saw what Gary was eluding to, and was more than happy to let Gary know that Lowrance was just weeks away from announcing that they were releasing the Gen III line of units that would come with Wi-Fi built right in. “Awesome”, Parsons thought – this was a perfect situation. Now he had the Hot Box and an easy way to stream the signal from his outside sonar to inside his shelter. This is the technology that makes the Targeted Jigging System complete.
Using this system on a trip to Red Lake in Minnesota, the TNB crew slayed walleyes and what we learned, (as Gary had suspected) was just how many fish were coming to those outside lines that could be coaxed into biting. Had those lines been tip-ups, they would have gone untouched. Being able to see the fish approach those lines, then being able to run out and start jigging made all the difference. Catch rates doubled! The real beauty of this system is that it works with many species and already the guys have used it with great success on not only walleyes, but panfish, particularly deep basin crappies and perch.
Ice fishing as a sport has exploded in recent years, and by taking the same technology we use in our boats to the ice the “catching” part of the equation will vastly improve…generating many more smiles from happy anglers!
There will always be a place for the relaxing, peace and solitude style of fishing whether it’s on the ice or on open water, but if you are serious about the sport of fishing and are the type that feels the need to push the progression of how you view your craft, then embracing technology and using the Targeted Jigging System will absolutely help you double the number of times you get your Next Bite.
If you have questions or comments on this or other articles of ours you may have read, contact us through our website at www.thenextbite.com.