Montana Hunting and Fishing News
Click on the link below to read this months hunting and fishing news from all over Montana!HuntingFishingNews.Net
Noxon Reservoir Update
Click on the hyperlinks below to read all about the progress being made at Noxon
Noxon and Cabinet Gorge Reservoir Fisheries Monitoring
Graph and Summary of Population and fish Trends
Final Montana FWP AIS Report
All of Montana FWP’s watercraft inspection stations are now closed for the season except for one roving crew at Fort Peck, who will work until the end of September. Now that nearly all of the stations have closed we can focus on getting the last of the data entered and start preparing our annual report. The table below is NOT FINAL, many of our station’s data is not yet completely entered, but it gives a good idea of overall numbers and the most common types of violations our crews encountered this field season. I have also included a summary of illegally transported live fish that were found over the course of the summer.
We would like to give a huge thanks to all who helped make this season a safe and successful one, especially our tireless game wardens. THANK YOU!!!
We will be distributing our inspection station and monitoring reports as soon as they are completed. Contact Stacy Schmidt, Craig McLane or myself with any questions in the meantime.
Thank you, Linnaea Schroeer, Statewide Aquatic Invasive Species Liaison.
Lakes and Fishing Reports
Fishing Report -
If your looking for ice fishing reports from around the United States and Montana, check out the following link. This is the best website I have found for Ice Fishing Information. www.IceShanty.com
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
Early Ice Walleyes – Cautious Aggression
Gary Parsons and Keith Kavajecz
As we write this its mid-November and although the weather is unseasonably cold, predicting what ice conditions are going to be over the next month or so is only an educated guess. When you’re talking “early ice”, much depends on where you are in the ice fishing belt and what the weather patterns have been. This year, things are looking pretty good for an early start to the ice fishing season. That means that there’s a good chance that those of you targeting walleyes will most likely be dealing with fish still looking to bulk up for winter. That means fish will be aggressive, on the move, hunting down forage. It also means that to be successful, anglers need to be aggressive, staying mobile in their search for the mother lode.
But we are talking “early ice” here, and although aggressive tactics often are the key, a healthy measure of caution is also called for. Ice conditions are unpredictable anytime, but especially in the early and later parts of the season. Chances are ice has only been forming a few weeks and in most lakes it’s probably not very thick. This is a time for travelling light.
One way we travel light is to stick with “one-man” ice shelters. You want something that is easy to pull by hand, but offers comfort and room to carry all your gear. We like the Clam Legend Thermal XL. It only weighs about 60 pounds so it’s ideal for thinner ice situations. It’s also a very comfortable shack to fish in as it features extendable poles to provide lots of head room (up to 66 inches) offering you plenty of head-room to set the hook without banging into the roof, and it’s also a great choice for taller anglers.
As for fish location, look for the walleyes to still be in or near areas where you were catching them right up until ice up. Typically that puts the fish on flats near where they will spawn come spring, or on flats along sharp drop-offs. Walleyes use these steep contours as travel routes, much the same way deer use cuts, ridges and coulees to travel through an area. Another main factor to the walleye’s location will be forage. Locate one of these prime flats areas that’s holding a good amount of forage fish and you have a prime area to start fishing.
Early ice is a good time for aggressive actions. In most cases, the walleyes are still putting on the feedbag for winter (especially in a situation where you’ve had an early freeze) and they’re typically in a more aggressive feeding mode. Jigging actions incorporating quick up-strokes and slack line drops are deadly early on. It’s also a good idea to pound the bottom with your jigging lure occasionally. It’s a tactic that will make a little extra noise and often creates a “puff” of silt off the bottom attracting a fish’s attention.
A trick we have used with some success when dealing with more finicky walleyes this time of year is to play a game of cat-and-mouse with them. Say you are watching a fish on your locator but the fish doesn’t bite your offering immediately. That’s a good time to begin raising the bait up aggressively – often several feet – jiggle it and then raise it up some more (often having to reel in line). It is important to watch your depth finder to see how far and how aggressively you can try to pull the fish up and get it to bite. But this time of year pulling a walleye up 10 to 15 feet before it bites is not uncommon. It’s a trick to keep in mind that can often pay off big.
So what are the best baits to use for these “aggressive” actions? One of the most productive is what we call Glide Baits, like Moonshine Lure’s Shiver Minnow, This “minnow-like” jigging lure has a dramatic side-to-side darting movement when jigged, giving you great horizontal coverage of the area under your ice hole. The Shiver Minnow comes in a variety of sizes and in an array of awesome “glow” color patterns that last a long time and are deadly during the prime-times of dusk and dawn when walleyes tend to feed the heaviest.
Jigging spoons are another great choice for this time of year. You want to choose spoons that offer lots of flash, but also have a distinct and enticing flutter on the drop. Top choices here would include the Clam Blade Spoon, the ever-popular Swedish Pimple and Acme’s Sidewinder and Kastmaster spoons. Another lure we are anxious to put to use this season is Clam’s new Time Bomb Spoon. Each of these have their own distinct shape and therefore feature different flash and flutter patterns. Trying a variety of lures will help you to dial-in the right one to get the most bites.
A big key to success with any ice jigging spoon is to know where your lure is in relation to the bottom at all times. Let out enough line to position your lure about six inches off the bottom when your rod tip is at a set position above the ice. Then, when you stroke the lure up and let it free-fall and flutter down, the spoon will stop just above the bottom, provided you return your rod tip to the pre-set position. Hold your rod still for just a second or so before imparting any more action to the lure. This moment as the spoon is at the bottom of the stoke and still slightly spinning, twisting and glinting is where it resembles a dying baitfish fighting off the final death throws, and it’s this moment most strikes will occur.
Now while Glide baits and Spoons are aggressive presentations and great at attracting walleyes from a distance, it can also be a good idea to incorporate a bit of finesse into your plan as well. We like to employ a Deadstick to the set-up, rigging a small jig tipped with a minnow on a rod we set in a second hole near our jigging hole. Set the jig so it sits about a foot off the bottom. Many times, you will draw fish in with the more aggressive lure, only to have it bite the less aggressive offering. On an LCD unit like the Lowrance Elite-5 Ice Machine’s we use, the jig will appear as a straight line on the screen. If that line all of a sudden gets wider, that indicates a fish has nosed up to the jig or is biting it.
Stay aggressive with actions and lures, but remain very cautious of the ice thickness and your over-all safety out on the ice. Remember, even though you are on ice, early ice has the warmest water and offers the most aggressive walleyes during the ice fishing season, making a great time to get your Next Bite.