Spring fishing is just around the corner

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I donít mind March coming in like a lamb Ö even if it goes out like a lion.

Right now my mind is flooded with potential trips I want to squeeze in when the ice starts going off. Not that I am done ice fishing yet, but that magic time every year when there is still fishable ice on some lakes, and open water on others ó thatís the time I am especially thankful that as an angler, I live in Northwest Montana.

Having spent some time recently in the Midwest ďfishing states,Ē I am hard-pressed to find any that offer the opportunity that we have right here. And if they do, they come with shorter seasons, more restrictive limits and lots more people sharing those resources. The exception may be the Dakotas, with northeast South Dakota right there but without our diversity of species.

I am especially eager for the perch bite on Flathead Lakeís East Bay. You can almost set your alarm for April 15, but they are certainly available before that day, especially with the warmer temps we have been having. When that water temperature hits 48 or so degrees, itís soon to be game on! Catching 11- to 14-inch perch in 3 feet of water with the Mission Mountains over your shoulder is a fishery unrivaled anywhere in the U.S.

Lake trout are also on the menu on Flathead Lake. Some of the best fishing of the year happens in the spring and when Mother Nature cooperates and the waves stay reasonable, fishing conditions on the big lake can be perfect for these cold-blooded fish. You can find them close to shore, in the deepest parts and everywhere in between. Just look for the groups fishing during Mack Days and you have found the fish.

Northern pike are another worthy adversary in the spring, with big fish hungry after a long winter. There are many outstanding Northern pike fisheries within 45 minutes of my driveway and the spawn happens right at ice-out on most of them. Right now is a good time to target them through the ice where that is still a safe proposition, if you just canít wait for open water.

For the fly fishing trout anglers, the Flathead River at this time of year is a deserted paradise. With almost no other anglers to be found, the best stretches of the big river can be fished on your own terms, with early hatches and unpressured fish your reward for your residency. Go. Today.

I will end with my favorite target of the last two or three years, the Gerrard rainbow trout. Lake Koocanusa is on fire from what I have heard, with the big íbows as well as a good stock of bull trout this year as well. You need a catch card (free from the Region One Fish, Wildlife and Parks office) to target the bulls. This is typically big boat trolling water but I have also heard of some nice Gerrards being caught closer to shore where smaller boats can safely fish. Iíll be heading up there real soon.

Congratulations go out to Tyler Frost and Jeremy Taylor for their season championship in the recently concluded Perch Assault series. And the same to Jeff Absalonson for his second place finish along with teammate Russ Geldrich, who recently won the Perch Pounder event as well. Geldrichís 1.832-pound fish was the biggest entered in the monthlong derby. Itís time to go fish!

†Iíll see you (somewhere) on the water!

Howe runs Howes Fishing/A Able Charters. Contact him at www.howesfishing.com or 257-5214 or by emailing Mike@aablefishing.com.

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