Fishing flourishes as autumn weather arrives

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I have fallen for fall. September has always been my favorite month, but for the last three to four years, there hasn’t been much difference between August and September — but not this year.

Cool, even cold temperatures have started the trees turning, while our grasses remain green due to good moisture. If you have been out on the river bottoms lately, you know what I am talking about: beauty all around us.

For those who like to fish our local rivers and streams, there isn’t a much better time than now. Sure, water levels are still a bit low in places, but these cold mornings have dropped water temperatures and fish are responding well. Most accesses are empty, and certainly more so during the week, and the scenery can make it hard to focus on the fishing, but we struggle through!

Local lakes are also responding to this sudden turn of weather, with most lakes that have yellow perch turning on very well, especially during the afternoons. Kokanee anglers are catching some of the largest and healthiest pre-spawn specimens of the year, and with snagging seasons opening today, I know the koke-heads will be in their element this weekend. Oh, and the big rainbows up on Koocanusa can feel it in the air as well, responding to the falling water temperatures.

If it is yellow perch you are after, Lake Mary Ronan is kicking out plenty, with good sizes to boot. While it is tempting to keep a bucket of these 12- to 13-inch fish, the 9- and 10-inch fish eat just as well, so remember, a little restraint on those bigger fish will pay dividends for years to come. Also, the reservation lakes as well as East Bay on Flathead are kicking out perch as well as our northern valley lakes.

If it is rainbow trout you seek, the cooling shallows are a great place to fish them, and watching where the sun first hits the water in the mornings and treating it as a weed line or other structure can invoke vicious strikes. Overhanging brush can also be a great place to concentrate as these fish are bulking up for winter now, and food is always dropping in the water here.

Lake trout on Flathead are starting to show up along the heavier-used spawning areas, and as the super-abundant bait fish this year start to move into shallower water, the Lakers will follow. This is the time of year when shore anglers as well as those with smaller boats can do well along the shallower shoreline areas. Almost any of the islands on the lake will be holding fish out to about 60 feet of water and pitching big spoons and spinners towards shore, up on points and along drop-offs will produce. Trolling along shorelines will also work, working the shorelines while trolling “S” patterns and working into and out of shallow bays.

And of course, my mind always turns to ice fishing when fall arrives, and there are a few things ice-heads should be thinking about before the cold gets here for good. This week I unfolded a couple of my ice shelters and checked them over for holes, tears and broken zippers. This material is much easier to work with when warm, and wax applied to zippers now really helps them work well when frozen. I also put my fish finder batteries on the chargers. Next week, it will be time to get the augers out and running, cleaning and lubricating everything while the oils and lubricants are warm and can get into all the places it needs to. I’ll see you on the water!

Howe runs Howes Fishing/A Able Charters. Contact him at or 257-5214 or by emailing

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