Anglers catching fish despite several summer challenges

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Folks who have been paying attention over the last couple of months have seen fishing conditions unlike any they have encountered around here for a long time, if ever. Virtually no runoff, unprecedented water temperatures and temperatures that rose like a rocket before it was even the middle of June were just a couple of things we have had to adjust to. On the other hand, I haven’t spoken to anyone who has complained about the fishing; on the contrary, everyone, it seems, is catching fish.

Bass action in the valley has been strong and steady and I see no reason to think that will change this month. Weed growth is perhaps the biggest challenge, but those deeper pockets adjacent to thick weeds will hold both large- and small-mouth bass, especially in midday. And sometimes you just have to go into the thick stiff with baits designed to punch down through the weeds and come out clean. Bury your hook points into the body of your big worms, creature baits and weighted frogs and craws, using heavy braided line to help slice your way through. Most importantly, leave that bait sit for two to three, even four minutes or longer and let a big green bass help you bust it out of that cover.

Small-mouth are also in those deeper holes adjacent to shallow rocky areas, and spinner baits should still catch those fish. Try throwing Rippin’ Raps up on that shallow structure early and late and dragging a big crayfish on a shaky head jig down the drop into deeper water midday. Dark, natural colors are best. Lastly, drop shot for those small-mouth bass in and around cover. Just about anything that swims can be caught using a drop shot rig, so be prepared!

Trout and salmon anglers trolling in the evening are catching nice fish on almost all of our area lakes. I had a blast recently on Little Bitterroot, trolling for salmon, using downriggers set at 25 feet and 35 feet, trolling orange and red DoubleSpin lures by Pete’s Tackle, set about 25 feet behind the ball.

Perch on Lake Mary Ronan are as aggressive as ever in 12 to 20 feet of water. We found them in several places, with several spots well away from other anglers. A fat 18-inch rainbow trout was a nice bonus! Kokanee anglers are still doing well, and those fish will only get fatter and stronger as we move into fall. Also, look for good catches of yellow perch in Flathead Lake in the Dayton Bay, Elmo Bay and Cromwell Island areas. You MUST have a tribal license to fish those areas.

The whitefish bite on Flathead Lake is actually starting to happen.  You might have to move around a bit to find them, and by all means get out during the week if you can. Target 45 to 65 feet of water with Rattle Snakies, Pete’s Whitefish Slayer and similar spoons.

Lastly, a shout out to our local Flathead Chapter of Walleyes Unlimited of Montana. Thanks to a generous donation, there is now a very nice dock at Blanchard Lake, as well as Horseshoe Lake in Ferndale. Our local chapter is one of the most active in the state and spends thousands of dollars every year right here in the Flathead on kids’ fishing poles, supporting the kids’ Hooked on Fishing program for local fourth-graders, and building and installing docks to improve our access to these great lakes. A shining example of getting it right and paying it forward for not only our kids but for ALL anglers in the valley. I’ll see you on the water!

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

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