Lake Mary Ronan perch fishing poses a challenge

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I recently fished Lake Mary Ronan, guiding a grandfather/grandson to some yellow perch fishing.

Considering it had been awhile since I last fished Lake Mary Ronan, I called and emailed a few guys I knew had fished it recently, and knew some others that had been out as well.

The reports were all the same: It had been pretty darn tough since the Fourth of July. The salmon were still doing OK, but the perch had become scarce. In a way, it wasn’t what I wanted to hear, but on the other hand, it played right into what I have been recently writing about, and I guess it was put up or shut up! I eagerly accepted the challenge.

Lake Mary Ronan is a fairly small lake, 1,500 acres or a little over 2 square miles. It experiences a lot of boat traffic and a fair amount of fishing pressure, with most people fishing the same four or five spots for either perch or kokanee salmon, with a few trout and largemouth bass anglers as well. Maximum depth is in the 45-foot range, and the weeds grow to about the 22-foot depth, but do not overwhelm the lake in most places. Find some weeds around a change in the bottom content and you should fish there, whatever the depth is.

I was convinced we needed to start looking for fish along those deeper weed edges, but I also know of a couple of places where gravel turns to a mucky bottom, and the perch always seem to be spitting up bloodworms no matter what the time of year. There were several boats already lined up along the 20- to 24-foot contour out from the state park, and one or two out in the “salmon hole.”

We motored out across to the other side of the lake and fished around White Rock Bay and west toward the church camp. We fished depths of 15 to 30 feet and found fast-moving schools of perch, mostly in the 18- to 20-foot range. These fish were not staying in one place — we would catch two to three from a school, and they were gone. It was pretty similar to late last summer, when schools would move, but return in 5 to 10 minutes. These fish left and stayed gone.

Narrowing down the depth they were frequenting certainly helped, and with a good sonar and lake map we could at least stay in the right depth. Casting search lures helped us figure out where they were moving, and both Rapala Rippin’ Raps and Vibrations Tackle Echo Tail lures helped.

Drop-shot rigs were the ticket when we did get on top of them, with a simple chunk of night crawler for bait, as well as a Crappie Candy minnow from Pete’s Tackle working well. These were aggressive biters when we were close, and we hooked and released a pretty good number of fish in the 6 to 7-inch range, with a best of about 9 inches. The guys went home with a lunch worth of fish, and had we kept a few more of those 7-inch fish it could have been enough for four!

We talked to folks in a couple of other boats on the water as well as back at the parking lot and almost everyone had not caught a single perch. For a couple, it was the second day of no action. While we certainly didn’t knock them dead, we had steady action most of the morning, and caught enough for a solid meal of tasty yellow perch.

Lake Mary Ronan is located northwest of Dayton and has a great boat ramp at Lake Mary Ronan State Park. For more info, go to http://stateparks.mt.gov/lake-mary-ronan.

I’ll see you 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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