COLUMN: It’s time to indulge in some springtime fishing

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Springtime in the Rockies! Wasn’t last weekend a dandy? Warm and sunny spring days made it impossible to stay inside. I had a ton of chores to do in my Kalispell yard, but I could not resist the call of my cabin and fishing boat. So JoAnn and I packed our gear and headed for a weekend at our cabin.

When we arrived there, the outside temperature was a balmy 65 degrees. But inside the cabin it was around 50 degrees. Our cabin is well insulated. But that insulation works both ways. It also keeps the cabin cool from the warm outside spring temperatures. So the first order of business was to open the windows and fire up the wood stove to warm the interior.

Then came the really important work, getting the boat out of the garage and ready to launch. I had to reinstall my starting battery as well as the batteries for my electric trolling motor. There were another dozen things to do and check before launching. Then we were off to the boat ramp.

Two fishermen were taking out as we arrived at the boat ramp. These were Libby fishermen and they each brought in a limit of rainbows. Rainbows like cool water, so are generally deep in the lake during the summer months. But in the spring, they like to cruise in shallower water along shore. These Libby fishermen were successful by trolling small diving crank baits that imitated small perch. I have never trolled crank baits for rainbows, but that sure worked for those guys. Their rainbows were about 12 inches long, with one larger 16-inch fish.

After launching our boat, I had to spend another hour re-rigging our fishing tackle. Our rods and reels were still rigged for walleye and northern pike from our fishing trip last October in Minnesota. Western Montana lakes have very clear water, so off came the heavy 14-pound line. I respooled with six-pound fluorocarbon line. That seems to spook the fish less then heavier line.

Finally we were ready to fish. It really felt good to be on the lake in the boat. The air temperature was in the 60s. But the surface water temperature was 46 degrees. Since the fish like temperatures in the 50s and low 60s, we fished deeper in the water column, looking for warmer water. We used two to three colors of leaded core line to get down 12 to 18 feet.

Fishing was slow for us. Being the true gentleman that I am, I let JoAnn catch the first fish. None of our fish were whoppers, but that was ok. The most important thing was that we were on the lake, enjoying the scenery and sunshine. There were lots of geese and ducks on the lake. Most of the weekend, we were the only boat on the lake. Sunday was even a nicer day to be at the lake. Sitting on the dock, it was T-shirt weather — just great!

In between fishing trips, we worked on some cabin improvement projects, cut and stacked some firewood, cut a few trees to open our lot for more sunshine, rode the four-wheeler, visited with some neighbors and took a couple of nice naps in the spring sun. It doesn’t get much better.

Fishermen must carefully watch proposed government actions that may change how we fish. The governor put together a 22-member Invasive Species Advisory Council. Its task is to address how to combat an increasing number of non-native plant and animal species that are impacting our natural resources.

The council includes a vast array of government officials, but no member to represent hunters and anglers. Now everyone wants to halt the adverse effects of unwanted invasive species. Not surprisingly, the council identified the lack of adequate funding as the primary challenge to controlling invasive species. Have you ever heard a government agency say they simply have to work more efficiently?

One recommendation to raise more money is to “establish a watercraft user fee.” Citizens already pay to license all motorboats. Do they want more money for motorboats or perhaps they want to tax canoes, paddleboards and kayaks? How about requiring a license for my granddaughter’s inner tube?

Another eye-opening proposal is to prohibit the use of all live bait for fishing statewide.

That means no minnows in Eastern Montana and no worms, night crawlers, grasshoppers or maggots anywhere. Wow! That is pure nonsense. Live bait for fishing has been used in Montana for hundreds of years.

Hopefully, there will be lots of public involvement before these bureaucratic recommendations become law.

Meanwhile, enjoy springtime in the great Montana outdoors.

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