Warm weather, hot fishing

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In my last column, I was focused on the annual opening of rivers and streams fisheries, and as I predicted, it was pretty much a non-issue.

With the high, brown runoff plaguing most of the local waters, most anglers stuck to the lakes and were rewarded with improving bites. Most lakes are filled to the brim, with a few exceptions. Waters are warming along with the air temperatures and that means active fish.

Flathead Lake has improved, with some clean water on the east side of the lake and pockets of clean water developing around the river mouth. Debris is still an issue on most of the state-controlled north portion of the lake, so boaters need to proceed with caution, especially when running. The surface activity has been improving, with lake trout hitting large stick baits trolled on long lines, and other fish feeding down 50 to 60 feet hitting squids and flies trolled behind dodgers and flashers. A little flash and vibration helps the fish find your baits in the murky water.

Echo Lake continues to see good catches of bass, and the Kokanee activity is picking up. While helping a local angler set up his boat this week, we marked good schools of fish suspended over the deeper water, and large baitfish schools in the 15- to 20-foot depths, with surface temperatures in the upper 60s. Early morning and late afternoons are always a good bet on Echo for the Kokanee and trout, with bass and pike feeding throughout the day. There have also been some great reports of Kokanee coming from Lake Mary Ronan, with trollers picking up some very nice rainbow trout, obvious signs that recent plants are doing very well there.

The annual Lake Koocanusa fishing derby last weekend had a strong start on Saturday, with many rainbows turned in. Hard to get the results confirmed but I will have them by my next column. The water is coming up fast, and the rainbow trout and Kokanee fishing should heat up as it continues.

I want to remind people that there are several local fishing clubs, stores and programs that do quite a bit to support local fishing, especially kids fishing. The Hooked on Fishing program in our local schools does an amazing job in introducing kids to fishing, and there are a number of family fishing ponds that are well stocked and very convenient for families and kids to enjoy. Pine Grove Pond, Dry Bridge Park, Shady Lane and others really offer some great opportunities.

Snappy Sport Senter has an awesome fishing pond behind the store, where kids can try their hand fishing and feeding some of the largest trout swimming. Fish, Wildlife and Parks headquarters also has a loaner program where rods and reels can be checked out, and most sporting goods stores host regular events to attract kids and families to fishing.

The Flathead Chapter of Walleyes Unlimited of Montana also supports kids fishing in the valley by providing rods and reels to local tournaments and the Hooked on Fishing program. They have also installed and rehabilitated docks in local lakes like Blanchard, Smith, Loon and others. They are also very active in legislative efforts to improve access and fight against efforts to restrict or change traditional fishing access.

Flathead Wildlife and Trout Unlimited also have programs that do a lot to encourage both new anglers and seasoned veterans. Being involved and keeping informed through any of the aforementioned programs helps ensure we will have great fishing in Northwest Montana for years to come. I’ll see you on the water!

— Howe is the owner/outfitter at Howe’s Fishing, A Able and Mo Fisch Charters. Call 406-257-5214 or at www.howesfishing.com

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