To a lot of folks, the end of ice fishing season can be pretty traumatic. Many of us end the season feeling like we “could of used just a few more days on the ice.” Well, I have news for you, there is still plenty of frozen lakes left fishable, it just might take a little more effort to get to them. Safety is the key issue here, many lakes will have good ice well into May this year, it is the shoreline that becomes troublesome. Getting on the lake in the morning can be much different than getting off in the afternoon, especially where there is Western exposure.
In an earlier column, I mentioned anglers traveling to ice fishing destinations, and for those of you still yearning for ice, places like Lake of the Woods, Lake Winnipeg and points even farther north will safely welcome you for at least another 30 days. Check out, for example, Wekusko Falls Lodge on Snow Lake in Northern Manitoba, where they will fish in T-shirts on 3 feet of ice over the Easter weekend for giant lake trout, northern pike and walleye. As they say, “It ain’t over until it’s OVER”!
But, for those who have had enough ice for one year, this time of the year sees many of the areas waters opening up and offering some of the best fishing of the season. As I have spoken of in many spring fishing seminars, ice out fishing on our areas lakes (or anywhere for that matter) offers some of the hungriest fish of the year. Technique often is your last concern; you just need to get a hook in front of a fish’s face. Beginner fly anglers, or even very, very rusty ones, can be successful while earning a fish or two for the pan. Dock anglers can also be very successful as our parks crews push them back in the water for the year. The point is to get a line in the water!
The Flathead River and its sloughs offer many opportunities for chasing pike, lake trout and whitefish. Clients we take on the sloughs in the spring catch, photograph and release some of the largest northern pike in the system, and we often catch whitefish in the main river on the same outing. Lake trout are also readily available in the river. You must be aware of the special regulations that apply this time of year and your bull trout identification must be on point as well, as you will likely hook up with these protected native trout.
Lastly, for a special treat just an hour or so from the Flathead, there is the only viable population of walleye west of the divide residing in the Noxon Reservoir area of the lower Clark Fork River. Fish, Wildlife and Parks last year decided they would stop targeting walleye for elimination from this stretch, but anglers must resist the temptation to over harvest these tasty fish if we want to retain fishable numbers. Take one or two smaller fish for the pan and harvest the abundant perch, bass or other pan fish for the table.
We are offering a limited amount of guided trips this month for those folks interested in learning how to fish river Walleye, with three times Walleye Angler of the Year Jason Mundel. I promise you, a day on the river with Jason is a day you won’t soon forget, but with only about five trips available starting next week, you need to call me ASAP to set it up! 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