For many anglers here in Montana, the opening weekend for the general rifle season also signals the end of the open water fishing season.
Rods and reels take a back seat to rifles and shotguns, at least until the waters freeze and the short rods come out.
It seems like this year, ice fishing season may be upon us before the hunting seasons end, with many lakes already dropping below 50-degree surface temperatures, driven by the below normal temperatures we have been experiencing since the middle of September.
For many, fishing plays a large part of our hunting season, as plenty of places we hunt also offer good fishing. Fort Peck and the CMR for instance offer incredible fishing opportunities while hunting, as do many places in Southwest Montana, where elk hunting and fly fishing go hand in hand, with many trout streams flowing through prime elk hunting territory.
Don’t leave the rods and reels behind, many a poor hunting trip have been salvaged with excellent fishing and when you are lucky enough to tag out early, a day or two of fishing surely beats returning home and going back to work early!
Many fishing opportunities are still going strong, despite the fact it is nearly November.
Pan fish are on the feed heavily as they bulk up for a long winter under the ice, and perch, crappie and sunfish are often moving into the areas that they will be at first ice. Locating them now can go a long way to finding them when the lakes do ice up.
If whitefish are your thing, and you like to fish the Flathead River, then now is the time to start looking for them.
Ivan Keeney and I put the boat in and motored up river last Friday, and while they weren’t stacked heavily we did find some fish in the holes between the “Old Steel Bridge” and Lybecks Dike.
The river is still moving pretty fast in places, but bank anglers will find some fish downstream and on the west side of the Bridge, as well as around the bridge banks.
Winter anglers really
enjoy this fishery every year, and it is great sport fighting these fish in the current.
Chancy Jeschke gave a great presentation last Saturday at Snappy’s and if you missed it, stop in and pick his brain, he will get you in the groove quickly.
Plus you can enter the weekly contest if you catch a big one!
We also offer river trips in our jet powered War Eagle, running the river and catching fish is an absolute blast!
Lake trout continue to congregate near the shallower spawning areas along both the West and East shores, especially from Westshore State Park down to Painted Rocks and along the highway in Woods Bay.
Just about anywhere you find some flatter points in less than 100 feet of water you will find Macks this time of year, and perhaps some spawning whitefish as well.
And when it is time to put the rods away, remember that a few maintenance items can make sure they are fit to go in the spring.
I like to loosen the drags on all my reels, strip off the old line so I am forced to respool with fresh line every spring, and spray my reels down with a light lubricant like Reel Magic or WD-40 before putting away.
That oil will penetrate into all the places over the winter and keep your reels working like new.
Good luck to all the hunters, be safe and know your target and beyond.
It is not too early to call and book for your ice fishing trips both locally and over on Fort Peck and we still have plenty of open water fishing left in us if you do!
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
Hunting season not the end of fishing
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