Get informed/involved

Tempers Flare at Flathead Anglers Meeting

File photo by Lido Vizzutti/Flathead Beacon

What started out as an informational meeting to update anglers on the Flathead Lake and River Fisheries Co-Management Plan Wednesday night, quickly turned into a heated debate as emotions ran high, accusations flew and tempers flared.

More than 40 fishermen and women gathered at Snappy Sport Senter to listen to Barry Hansen from the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes fisheries division discuss a plan to reduce Flathead Lake’s nonnative lake trout population.

The majority of anglers expressed a lack of confidence in Hansen’s research and concern for the future of the largest freshwater lake west of the Mississippi.

“You say this is an experiment. So what are our guarantees? We don’t have any guarantees,” Steve Reding, a self-subscribed “weekend warrior” fisherman, said. “If we lose Flathead Lake, it’s gone for our lifetime.”

Hansen fielded the anglers’ charges, telling them his group, along with Fish, Wildlife and Parks, did not intend to deplete the lake’s fishery. If the plan succeeds in reducing the number of nonnative species, he said he didn’t think anyone would notice.

“As we get emotional and worry about losing something, we have to make sure it’s real,” Hansen said. “I appreciate you don’t want to lose something, but I don’t think you will. It’s not like we’re going to go off the cliff and not come back.”

Mike Howe, who started the local group Flathead Anglers to help sportsmen and women in the valley stay up-to-date on the management of Flathead Lake, invited Hansen to speak Wednesday night and address rumors about a plan to gill net lake trout in Flathead Lake.

Hansen started the presentation explaining to anglers the group is looking for ideas to improve the harvest of lake trout.

Because it falls on several jurisdictions, Flathead Lake is managed cooperatively between the state and tribes, and the co-management plan is facilitated and guided by a joint board.

The need for such a plan was realized in the late 1990s, Hansen said, after agencies tried, unsuccessfully, to revive the previously abundant Kokanee Salmon population that crashed in 1987. Mysis were introduced to area lakes in 1965 to grow larger Kokanee.

“That was a mistake, in hindsight,” FWP Fisheries Biologist Mark Deleray said.

Instead of providing fodder for the Kokanee population, the planted freshwater shrimp were eaten by lake trout. Experts recruited by FWP to study the situation found that lake trout would eventually completely eliminate Bull trout on Flathead Lake, Hansen said.

In order to mitigate this problem, Hansen and FWP started Mack Days fishing contests. In 2008, they noticed a drop off in contest participation, and meeting their goal of harvesting 60,000 lake trout a year started coming up short.

Anglers scoffed at Hansen’s suggestion that the simplest way to make up the shortfall was to gill net Flathead Lake.

“You screwed it up once, don’t screw it up again,” audience members shouted.

“You’re trying to control nature,” local angler Jon Bailey said. “I kill 2,000 fish a year. You don’t have my numbers.”

Many of the anglers agreed that Hansen’s research did not extend to them and said they felt the surveys he put out were not thorough enough.

“The attitude you guys have had toward fishermen is bad,” Matt McComb with Mo Fisch Charters said. “The only number you have is what people turn in. There’s 10,000 fish just in this room.”

But Hansen said he was confident in the accuracy of his numbers.

“This is not a census. (It’s about) can we catch more fish? And can we do it more cost-effectively,” he said. “People are still suffering from the Kokanee collapse. This is different.”

 

transition

The fish are moving around as the runoff continues to slow down. The weather right now is playing havic with the catch rates. To many thunder storms and rain, the pressure is dropping fast then 2 hours later it is going back up.  This sudden pressure change really puts the fish off the bite. I caught fish down in the Rollins Bay area as well just north of Yellow Bay. I spent some tine off Woods Bay and it was alittle slow. Angle Point was holding fish but I could not get them to bite. There are a few fish in Somers Bay but they are small. Keep fishing the thermal and you will pick up some fish.  Dodgers or flashers with houchies, or try some perch colored spoons. The delta has plenty of fish they just move around.

 

See ya on the water

variable weather

The fishing remains to be steady. I found good numbers of fish off Angle Point as well as Wood’s Bay Point. There is a thermal at 40 to 50′ it seems to be very tight and the fish are in it. It doe not matter the depth of the lake the fish are suspended at 40 to 50′. These are also difficult fish to catch! Also fish are still stacked in the delta area. I observed some jiggers doing very, very well off the very south end of the delta. I also heard rumor of some whitefish being caught. It seems kinda early, we are all hoping for a strong whitefish season. These little thunder storms and fronts moving through our area are not helping. When the weather stabilizes the fishing will pick up.

See ya out there

transition

The north end of Flathead Lake is starting to clear up as the runoff declines. The mud line has gone away. There is still some stained water and some debri on the water. The smaller average fish are stacked up just off the shallow delta area. Most fish I have found in 60 to 120′  range. The big fish have spread out in the lake and will be much harder to find in numbers.  I fished the east side of the river mouth with dodgers or flashers with houchies. Also some spoons have been working well. Don’t forget to try some stick baits in firetiger or clown patterns. These smaller fish have a lot of fight in them. You might think you have a much larger fish on when you first hook into them.  Todays charter yielded 5 nice fish after much searching, trial and error.

See ya on the lake

fun times

Today was another great day on the big lake. I had a very nice couple from Penn.  They caught one 20lbr., that went to Steve at Cabin Fever Taxidermy. Four more fish in the slot, that we released, and they took home 4 fish for the BBQ.  The morning started out very slow but the bite kicked in about 10:00 and we caught all the fish by 12:00 noon. The fish today wanted a Chartreuse Black Tiger from Worden’s in a T-50 original flatfish.

See ya on the water

NO GILL NETS/Save the Laketrout

Fellow Flathead Anglers,

I am excited to announce that Barry Hansen form the Salish Kootenai fisheries division will be giving a presentation on The Flathead Lake Co-Management Plan and The Mack Days contests, and how it all ties in to the current fisheries management on Flathead Lake.  Barry has come at our invitation to help us all have a much greater understanding of the existing plan, the processes in place and a glimpse into the future.
 
This your invitation to come and hear Barry’s presentation, get informed about what has happened, where we are now in the process, and provide some feedback to the managers about your experience with the plan.  As we enter into the last couple of years, I know Barry is receptive to ideas that we can implement to assist them in getting an accurate count of harvested lake trout.  Many ideas I have heard mentioned in the last couple of years have been tested and implemented, specifically regarding the Mack Days contests.
 
So, please join us Wednesday night June 17th at 6:30 PM in the event room at Snappy Sport Senter in Kalispell.  Please pass this on to anyone you know that fishes Flathead Lake, better yet, bring a friend or two!

Please email me with any questions, or for more information.

This is your opportunity to ask questions! PLEASE BE THERE!!!!

BIG FISH

The big fish fishing continues to be very good. Yesterday we boated two fish over the slot the biggest was just over 20lbs at 39″. We also released 4 slot fish and they took home 6 under the slot. I was fishing the southeast end of the delta.  Fish the bottom from 100′ to 170′ fish very slow 1mph. Big flatfish the M-2sp from Worden’s has been working very well.

See ya on the water

 

Great day!

I just finished a charter on Flathead Lake. Today was a bonus day, it is one of those days when someone says you shoulda been here yesterday, well, I will tell you that tomorrow. I had Chris and his uncle from Phily., they originally wanted to fish Whitefish Lake, but I suggested that we had a better chance of catching some bigger fish on Flathead. We boated 4 fish over the slot, biggest 40″ at 20lbs.,   8 fish in the slot, all released unharmed, and 11 fish under the slot. The fish today were very aggressive and the fish we could see on the finder we caught. We fished the south end of the delta on the bottom with flatfish!  I put thier pictures up on the most recent catches, some real nice fish. They have some stories to take back east with them.

Clean your flatfish often!