Many anglers who fish the reservoirs east of the Rocky Mountains on the Hi-Line are wondering about the effects of the now-famous rain and snowstorm.
Let’s start with Lake Frances and work our way east. This popular lake, located just north of Valier, is now double the size in acre-feet than it was a couple of months ago. In fact, the island which boaters were using to launch their vessels over the last two years is now a real island.
Boaters can use the ramp at the southeast end of the lake. The lake level in May was 33,000 acre feet, according to Pondera Canal Co., which controls the water level. As of last week, Lake Frances grew close to 70,000-acre feet and was projected in the near term to grow even larger.
Last year at this time, the lake was just 26,000 acre feet. Full pool is 100,000 acre feet.
The level of Lake Frances for the rest of the summer depends on a number of variables, including how much moisture the area receives and how much water is drawn from the lake for irrigation purposes, the reason the lake was developed in the first place.
Tiber Dam will be the site of a Montana Walleye Circuit tournament this weekend, and anglers should be pleasantly surprised with how much water they’ll find.
A popular walleye and northern pike fishery east of Interstate 15, Tiber Reservoir has benefited quite nicely from the rain and snow. The Marias River feeds Tiber and was near flood stage after the moisture.
Steve Leathe, Region Four fisheries manager for Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks in Great Falls, told me that the Bureau of Reclamation (BuRec) plans to fill the reservoir to full pool, which is 2,993 elevation.
The immediate effect on the fishing might not be so good, simply because the fish have more places to go and hide. Leathe also said the perch spawn happened last month – too early to benefit from higher water levels. Perch are a main food source for walleye and northern pike.
The walleyes have been small coming out of Tiber with a 12-13 inch average, mainly because they have not had the forage to eat and grow bigger, according to Bill Hill, recently retired fisheries biologist with FWP.
Now the only question for the 180 anglers who are fishing the annual Tiber Walleye tourney this weekend is this: What acre-foot of the lake are the fish in?