The cold front that hit last week in western Montana helped some hunting and slowed down some fishing. Anytime a cold front comes through, that normally isn’t good for fishing. Last week the anglers who did make it out on the rivers and lakes had to deal with the cold in more ways than one. With near zero temperatures, it’s not only hard to keep your hands warm and functional, but it also is tough to keep the eyes on your fishing rod from freezing.
Don Peters from Lolo went walleye fishing the week before on the Missouri and reported slow fishing and cold temperatures. Peters also did a little bird hunting in his cast-and-blast trip and fared a little better with the pheasants, but not much.
The 2002 Mack Days tourney, which will end Saturday, also slowed down considerably as anglers scrambled to winterize their boats or at least keep them from freezing up.
Jens Gran from Polson, who lives on Flathead Lake, was going to go out and give the lake trout fishing a go last week only to find his moored boat was surrounded by a thin layer of ice. He was unable to make it out to the main part of the lake.
Pin Larson and Tom Collins of Missoula went steelhead fishing last week on the Clearwater River in Idaho. They ended up with a couple of nice steelhead, but the action slowed from the week before because of the weather, which also brought some moisture and muddied up the river.
Steelhead fishing is expected to pick right back up again after the Clearwater River clears up. Stu Kestner reports the number of steelhead that are in the river is about double from average numbers seen in recent years.
Hunters, on the other hand, enjoyed better success after the cold front came across the state. It brought a little snow to the higher elevations, which made for better tracking and more ideal conditions than the bluebird weather opening day.
John Peterson from H&H Meats in Missoula reported that he was down after the opening day compared to a year ago, but once the weather turned cold, the hunters’ success rate also picked up. Hunters are also bagging larger animals this year than last. The elk that have come into H&H are bigger in weight. “It is not uncommon to see a 300-pound elk come in on the hoof,” says Peterson, adding ” We have even seen a few elk come in at around 350 pounds, too.”
Since the big game season started, the number of bears being brought to H&H have tapered off. Peterson said this is one of the best bear seasons he has had since owning the store. It should only get better, as whitetail and mule deer will be going into rut in the next few weeks.
Where I live, just south of Missoula, the whitetail bucks that I have seen are starting to chase does, so it won’t be long. I also talked to an outfitter at Fish Creek and he said his clients this year have had very good success on both elk and whitetail deer.
Duck and geese hunters have reported flocks that look like northern migrants on the area rivers. Both Canada geese and mallard ducks saw an increase in numbers with the cold weather this past week.
Finally, the cold weather actually put a thin layer of ice on some of the local lakes. Georgetown Lake had some ice thanks to temperatures that went as low as 14 below last week. Bill at Sunshine Station in Philipsburg reported that as of yet, no anglers have tested the strength of the ice. If the cold weather continues, we might see anglers on area lakes ice fishing before you know it.