“Seems like most people we talk to think that Fort Peck is just a big mud hole.” That’s what Marvin Loomis from Trophy Fishing Outfitters told Wayne Knudson and I last week.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
We were at Fort Peck as the guests of Marvin and Connie Loomis, fishing for three days and staying in the house boat which is tucked away in one of the many remote bays the lake has to offer. The house boat has served as their base camp as they provided their clients with great walleye, northern pike, and smallmouth bass fishing for the past 11 years.
Why the mud hole remark? Through six years of drought, the lake level on Fort Peck has been steadily dropping to record low levels. But that’s really only part of the story.
“Because of all the media coverage that has focused on how low the reservoir is and is probably going to get, some our clients don’t think there is enough water to have good fishing,” added Loomis. “So some are taking a wait and see approach before locking in their dates.”
That fails to take into account, however, just how big Fort Peck is. Fort Peck is still a big, big place. There is still a lot of water in Fort Peck and the fishing was excellent.
We caught are limit of walleyes two out of the three days we fished. The day we didn’t catch many fish, a cold front had moved in and as is typical with fishing for walleyes, the fish didn’t like the cold front and didn’t bite.
Yes, Fort Peck Reservoir is at an all time low level but when you take into consideration that it runs 134 miles long, it still has more fishable water than any lake in the state even at the present low water levels.
In fact you could put Flathead Lake, all three reservoirs of Canyon Ferry, Hauser, and Holter end to end and you would still only cover a little over half of Fort Peck.
The Loomis’ business isn’t the only one that is being affected by “Mud Hole Perception.” Every business that you talk to that feeds off the boaters, anglers and tourist business has been off since the Corp of Engineers decided to let more water out of the lake than it takes in.
Rock Creek Marina owners decided not to open this year. Some fishing tournament registration is at about 60 percent of capacity. Everywhere you look, times are tough. But fortunately people that live in eastern Montana are a tough breed. They are survivors and they are fighting back.
The Loomis’, for example, are offering a $199 a day per person double occupancy all-inclusive trip for the month of July. It includes room and board on their houseboat plus guided fishing with tackle, boat, and bait included. (406-557-2787). Provide your own boat and room and board is only $99 per day per person double occupancy.
I can also personally recommend getting a hold of Kibler Charter Services, another excellent guide service that operates out of Hell Creek Marina (557-2345) 25 miles north of Jordan.
Best of all, despite the lake levels, fishing is predicted to be very good this year on Fort Peck.
“Last year, we had excellent walleye fishing for most of the summer and this year I am expecting more of the same”, says Mike Ruggles, the lake’s fisheries biologist for Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks.
No matter what you hear, believe that there is a lot of fishable water, fish ready to bite and the wide-open, boat-free spaces that makes Fort Peck so appealing to anglers.
Fort Peck Reservoir fishing is always an experience like no other that Montana has to offer and this year won’t be an exception