Last weekend, I spent my time over at the Bill Reier’s Montana Hunting and Fishing Expo in Billings. It was a good chance for me to get caught up on hunting and fishing information in Eastern Montana
As is normal when we set up our Montana Outdoor Radio Show booth and hten man it for a three-day show, we get more than our fair share of hunting and fishing stories told to us.
For example, the goose and duck hunting was pretty good if you were hardy enough to brave the bitter cold temperatures that embraced the region in the first part of January.
Visitors told us that the Canada goose population was above average for eastern Montana and the northern mallard population was a little down compared to last year. However, just like in western Montana, when cold weather hits, the ducks tend to head for the open waters of the Bighorn and Yellowstone and by floating those rivers you increase your chances dramatically on being successful.
Steve Knudson, from Billings, found his duck and goose success while floating the open waters of the Bighorn River below Yellowtail and Afterbay dams.
“On one trip, it was 11 degrees when we left Billings and it turned colder. It was down to zero degrees by the time we reached the launching point,” said Knudson. “While it may have been cold, we ended up with our limit of ducks and a couple of geese for our efforts.”
Ice fishing reports were also coming into our exhibit booth because of the ice that was made with the sub-zero temperatures a week earlier.
Most of the Eastern Montana lakes had a good 10 to 12 inches of ice on them which made for safe conditions.
“We went down to Devils Creek (on Fort Peck Reservoir) a week ago and caught some nice walleyes,” said Marvin Loomis from Trophy Fishing. “Joe Moline, from Lewistown, came over with a few guys and they had some good luck with us.”
Devils Creek on Fort Peck Reservoir wasn’t the only spot on the huge eastern Montana lake that caught fish. “Reports out of the Dry Arm have been good for northern pike but it hasn’t picked up for walleyes just yet,” reported Todd Kleppelid from Circle.
There were even some reports that walleyes were being caught through the ice out of Cooney Reservoir which is southeast of Billings.
While ice fishermen were regaling us with stories of the cold, last weekend’s temperature in Billings reached daytime highs in the lower 60’s. It actually felt more like an April day than a day in January.
But you know what they say about the weather in Montana. “If you don’t like it, stay around for five minutes and it will change”
Closer to Missoula, ice angler Mike Violette had a heyday last weekend on Hauser Reservoir. Violette, who has become one of the better ice fishermen I know, was understandably vague about the exact location and the method he used to catch some huge walleyes at Hauser.
Violette did report that he landed and released a 27-inch and a 29.5-inch walleye and had another walleye up to the hole that was well over 10 pounds.
And, he caught and released a real bruiser – 33.25 inches, which would go 15.08 pounds on the Walleyes Unlimited of Montana length-to-weight conversion scale. Believe it, it’s the biggest walleye I’ve heard of caught in Montana this winter. Violette took a picture of the fish before he released it and you can view it on the home page of www.montanaoutdoor.com