The annual Spring Mack Days came to a highly successful end last Saturday on the south shore of Flathead Lake.
The Polson business community gave this derby a great send-off by blocking off three blocks of main street. Throughout the day, they held seminars and had special exhibits set up.
A fish fry that fed a couple hundred people started at 3 p.m. and derby organizers began giving out awards at 4 p.m.
It was without a doubt the most successful Spring Mack days to date with 275 anglers participating, including 56 youth anglers. More impressive was the total number of lake trout entered in the 14-day event.
The catch rate was great with 7,055 lake trout entered under 28 inches in length.
Missoula anglers dominated the top six places. Marty Noyd led with 267 followed closely by Roger Davis with 244. In third was Paul Soukop of Ronan with 209, Dean Vaughn from Charlo entered 179, Doug White from Missoula had 177 and Tim Davis from Missoula entered 175.
In the youth category, Keegan Noyd entered an impressive 126 lake trout followed by Mitchell Decker from Corvallis with 56.
The derby, which is sponsored by the Salish and Kootnee Tribe, was created a couple of years back to try and manage the flourishing lake trout population in Flathead Lake.
By keeping the population of lake trout under control, they hope to accomplish two objectives. One is to develop Flathead Lake into a trophy lake trout fishery and two is to help revive the native bull trout population.
â€œWe need to sit down and take a look at the numbers to see if we are heading toward our goals,â€? says Barry Hansen, fish biologist for the Salish and Kootneee Tribe. â€œThere are certainly an abundance of lake trout in the lake and the catch rate for this derby proved just that.â€?
Most of the anglers who fished the derby for lake trout used the anchor the boat and jig method. This proved very successful for the anglers that could locate a school on the bottom about 200 feet deep.
The daily bag limit on Flathead Lake is 20 and many of the anglers were able to limit out on some of the days.
The other method is trolling a Flatfish from 30 to 175 feet range in depth and that method proved to help catch the largest lake trout of the derby. Just a couple of hours before the 12 noon cutoff for weighing the biggest fish, Randy Ingram from Polson was able with the help of his father Rick Skates land a 40-inch, 23.75 pound laker to win $500.
I had talked to Ingram, who is also the mayor of Polson, earlier Saturday morning on the Montana Outdoor Radio Show. At the time of our radio conversation, Dan Olson from Idaho was leading the big fish category and I mentioned to Ingram that it would be fitting if a Montana angler might bring home the largest fish.
â€œI heard what you said during the radio show and I thought I would just take things into my own hands,â€? Ingram said as he accepted the cash award.
Larry Schmill from Missoula took won the $2,000 fish lottery drawing; Stephanie Lebert from Kalispell won $1,500 and Bill Konie from Missoula won $1,000. Over $10,000 in cash and prizes were awarded for this years Spring Mack Days.