Yes, the fishing was excellent for the hundreds of anglers that fished the derby. The two-day event saw plenty of fish weighed and entered. Every category from lake trout to whitefish and pikeminnow had the anglers busy catching eligible fish both days.
“We were down in the total number of anglers competing from a year ago, but we still had a great turnout,” said Gene Fincher, tourney organizer.
Dean Vaughn, from Charlo, and his seven-year-old daughter fished the tourney and for a long time held the lead in the over-36 inch class with a 23-pound-plus lake trout.
That fish held up until Sunday afternoon when Vaughn and his daughter brought in another large lake trout. This one weighed in at 28.86 pounds and was 40.5 inches long. It was enough to crown them the largest fish. You can view the winning lake trout on www.montanaoutdoor.com
“We just got lucky,” Vaughn responded when getting his cash close to $,1000.
Under 30 inches found Don Schaeffer win with a 10.83-pound lake trout. The largest lake superior whitefish caught was 8.39 pounds by Ray Zebro and Steve Schwenck caught the largest pikeminnow that weighed 4.44 pounds.
As was expected, the lake superior whitefish bite was very good. “I think today I witnessed the most aggressive bite I have every seen” reported Jim Vashro, Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks regional fisheries manager for Region 1.
“We must have caught 200 fish and at least 10 times our boat had quad hookups,” he said.
Vashro estimates that there are millions of whitefish in the lake and about only 40,000 are harvested each year. Look for 40 to 50 feet of water just about anywhere in Flathead Lake right now, and if there are baitfish, the whitefish will be there in large numbers.
You will also occasionally catch a lake trout and a bull trout – make sure you know the difference because you need to release the bull trout and the lake trout have a slot limit of 30 to 36 inches.
Last Sunday Bill Brown of Missoula caught a wall-hanging northern pike. “I was using smelt and caught it in the Flathead River around sunrise,” said Brown. The pike was 40 inches long and weighed close to 26 pounds.