The fall weather that western Montana has enjoyed this year has been something to remember. In fact, it has been so nice that it’s hard for me to imagine that Saturday is the opening of the 2008 waterfowl season.
Hunters will be out this weekend to take advantage of local geese and ducks before they smarten up, with sunrise in western Montana’s Zone 1 at 7:40 a.m.
That means hunters in most of the zone will be able to start shooting at 7:10 a.m., a half-hour before sunrise. The exception is on the Flathead Indian Reservation where shooting time is at sunrise. Zone 1 counties include Flathead, Granite, Lake, Lincoln, Mineral, Missoula, Ravalli and Sanders.
The local goose numbers appear to be good, so hunting should be on par with past opening-day successes. After that, the season will ebb and flow with the weather fronts as weeks pass and colder temps make their appearance.
Friday is the start of Fall Mack Days on Flathead Lake.
The lake trout fishing had been excellent until last weekend. “With the cold front that passed through the area, the fish really developed lockjaw,” said Dick Zimmer of Zimmer Tackle. The hope is that with the nice weather predicted for this week that the bite will kick in again.
“I would think that most of the fish will be getting ready to spawn and moving into shallower water,” added Zimmer. “If you are fishing for the tagged fish then you might want to stay deep because most of the fish that were tagged were not mature enough to spawn.”
Tagged fish are worth $100 to $5,000 with this year’s Fall Mack Days possibly awarding more than $37,000 in cash and prizes. Last year, more than 700 anglers registered and entered 15,000 lake trout.
The Confederated and Salish Kootenai Tribes, which sponsors the derby, are hoping for the same results this year. They use Fall and Spring Mack Days in conjunction with Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks to help manage the Flathead Lake fishery.
Fall Mack Days will run every Friday through Sunday through Nov. 16.
Whether you are jigging or trolling, chances are you will catch some lake trout, and with prizes awarded on a drawing system, you only need one fish to win.
To enter, go to www.mackdays.com.
Trout fishing has been excellent on Holter Reservoir, north of Helena. Trollers are letting out about 2 1/2 colors of leaded line or long-lining a Rapala.
Shore anglers are doing well on Georgetown Lake. Use the rainbow-colored power bait with a bell sinker on a three-way setup.
Northern pike fishing has also been reported as good on the Flathead River. Smelt seems to be working the best.
Whether it’s waterfowl hunting or fishing for cash or fun, it’s a great time of the year to be enjoying the outdoors in Montana.