This is the time of the year that many anglers begin their annual watch for the whitefish bite to start on Flathead Lake. Two years ago the lake whitefish bite was below average and then last year the whitefish fishing was just flat out disappointing. During a good year on Flathead Lake the whitefish start to school up and anglers target the fish around the middle of July. During these good years the bite starts of good and only gets better through much of August. With basically two down years anglers are hoping that the popular bite will be back on Flathead Lake in 2010.
So why does the whitefish bite on Flathead Lake go from great to bad in just of two years? Why are some years’ good fishing and some years’ poor fishing? “Well it mostly depends on storms in spring”, said Jim Vashro, Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks Region One fishery biologist based out Kalispell. Vashro, wrote an explanation last year detailing the effects that perch and spring storms have on a potential good or bad lake whitefish bite on Flathead Lake. “The summer concentrations of lake whitefish are feeding on huge schools of young of the year yellow perch, “ added Vashro, “Yellow perch spawn in Flathead Lake from mid April into May when water temperatures reach 45-50 degrees”. When perch spawn they spread their eggs over aquatic vegetation in 5’-10’ of water, a single female can produce 10,000-50,000 eggs. These eggs then incubate 10 to 20 days before hatching. It is at this time in the spawning process that the weather comes into play. “Strong cold fronts during that time can drop water temperature enough to kill developing eggs or wav e-caused turbulence can knock eggs into the sediment where they smother, “said Vashro. Last year two storms affected the perch spawn. Both of these storms contained wind and freezing temperatures, one in April and then another storm hit the area in May. Much of the spring weather has been cooler than expected this year. Only time will tell if the spring time conditions in Flathead Lake during the spawn were good or not so good for a successful perch spawn in 2010. If this years’ spawn produced enough young of the year perch then we just might be in store for another great summer of filling coolers full of whitefish. After all as Vashro points out, “Flathead Lake has plenty of adult perch to provide a decent hatch”. So for now it is just waiting and see for anglers that are anxious to start jigging for whitefish in Big Arm and Elmo Bays on the lake. “There are some anglers who are very good at catching whitefish,” said Dick Zimmer from Zimmer Tackle, home of the popular whitefish lure called the Rattle-D-Zastor. In the next few weeks many of these anglers will be anchored in 40-50 feet of water on Flathead Lake looking for the schools of whitefish that are looking for the schools of young of the year perch.