Fort Peck: A Changing Fishery?

For the record, I am not a fisheries biologist nor claim to be. But, I have spent a lot of time on Fort Peck Reservoir the past ten years. I also know that when western reservoirs Like Sakakawea, Oahe and Fort Peck fluctuate greatly in elevation, it has a profound effect on the fishery. I think we are seeing that on Peck as we speak.

This current ice-fishing season (and past weekend,) seemed to reiterate what we have seen since around May of last summer: fair walleye fishing, but a noticeable boom in perch and northern pike numbers. This weekend for example, a group of four of us came home with a 5 gallon bucket full of perch, but only four walleyes. We also brought about six decent pike through the hole over the course of two and half days. Definitely not what we have experienced the past four or five winters. Three years ago, we never caught more than an incidental perch or two.

So what really is happening? Are the walleyes dining on perch and too well fed to be inticed by our minnows? Are the pike pushing walleyes deeper? Do we need to use bigger bait to compete with larger forage? It is difficult to say. The walleyes are there and are probably doing very well. But, compared to three, four years ago, when there were some trophy walleyes in the 13, 14, and 15 pound range being reported each winter, things have definitely changed. At least the perch are getting bigger.

This post was provided by Jay Hanson, of the Montana Sporting Journal