Captain’s Column: Running the Walleye Tour
Montana is known for its excellent trout fishing. It also has developed a great reputation for excellent walleye fishing. Everywhere I go folks around the state ask me about walleye fishing and where to go to catch them. Well last week I had the chance to see how the fishing was on two of the most popular walleye lakes in the state. My trip started out with a few days on Canyon Ferry Reservoir. The annual Canyon Ferry Walleye festival was taking place so I took the opportunity to take the Montana Outdoor Radio Show on the road, or on the water since we did our show live in my boat. Adam Strainer the FWP fishing technician for Canyon Ferry was my guest during the show. Strainer who is has a passion for walleye fishing was very enthusiastic about the current walleye fishery on Canyon Ferry. “The walleyes are starting to make a comeback and they are getting bigger every year”, added Strainer, “it is becoming a walleye wonderland”. It was hard to argue with him as the bite that weekend was definitely on and the winning team in the two-day tournament landed over 41 pounds of fish compared to just over 15 pound for the winners last year.
The next stop on my walleye tour was Fort Peck Reservoir. Jim Farrington of Stevensville and I made the 450 mile trip to Hellcreek State Park, which is located 25 miles north of Jordan. We fished for four days and for the most part the fishing was good. Fort Peck’s walleye fishing has improved dramatically in recent years. Anglers are catching bigger fish including more of the coveted eating size of 15-18 inches in length. The fish are fat and healthy probably because they are benefitting from an increase in the perch population. Walleyes prey on perch so the more of them the more there is to eat. The water elevation on Fort Peck has remained high. It is currently 2237 feet just 13 feet short of full pool. The increase of water has done wonders for perch habitat and because of this it has created a perfect situation for an increase in the perch population. However the 30 plus inch walleyes that put Fort Peck on the fishing world map have been harder to come by the last couple of years. This might be because they are having less of a problem finding food.
For folks who want to catch walleyes let me offer you a couple of tips. If you are just starting to fish for walleyes then the south end of Canyon Ferry might be a good place to start. There are fewer snags and you might find out where they are biting just by looking for the boats. If you are wanting to try and fish Fort Peck then I would recommend a 18 foot boat or longer. Fort Peck is big water. I would also suggest hiring a guide for a day or two. They will teach you the lake and where to fish for walleyes including what will tackle will be most effective. Outfitters charge around $400 a day for two or three people fishing in a boat.