It appears that mid-summer 2015 could be remembered as a time of notably good fishing. With the exception of lake trout Flathead Lake proper has begun to produce great catches of perch, whitefish and small mouth bass with the chances of catching crappie especially at the North end of the Lake on the increase.
Catching a limit of small mouth bass (5 fish) both above and below Kerr Dam has become common with many fishermen reporting days when they hook and land upwards of 100 fish. My wife and I consider these scappers second only to deep water shrimp fed lake trout for table fare.
Recently the WACKY RIG setup has been gaining popularity for drawing in these hard hitting, hard fighting fish. Because they are such an aggressive creature they will strike a large variety of lures; dark watermelon colored lures being high on the list.
The perch population that we lost 9 or 10 years ago seems to have recovered with good catches of them being caught in Elmo Bay, Big Arm Bay, the narrow stretch between Cromwell Island and the shore, the bays on the North west side of Wildhorse Island.
One fisherman told me fish eyes was his bait of choice but I’m sure night crawler and cut perch would also work well.
Because the perch population is up the perch fry which initiate the Lake Whitefish bite are abundant. The fishermen who have been catching them report their bellies are full of small perch.
To successfully approach this fishery it will help to understand what creates it. When the perch hatch they begin swimming indiscriminately all over the lake. About mid-July they begin to gather. At this particular period, lake trout fishermen have good success trolling 25 to 35 feet below the surface in deep water, over 200 feet. Then they begin to move shoreward toward the end of July. Some move near the surface but others go deep. As they migrate to shallow water they encounter a phenomenon called the thermocline.
This is a short space where water temperatures may vary 10 degrees from the top to the bottom of it. Because fish are uncomfortable with a quick change in water temperature they’ll bunch up just under the thermocline. This time of year that will be between 45 and 55 feet. Because the whitefish are a cold water species they are comfortable in that cold water on the lower side of this thermal layer where the perch have concentrated. A common story is “I was right next to somebody who was catching all kinds of fish and I couldn’t catch one”. That is because they are either above this layer in warm water or out beyond where the perch are the thickest. None the less better to deep than shallow.
Jigs imitating the perch will give the best results. Because these small fish are translucent, their background will determine their color so most places at this depth there are low lying dark green weeds so a dark green lure and/or fly are a good place to start. Depending on condition, lures that are lighter colored and even flashy may also be effective.
The beauty of a day whitefish fishing is that if they quit biting you can move in, generally in depths of 20 to 35 feet, and catch perch which are in a cannibalistic frenzy eating their own fry as they break into warmer water.
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