Anglers on Flathead Lake have just completed five weeks of the nine-week 2016 Spring Mack Days Fishing Event sponsored by the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes and sanctioned by Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks. Mack Days are used as a tribal fisheries management tool to reduce numbers of non-native lake trout in Flathead Lake. Up to $225,000 in Cash and Prizes will be awarded at the end of the event on May 15th at the Blue Bay Campground.
Total lake trout entries in the Fishing Event come to 26,113-Tuesday through Sunday-7,767 more than the 2015 Spring Event after twenty seven days. The largest total of any of the events was the 2012 Event with 38,085 lake trout entries. Fifteen weekend days into that event the total was 15,142. In the 2016 Spring Event after fifteen weekend days the total is 22,090-6,948 higher. Weather during this event has been great for fishing. Very few windy days-that makes for calmer waters and much less stress on anglers. Winds cause lots of havoc on the water with the anglers-tangled lines, rocking boats, and not being able to stay over the fish makes for a long day. Many anglers are out on the water at dawn and stay out until dusk. Fish are being caught in 155-220 feet of water. Jigging is the favorite way to fish in the spring. Anchoring directly over the fish and going to the bottom seems to be the choice of many anglers. Most use cut bait on the jig and have a fly attached about 8 inches above the jig. Lake trout turned in during the event can be taken home or donated. Most are donated and processed by Confederated Salish and Kootenai staff and then donated to area food banks from Whitefish to Missoula. Over 6,000 pounds has been delivered so far with that much more waiting to go.
Leading the anglers after fifteen days of weekend lake trout fishing is returning top angler Jason Mahlen of Kalispell with 1,325. Jason turned in 91 on Friday, 80 on Saturday, and 91 Sunday for a weekend total of 262. Second place is held by sixteen year old Danner Shima of Kalispell with weekend days of 60, 80, & 66 for a total 206 and second place total of 1,127, 3rd Ryan Shima-Kalispell with 1,069 (weekend 158), 4th Mike Benson-Lonepine 954 (weekend 194), Travis Banyai-Kalispell 5th 794 (weekend 156), 6th Scott Mahlen-Kalispell-780, 7th Mike Shima-Polson 759, 8th Felix Gauci-Stevensville 702, 9th Steven Benson Four Lakes, WA. 684, and 10th Jerry Benson-Plains 657. It could be a family thing-brothers Jason and Scott Mahlen have a boat total of 2,760, Shimas-3 generations-boat total is 3,260, Benson-3 brothers-with separate boats total 3,607 all in the top ten.
Brandy Hilde of Missoula took over the lead changing ladies category with 172, 2nd Julie Vacca-Florence with 160, Nicole Peters of Missoula is moving up with 100 in 3rd , 4th Connie Jones of Kalispell with 79, and 5th new comer Jane Ramey of Missoula with 51.
Returning leader of the 70 and Over category is Larry Karper-Florence with 546, 2nd Bob Christensen of Missoula-242, 3rd-Jim Hoover-Whitefish-143, 4th Ralph Johnson-Columbia Falls-125, and 5th Roger Smart of Ronan-73.
Matt Guckenberg Jr.-Kalispell is 1st in the 12 & Under group with 152, 2nd-Leah Banyai-Kalispell 109, 3rd-Abby Hodgson-Kalispell-38, 4th Ellyana Tripp-Missoula 28, and 5th Sophie Hodgson-25.
Danner Shima leads the 13-17 age group with 1,127, Tyler Varga-Kalispell is 2nd with 175, Garett Vaughan of Charlo moved into 3rd with 110, Christopher Shae of Kalispell is 4th with 81, and Myles Tripp of Missoula has 62 for 5th.
April 23rd will be the second of three days of the Heaviest Bucket of Fish. Bob Christensen of Missoula won the first day with 21 lbs. Anglers put their four heaviest fish of the day in a bucket to be weighed in. Heaviest bucket wins $200. Overall prizes for the three days are given at the end of the event. Shore anglers can have an advantage if they can catch four in a day. Lake trout caught from shore can be large and heavy. Trollers also can have an advantage. Most fish caught by trolling are also larger. Fish have to be 30 inches or less to qualify.
Tagged fish turned in over the week were all $100 tags. Scott Bombard, Brandy Hilde, Jane Ramey-Missoula, Mike Benson-Lonepine X 2, Jerry Benson-Plains, Ryan Shima, Tony Martin-Kalispell, John Gauci-Florence, and Roger Smart-Ronan all turned in tag fish. Everyone is anxiously hoping they catch one of the tagged lake trout worth $10,000, 3-$5,000, or 5-$1,000 tags-these were tagged a week before the event began. There is also over 6,000 with values from $100-$500.
We remind all anglers to think safety first and be prepared for quickly changing spring weather.
Entry is free to everyone and entries are taken until the last day of the event. If you are fishing the south half of Flathead Lake the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes have a special yearly Flathead Lake only Combined Use and Fishing Permit for anyone in or out of state for $13/yr.
For more information about the event go to www.mackdays.com or telephone 406-270-3386.
(Report via Cynthia Bras)