Whitefish Bite–Coming Soon? – Captain’s Column 7.7.16
The Canyon Ferry Walleye Festival tournament was held the last weekend of June. Every year I am always curious on how much weight it will take to win the annual tournament and its $10,000 first place cash prize. Adam Strainer the FWP fishing technician for Canyon Ferry was on the Montana Outdoor Radio Show live broadcast the first morning of the tournament and he predicted that the team that caught 32 pounds would win it. I thought that number was a little high based on my experience of fishing that week with my son William. We fished that Wednesday afternoon and Thursday morning on the south end of the lake and we caught 20 walleyes and not one of the fish would of qualified to be tournament fish which takes a minimum length of 14 ¼ inches .
Strainer’s knowledge of Canyon Ferry is based on spending 50 plus days a year working the lake plus he also is an avid angler too! As it turned out there were at least 5 teams that would reach 30 pounds with the winning team catching 46.14 pounds. Now keep in mind that there were 144 teams competing in the two day tournament and quite a few of those teams didn’t catch a weighable fish. So what that tells me is that if you know how to fish for walleye you will catch larger fish. Most of the bigger walleyes were caught on the mid lake and north end of the reservoir. I also understand the top anglers were also jigging as opposed to pulling bottom bouncers with a crawler or leech harness.
Strainer told us during the radio show that the perch population is getting better. It needs to get a whole lot better on Canyon Ferry because it is one of the main forage fish that walleye feed on. When it comes to other lakes like Tiber Reservoir and Fort Peck Reservoir cisco were introduced and have helped produce a good catch rate of 16-20 inch walleyes. Strainer said that introducing cisco into Canyon Ferry is not in the reservoirs management plan. The bottom line is Strainer believes that Canyon Ferry is in a good place right now and getting better. The trout fishing is good thanks to an aggressive stocking program over the past years, the perch population is getting better by planting Christmas trees to enhance the perch spawning habitat and there are big walleyes in the lake you just have \to know how to catch them.
Canyon Ferry is a very popular lake for anglers but another body of water that anglers will be turning their attention to is Flathead Lake. The reason for this is it is the time of the year that any angler that has experienced the whitefish bite on Flathead Lake is anxious to see if this will be the year it comes back. It has been a while since whitefish bite was really good. When and if it happens anglers will be coming from all over Western Montana to catch this popular table fare. If there is a bite it should begin the last half of July and first half August. Look for Elmo and Big Arm Bay to turn on first. Jigging a Zimmer tackle rattle-d-zaster lure tipped with maggots in 40-60 feet of water normally works. I hope this is the year the bite finally comes back.
(Written by the Captain – aka Mark Ward)