Question Marks for Sportsmen in 2017: Captain’s Column 12.29.16
By angelamontana

Posted: December 29, 2016

As most of us put the finishing touches on 2016 and look forward to next year a couple of recent outdoor news stories have put a question mark on 2017 for sportsman and women. The resignation of Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks director Jeff Hagener caught me and just about everyone I spoke with by surprise as did the detection of larvae of invasive aquatic mussels in Montana waters. Brett French reported in a story in the Billings Gazette that Hagener had grown tired after a total of 12 years of service. That is understandable considering all the issues that come into play when managing FWP. It will be interesting to see who Governor Steve Bullock picks to replace Hagener.

He was very well liked by the staff of FWP and always had an open door policy for his employees. I also believe that Hagener had a hand in improving not only FWP landowner relations but the sportsman landowner relationships were beginning to getting better under his watch.  The elk shoulder seasons, which is taking place in 43 hunting districts, is also helping landowners. In return hunters are getting a chance to fill their freezers, after mild weather in November resulted in a decrease in elk harvested. The director job will also become more challenging due to the detection of the larvae of invasive aquatic mussels at Tiber Reservoir.

Tiber remains the only water body in which multiple sample results showed mussel larvae, after test results from 182 water bodies in Montana. These test results have turned up no new detections of invasive mussels, according to the Montana Mussel Response Team.  “This is very good news. No mussel larvae, or veligers, were found in any of the remaining samples,” said Mussel Response incident commander Matthew Wolcott. “This gives us a much clearer picture of what we’re dealing with, and where we will focus our efforts going forward.”   Maybe Bruce Farling the Executive Director for Montana Trout Unlimited summed it up best in the story publish in the Gazette by French, “Next to the governor, his is the most difficult job in the state,” said Farling, “Montanans are passionate about this stuff.”

If you plan on ice fishing on Tiber make sure you clean your ice fishing equipment before you head to another body of water and destroy any unused minnows after trip.

In other outdoor news…

The wolf trapping season is well underway and trappers are having some success. Nine trappers have found success while trapping wolves in Montana as of Sunday, December 25, 2016. The state’s wolf hunters are still doing their part as 130 wolves have been killed by hunters so far.

Ice reports are starting to come in. Here is the latest on Flathead Lake from Dick Zimmer  The ice is finally consistently good from 4 to 8 inches. The perch are where they were last spring (maybe a little closer to shore) Weed beds definitely being the major key to finding a good number of fish. From Ducharme access it is about a mile walk.  Of all the jigs I’ve tried a Double Treble Trilobite baited with one fish eye per treble works best and it has a tendency to catch larger fish.

The ice in front of the East public dock at Polson is at about 4 inches and 50 yards beyond (North) of the dock. Because the higher water and more flow the numbers of lake trout in Polson Bay are higher than I’ve seen in the past few years. A whole fish or a large tube jig are good bets for these fish.

(Written by The Captain – aka Mark Ward)