Tim Mooney of Missoula with a large lake trout in 2017 Fall Mack Days
Flathead Lake 2018 Fall Mack Days will begin September 21st and end on November 11th. Get your fishing boats and poles ready! Up to $150,000 in Cash and Prizes are sponsored by the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes-all it takes is one lake trout entry to be eligible to win in the lottery style drawing that begins at $350 and goes to $1,000. Friday-Sunday are the competitive fishing days for most prizes, awards, tagged fish, and bonus amounts. Tuesday-Thursday are used to increase bonus totals and for the tagged fish awards.
The values of the tagged lake trout are as follows: one $10,000, three $5,000, and five $1,000 plus over 6,000 with values from $100-$500-are out there. Tagged fish have been caught from docks, shore, and boats during each past event. Fall is the best time to fish from shore because lake trout tend to be in shallower waters. The tags we use cannot be seen, however all tagged lake trout have the adipose fin removed (the small fleshy fin on the near the tail is clipped off). When fish with a clipped adipose fin are entered into the contest they are scanned for a tag number and the number is entered into the computer to find the value associated with it. Scanning in a high dollar tagged lake trout causes a lot of excitement in the fisheries building with the fish, angler and staff getting kisses and high fives. The Confederated Salish and Kootenai Natural Resource Information and Education Department has an informational DVD and pamphlets available that have fishing tips for boats-trolling and jigging and shore angler tips.
There are two Mack Days Events per year (spring and fall) that are used as a fisheries management tool to reduce non-native lake trout in Flathead Lake. Native Bull and Westslope Cutthroat trout are both listed as species of concern by Montana and Bull Trout is listed as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act. These native fish are important to the cultural history of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes and to the native heritage of the state of Montana. The abundant non-native lake trout have two main advantages over the native fish: 1) they do not have to migrate to spawn and 2) they produce a huge number of eggs. Bull Trout travel many miles upriver to spawn and may spawn every other year with fewer eggs. It may take up to three years before the young bull trout make their way back to the lake and there are many obstacles that stand in their way and once these young juvenile native trout return to the lake, lake trout prey heavily on them. Reducing the number of lake trout is being used as a way to increase the numbers of bull trout and westslope cutthroat trout in Flathead Lake. Identification of native bull trout and westslope cutthroat trout and non-native lake trout is important. There are tips on the website for identification of these fish.
John Malatare of Arlee with a 20017 Fall lake trout entry
There are several ways to enter 2018 Fall Mack Days. No entry fee is charged. Entry forms are available at local vendors that sell fishing permits, NRD offices in Polson, CSKT main office in Pablo, you can go on-line to www.mackdays.com and click on the events tab at the top of the page, or enter when you bring your catch into a check in site. To be eligible to win in any of the event prize categories you have to enter at least one fish. There is a special yearly $13 combined use fishing permit from the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes and available at fishing permit vendors. It applies to both in- and out- of state anglers and allows them to fish the south half of Flathead Lake.
Awards are given for: Top Ten Anglers, Captains Prizes, Ladies and Youth Categories, 70 and Over, Smallest Fish, Largest Fish, Weekend prizes, etc. There are eight $50 prizes given for the Tuesday-Thursday anglers. Check out the website for a list of prizes and also the bonus amounts are listed there. Once an angler turns in ten lake trout entries they begin to receive bonus dollars. These dollars help to compensate for the gas and equipment it takes to participate. Bucket of Fish Days are 10/5, 10/20, and 11/4-weight of your heaviest four lake trout under 30 inches in a bucket will be taken. Prizes awarded for the heaviest bucket of fish on the specific days selected and an overall prize is given. The last day of the event is separate from all prizes except bonus amount totals and prizes listed for that day. Anglers can keep their catch or donate it to be processed by staff. We ask that all lake trout donated be kept in ice that is layered in coolers.
Blue Bay is the main site for to enter fish into the event. At this site, entries will be taken Tuesday-Sunday from 9:00 am until dark. Entries will be picked upped at the Big Arm State boat ramp and Polson Salish Pt. boat ramps Friday through Sunday if anglers call and let us know they have entries to be brought in there. Somers and Wayfarer boat ramps will also have entry pickup times Friday through Sunday. Times will be listed on the website.
Boats coming from out of the Flathead Basin Area are required to have an AIS boat inspection. Boats from in the basin who have gone out of it are also required to be inspected. If you are within the basin and have not been out of it you are good to go. AIS is a reality today and it is up to all of us to protect the waters of the area. Clean, drain, and dry after launching in any waters.
For information about Mack Days go to the website www.mackdays.com or telephone 406-883-2888 ex. 7294 or 7282 or 406-270-3386.
(feature photo: Bobbi Hereford of Missoula wrestles with a lake trout entry in 2017 Fall.)