If you are an angler that fishes from a boat wouldn’t it be interesting to name the best fresh water lake in America. In fact, on an annual basis, the In Fisherman Magazine takes on that task of naming the top walleye lakes in the country, and, a couple of years back, Fort Peck Reservoir climbed into the top ten. But that list was species specific. What I am going to throw out, when you take into account all species, is that Fort Peck Reservoir in Montana is the best fishing lake in America. Period! Now that is my opinion and I will qualify that opinion with a disclaimer that I don’t have any knowledge of any other bodies of water across the country but I would have to say Fort Peck would be hard to top.
Last weekend the 29th annual MT Gov Cup Walleye tournament took place on the reservoir. 200- 2 person teams competed for the $15,000 first place prize plus additional day money handed out after each day of the two day tournament. Thirteen states were represented in the tournament field with anglers coming from as far away as Nebraska and Nevada. This year’s tournament field filled by April and it was the second year in a row that it was full. The cash that the tourney offered was certainly a lure for anglers but the great fishing might have been an even bigger incentive. The walleye fishing on Fort Peck Reservoir continues to get better every year. This year for example 106 teams caught at least 20 pounds of fish. Joe Herbold from Jordan and his daughter caught 24.40 pounds of fish.
Last year they would of place in the top ten with that weight. This year they ended up in 69th place. Only one team didn’t register a fish for the two days. That is really amazing when you consider nearly 100 teams zeroed for their two day effort during the Canyon Ferry Walleye Festival which was held the last weekend in June. The winning team at this year’s Gov Cup was Norm Sillerud and JR Rasmusan from Glasgow, they caught 58.92 pounds. The local teams from Montana dominated during the two day tournament with the top 12 teams being from Montana and none of those teams caught less than 40 pounds of fish.
So, that is what happened at this year’s Gov Cup Walleye Tournament and the story line is impressive, but there is more to Fort Peck than just walleye fishing. The northern pike fishing has been excellent the last five years and keeps getting better. Small Mouth Bass anglers continue to catch big bass in the 3-5 pound range on a regular basis. Lake trout fishing has really come on the last few years and now it not unusual to catch 10-20 lake trout in an outing with the fish weighing 10-15 pounds. But the species that separates Fort Peck in my mind however is the Chinook salmon and this year they are already catching salmon weighing from 5-15 pounds all over the lake. When all these salmon converge at the face of dam in August it should be the best salmon fishing season that anglers have ever caught on Fort Peck.
When you look at the big picture of all species caught in Fort Peck, it is simply the best fishery in America!
(Written by the Captain – aka Mark Ward)