Sunday, April 18, 2021

Time for change

by Mike Howe
| October 29, 2020 12:00 AM

Were you surprised? Or were you prepared?

The early blast of winter a great deal of Montana experienced last weekend, (during the general season rifle opener no less) certainly signaled the change of season that is inevitable, even if it does prove to be short-lived.

Not only did it get the four-legged critters moving, but this will also get fish that weren’t already seeking calories to get with the program.

Fish at this time of year are seeing their entire world transition, just as we do on dry land.

Shorter days means plant life under water begins to break down, and falling temperatures really impact fish behavior. They really begin to put on the feedbag knowing the biggest change they experience at any time of the year begins now.

I preach every year, but the places you catch fish in November is where you will catch them when the lakes first ice up. Mobility in a boat means you can cover a lot of water, and with today’s sonar (especially if you have side imaging and know how to use it!

Sure beats searching 10 inches or so of the lake at a time. Get out in the boat and find the structure, weedlines and fish and get a jump start on your ice season. Oh and catch a few for supper as well.

We are having good luck on several local lakes, Gerrard Rainbows up on Bitterroot, Bulls and ‘Bows on Swan (and I hear, Koocanusa) as well as some hot perch fishing at Lake Mary Ronan.

The Flathead River is starting to pump out some Lake Whitefish and some of the pictures I have seen show these fish to be in excellent physical condition (read FAT)!

No one in the valley (willing to talk anyway) knows more about these fish then Chancy Jeschke at Snappy Sport

Senter. Go pick his brain about gear and locations and enter the weekly contest that they put on EVERY year!

Look, it is no secret that the valley is seeing a lot of folks not just visiting but moving here. Yes, we may “feel” like our fields and waterways are becoming more and more crowded, but the facts are, overall hunter and angler numbers across the U.S. are down and dropping, especially among youth.

The COVID pandemic pushed a LOT more people outside and the uptick in license and gear sales helps all of us trying to live an outdoors lifestyle. Instead of lamenting the fact there are some more boats at the launch or trucks at the trailhead, recruit a new sportsperson, mentor them and help them understand what we all need to…there is strength in numbers and room for all of us in the field and on the water.

I got word last week that the St. Paul Winter Sports and Ice Fishing Show has been cancelled, going the way of most other large gatherings in 2020. I have either visited as a consumer, or most commonly as a vendor, every year since 2007.

I usually get a chance to fish first ice with friends in northern North Dakota during this trip, and the last few years I have stayed in Minnesota to pre-fish and attend the NAIFC Championship.

The bright side? I’ll have more discretionary spending money to put toward some of the awesome new ice fishing items hitting the shelves real soon!

Good luck hunting and I’ll see you on the water!

Howe is the owner/outfitter at Howe’s Fishing, A Able and Mo Fisch Charters. Call 406-257-5214 or at