A time of transition for anglers
Early April angling can be a tough go. Many of the lakes are still holding extensive ice, even if the edges and shorelines have opened.
Only a couple rivers are open, for their regulated, extended seasons, and while Flathead Lake is ice free, only one or two places to easily launch a boat, especially a larger one, are available due to low lake levels.
The good news is that as the month progresses, opportunities expand, and before you know it, just about every opportunity available will be ours to enjoy.
Preparation is definitely key though, as getting stranded in a boat on mostly deserted waters, or slipping and falling into swift, icy water is nothing to joke about.
Fishing shorelines can be a blast, getting lures out near the ices edge will usually entice a strike, and where water is actively flowing into a lake is a great place to start.
If you can launch a canoe or kayak and access those places away from the usual accesses, your luck will improve greatly. Same thing with rivers, find the inflow and prepare for fish to be abundant.
A couple of traditional April opportunities exist on Flathead Lake, first is the annual perch spawn down on the South end of the lake in what is known as East Bay.
This is Tribal water so you must have a South Flathead license to fish down there. Boat access can be tricky, last year due to Covid, all Tribal accesses and ramps were closed.
If open, smaller boats will typically launch at the Kwatuknuk Resort and boat the 3-4 miles across. Or launch at Westshore, Yellow Bay or Big Arm State Parks and make the run from there.
You will typically find these perch in water less than five feet deep, some years much less, and anywhere there is some weed growth. Afternoons are typically better as the water warms up, but as the month progresses, mornings become more productive.
Water temps from about 45 degrees and up kick the activity into gear and you will regularly hook into lake trout, smallmouth bass, bull trout and pike minnow.
Bring a net, a cooler, plenty of nightcrawlers and a copy of your regulations and remember, Flathead Lake is one of the lakes in Region 1 which limits you to “no more than ten Perch over 10 inches” in your harvest. (And no, unfortunately, non-tribal outfitters and guides cannot legally guide perch anglers on tribal waters so we cannot charter down there)
Lake trout fishing on Flathead can also be pretty incredible in April. Larger fish become available in the shallows as well as on post spawn mud flats and numbers of fish begin transitioning to the north end in anticipation of what the runoff brings.
Big weather swings and rapidly changing conditions can make it hard to stay on the fish from one day to the next.
That is where a busy guide service like ours shines as we are on the water almost daily now and can track the movements of those fish.
Lastly, getting your gear in top condition before setting out on any trip is critical this time of year.
Charge batteries, check safety gear and bring back ups to your critical systems until comfortable that everything is a go.
We offer individual guidance for setting up boats and systems, so if you need some on the water assistance in evaluating your set-up, or personal
guidance in getting the most out of your boat and gear, check out our web page at howesfishing.com for more info and pricing.
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 www.howesfishing.com