Saturday, November 27, 2021

Late summer patterns take effect on waterways

| July 22, 2021 12:00 AM

Whether it is Flathead Lake, Swan River, Flathead River sloughs or just about any other waterway in Western Montana, the low snowpack, minimal runoff and hot dry temperatures are really taking a toll on our fisheries.

Much of Montana is in “Hoot Owl” restrictions and many waterways are, or soon will be, in restrictions as closed to fishing from 1 p.m.-1 a.m.

If you are venturing out anywhere on a river, stream or small lake, you will need to watch for restrictions and closures, likely from now until September, at

Low flows and high temperatures really put the trout into survival mode, and then they start to concentrate into the small areas of cooler water, it stresses the fish out.

Warmer water species such as perch, bass and pike aren’t as affected, so perhaps they become a much better option.

Although fishing at midday in 90-plus degree temperatures sort of takes the fun out of it, even when they are biting!

On the Flathead River, there seem to be record numbers of people seeking to catch the region's prize trout, as indicated by the numbers of rafts, boats and shore anglers.

Not a day goes by where, after being told we simply have no boats available for a same day (or often even the same week charters) when I am not asked, “well where can we go catch a fish from shore”?

There are a lot of people pounding the waters of the Flathead and Swan River.

On the big lake, lake trout are scattered and reluctant to bite most days, catching them trolling deep is the name of the game now.

Some we are catching are spitting up the small, young of the year perch that are needed in abundance to kick the Lake Superior Whitefish bite into action.

So far, we are just not seeing the indicators to signal a real strong bite this summer. By now we are typically seeing huge bait balls out deep and thousands of perch fry on the surface.

Sure, some anglers are bumping into a few, and I hope I am wrong, but I am not holding out a lot of confidence that we are looking at numbers such as 2017-2018 brought.

As far as the fishing on Lake Mary Ronan, the Thompson Chain, Swan Lake and most other smaller waters, your best bet is early morning and late evening.

Look for bug hatches and rising fish, sure, but my bet is going to be on trolling for just about anything in those lakes as the fish are looking for cool, consistent temperatures.

Any place where water is still flowing in will be good as well.

This is going to be an extremely hazardous fire year, and I feel it has only just begun, so no matter what you do out in the woods, please be careful.

Watch where you drive and park, follow all restrictions and have a game plan if you are in the woods.

Lastly, this will be my final, regular “Howes Fishing” column. It has been my pleasure to write about all things fishing in the Flathead Valley and beyond, for almost the last 10 years, but all good things come to an end.

Our charter business has exploded to well over 1,000 trips a year, from the Flathead to Fort Peck, and regular travel outside the area makes it harder and harder to keep up with the fishing scene.

I wish you all tight lines 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