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Pass the WD-40

by Warren Illi
| April 27, 2023 12:00 AM

It’s springtime in the Flathead! For the outdoor minded resident, we have a host of options for outdoor fun.

For the hunter, it is open season for turkey hunting and black bears. For the shooter, on these warm summer afternoons, gophers are out in abundance. It is just plain fun to get out in the surrounding hills and find a colony of gophers to shoot.

I have some compassion for these little guys because I shoot them, but don’t eat them. So, is it ethical to shoot a live animal just for the sport of it? Shooting gophers on agricultural fields where they can damage a pasture or an agricultural crop seems to have some moral justification. But just shooting gophers for sport seems to raise some ethical questions.

Gophers reproduce like mice, so there is no chance you are going to really deplete the population. In fact, in Eastern Montana, shooting gophers and prairie dogs is sort of a spring industry with many out-of-state shooters coming to Eastern Montana to shoot prairie dogs. These shooters spend a lot of money for motel rooms, restaurant meals and local guides. They bring high-priced long-range rifles and shoot hundreds of rounds of ammo.

An alternative to spring shooting is spring fishing. Due to spring snow melt, our creeks and rivers are generally out of shape for good fishing, but our lakes provide lots of spring fishing opportunities. I think most of our valley or low elevation lakes are ice free now.

A not so good alternative to spring shooting, hunting or fishing is yard work! Last fall we had a long warm fall, so the leaves seemed to delay dying and falling to the ground. Then we had a sharp early cold spell that froze a lot of leaves on the trees, so the typical fall leaf raking and the normal leaf removal from our lawns did not occur. I know my yard has an unusual abundance of dead leaves awaiting my attention. A newer spring activity me as I get older, is just plain sitting in the sun. When the afternoon temperatures reach into the 50s and 60s, I love to drag a lawn chair out to my back yard, sit down and just soak up some spring sun and warmth. Perhaps I should not call sitting in the sun an activity since it is really an inactivity.

One recent spring soak-up-the sun inactivity for me was reading a good magazine article about using scents to attract and catch fish. As you know, fish have a fantastic ability to smell scents in the water. Fish biologists believe it is the scent of the salmon’s natal (birth) steam that allows it to swim from the north Pacific Ocean, back hundreds of miles to their birth stream to spawn and reproduce.

In recent years, fishing lure companies have produced dozens of new scents to attract fish and get them to bite your hook or bait. Do fish scents really work or are artificial fish scents mostly designed to catch the angler and their money?

Like most fishing tips, and answer is sometimes yes and sometimes no. Here is an example of a spring fishing scent success story. I was fishing Lake Mary Ronan with my youngest son, Michael. We were fishing out of my 14-foot aluminum boat and trolling for Kokanee salmon. Because I was busy running the motor and boat, Mike had his line in the water first. We were fishing with identical rods, leaded core line and had identical lures.

When I finally was ready to put my lure and line in the water, I sprayed it with a liberal dose of WD-40. Mike asked why I did that and I told him this was a scent to attract fish. He kind of looked at me with lots of young man skepticism. My lure was only in the water for a few minutes when I got a bite and hauled in a nice Kokanee. I gave my lure another shot of WD-40 and played out my line. A few minutes later, I hauled in another salmon. Soon I landed a third salmon.

Meanwhile, Mike had no fish and no bites. Reluctantly, he then said, “Dad, pass the WD-40.” Then he started catching fish. So, it seemed that WD-40 really helped catch fish that day. I also had a friend that was a professional fish Captain on Flathead Lake. He said he wouldn’t leave the dock without a can of WD 40 on board.

So, weather you are a fan of WD-40, or the newer professionally developed GULP, Berkley Powerbait, Chompers Formula G or other scents, it seems prudent to always have some scent on-hand to give it a try when the bite is very slow.