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Hunting & Fishing 2018


Catching the BIG ONE

Somewhere out in Flathead Lake is a trout worth $10,000 ...

SUMMER GODDARD / VALLEY JOURNAL

Donovan Beeks casts his line into the lake in hopes of reeling in a mack.

Anglers lured to Flathead Lake in hopes of reeling in big fish, cash S

By Rob Zolman / Valley Journal

wimming somewhere out in Flathead Lake is a lake trout worth $10,000, just waiting to be caught by a skilled or very lucky angler. Matter of fact, upwards of $150,000 in cash and prizes will be awarded to the best or luckiest anglers starting Friday, Sept. 21, during the annual Fall Mack Days tournament. The event is hosted by the Confederated Salish and

Kootenai Tribes and sanctioned by Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks. Fall Mack Days continue through the month of October and conclude on Sunday, Nov. 11. Prior to the tournament’s start, more than 6,000-tagged lake trout have been released into the lake, each worth varying cash amounts. Numerous fish were released worth values of $100 to $500, five fish are worth $5,000 each, three fish are individually worth $5,000, and one “grand prize” fish is worth $10,000.

Bonuses will be awarded to anglers depending on their total catch by the end of the event along with cash prizes for the largest and smallest lake trout caught. This fall marks the 16th anniversary of the Mack Days fishing derby used by the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes as a tool to suppress and diminish the number of non-native lake trout in Flathead Lake. The focus of the program is to help rebound the dwindling populations of native bull trout and westslope cutthroat fish in the lake.

Know the difference Bull Trout

JOSEPH TOMELLERI GRAPHIC

The bull trout has no black on its dorsal fin. “No black, put it back.” Also notice the whiteedged fins on this mature adult. You should also look for a slightly forked tail fin and a drab or olive coloration. Body is silvery to light olive with yellow, orange, or pink spots; darker olive-colored on back with yellow or cream-colored spots; adults (usually over 14 inches) may have bright orange colors on belly and flanks, black on head, and white-edged fins during 2 - September 26, 2018

Lake Trout

JOSEPH TOMELLERI GRAPHIC

The lake trout has a deeply forked tail (center rays less than half length of longest rays). Their dorsal fin may have white spots and their body sports white spots. Dorsal fin is without spots or sometimes with light-colored oval markings; Body is with white or cream-colored spots (never pink or red) on darker background; Appearance - overall gray or nearly black/ white coloration, sometimes with yellow tinge on fins.

Hunting & Fishing


Number of Fish Caught in 2017 Mac Days: 52,000 Short Fall of 91,000

CSKT’s anual removal goal: 143,000

Lake Trout Total Population: 1.4 million Lake trout were introduced in Flathead Lake in the early 20th century in an effort to attract tourists to the area and feed railroad employees. In the 1970s, as part of an effort to bolster declining kokanee populations, state biologists introduced non-native Mysis shrimp into the lake. Their effort backfired and the lake trout population exploded. An estimated 1.4 million lake trout inhabit Flathead Lake. Biologists have suggested that about 143,000 lake trout need to be harvested annually to actually start depleting the population. Anglers have pulled in more than 600,000 lake trout over the course of the Mack Days’ history. In 2010, Nicole Peters recorded the largest fish caught in a Mack Days Event at 45-inches and 38.5-pounds, while John Gauci in 2014 recorded the smallest at 5.5 inches.

Although boat anglers may be trolling and jigging for that prize-winning trout this fall, shore anglers may have better success catching them. Lake trout spawn in the fall moving in closer to steep rocky shorelines to lay their eggs. According to the CSKT website, this year boaters won’t be able to compete in Mack Days unless their rigs have been inspected for zebra and quagga mussels, which are invasive species that attach themselves to rocks, docks and any other solid object including boat hulls. They’ve created enormous problems for recreationists, fisheries and dam managers in eastern waters of the United States. For more information about the Fall Mack Days tournament, visit: www.mackdays.com or call 406-883-2888 ext. 7294.

vj

SUMMER GODDARD / VALLEY JOURNAL

This big lake trout, reeled in recently near Skidoo Bay, was caught with a Zimmer jig.

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Too many fish, not enough time Fishermen: During the fall there are too many options and not enough time. With the fish working on building a nutritional surplus for winter, they become exceptionally active. The smallmouth bass are responsive to almost anything you throw at them, and the lake trout (mackinaw) have begun their pre-spawn feed. Notice that the Mack Day Tournament begins Sept 21. Perch are especially active in the main Flathead Lake, beyond the narrows, as well as the east side of Polson. Kokanee have begun to spawn so, for the most part, are off the table except in the lakes and streams where snagging is legal. The excellent lake white fishing season has come to a close or at least is greatly diminished. Whitefish will again become active in the river above the lake in mid-October, and depending on water temperatures, around the Armed Forces Memorial Bridge at Polson. If you’d like to see an abundance of these large fish, take a walk on the bridge after dark towards the end of September or the first part of October. Hundreds of them gather on the shade line from the street lights. At this time, Sept. 12, there is an abundance of large bass being caught in the Ninepipe and Pablo Reservoirs. Pablo Reservoir is also giving up quite a few midsize pike (three to four pounders). Many of us have

Mac Man

been attempting to get the bureaucrats at the Bison Range to open these reservoirs early as soon as ice conditions are safe but so far no success. As water temperatures drop to around 50 degrees most of the warm-water species will become sluggish and difficult to catch. East Bay, Turtle Lake, Crow Reservoir, and Kicking Horse Reservoir are among the first local bodies of water to freeze up. East Bay and Turtle Lake are primarily perch fisheries although East Bay produces some lake trout and Turtle Dick Zimmer Lake has some bass. Kicking Horse’s perch are generally small so the main draw here is a multitude of trout species (rainbow, browns, brookies and cutthroat) as well as largemouth bass and a new thriving pike population. Crow Reservoir, since it has been drawn so low, has become a fishery dominated by mostly brown trout and some rainbows. Late in the ice fishing season, last year, the ice thickened enough to fish on the Big Arm area. Not only was there an abundance of multi-sized perch with some real jumbos, the magic depth being about 37 feet, but out at 50 to 60 feet fishermen were catching some ‘lunker’ lake trout using a whole fish setup. I personally landed on 16-pounder and another 19 ½ pounder. The water between Melita Island and the south shore will have safe ice sooner than the rest of the bay be-

Mack Days fishermen typically have the best success, initially, fishing depths of 120-200 feet. cause it is protected from both the north and the south winds. Here your catch will be almost entirely lake trout, although, if you use small flies with maggots, you can pick up some whitefish. The Mack Days contest that is about to begin usually finds fishermen having the best success fishing deep water, 120 to 200 feet, initially. As the “lakers” move to their spawning areas from mid-October on they are more readily caught shallow, 20 to 80 feet, with trolling as opposed to jigging, earlier being the best approach. Because the contest is based more on numbers of fish than size, several fishermen continue to jig deep, targeting immature fish and doing well. For more or current information, you can give us a call at 406-675-0068, or contact me on my personal cell at 406-250-0241, or email us a macman@ronan.net Good Fishing, The Macman

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Hunting & Fishing


Rocky Mountain goat hunting on the Flathead Reservation closed due to low populations News from the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribe’s Natural Resource Department

The main limiting factor in pheasant populations is predation soon after hatching. BIGSTOCK PHOTO

Pheasants Forever restores habitat for birds, hunters By Mary Auld for the Valley Journal

I

n an ideal world, a pheasant chick hatches into a habitat that provides all it needs to get through the vulnerable first month of its life. Vegetation protects the chick from feral cats and magpies that would eat it. Diverse and abundant grasses teem with easily accessible insects, which provide the sustenance needed for the chick to survive to adulthood. However, according to Dave Bunnell of Mission Valley Pheasants Forever, most unmanaged land in the Mission Valley does not support newly hatched ground-nesting birds like pheasants. Instead, the land hosts a carpet of dense invasive weeds difficult for tiny chicks to navigate and inhospitable to insects that would provide them food. Bunnell is the president of the Mission Valley chapter of Pheasants Forever, a national organization that supports pheasant populations so that they can be hunted. He said that his organization is helping to increase the odds that chicks of pheasants, and other ground nesting birds like mallard ducks and short-eared owls, survive to maturity. This work benefits hunters, bird watchers, and the Mission Valley ecosystem. “Our overarching goals is to maximize the potential carrying capacity of these lands for ground nesting bird survival and prosperity,” Bunnell said. Bunnell calls pheasants a “short-lived but highly productive species.” He said that robust populations of predators like foxes, raptors, and feral cats threaten the Mission Valley pheasant population. These threats are compounded early in a pheasant’s life when invasive weeds also

jeopardize the chances of pheasant survival. Though it may seem counterintuitive that Pheasants Forever goes to such lengths to help birds reach maturity, only to promote hunting them, Bunnell says that human hunters are not a destructive force on public hunting lands. According to Bunnell, in restoring habitat to support growth to the point of reproduction, Pheasants Forever is both improving pheasant populations for hunting while also keeping the ecosystem in balance. Only male pheasants, distinct for their larger size, brighter colors, and longer tail, can be hunted. According to Bunnell, it is nearly impossible for hunters to harvest enough male pheasants to reduce the number of eggs that pheasants lay during the next year’s reproductive cycle. Rather, the main limiting factor in pheasant population is predation soon after hatching – a factor that Pheasants Forever works to influence. The bulk of the Mission Valley Pheasants Forever chapter’s work focuses on managing pheasant habitat. The organization works to cultivate flora that will support pheasants at the most vulnerable phases in their lives: incubation, early life, and the lean winter months. A field habitat specialist, whose salary is paid by Mission Valley Pheasants Forever, performs this habitat management. The majority of the funds for the specialist’s salary are raised through an annual Mission Valley Pheasants Forever spring banquet. The specialist works to enhance pheasant habitat on state and federally managed land open to public hunting in the region. The specialist primarily enhances the grassland habitat in a roughly 10-square-mile area around Ninepipes National Wildlife Refuge in Hunting & Fishing

Charlo. The area is a patchwork of state- and federally-managed land. Pheasants Forever partners with both the Fish and Wildlife and the Fish and Game departments to restore pheasant habitat throughout the region. The habitat specialist replaces noxious weeds, which have little forage value to birds, with plants that support pheasant survival. The ideal habitat features diverse vegetation including tall and intermediate wheat grass and alfalfa, which provides heavy cover for nesting birds. The restoration increases plant diversity, which supports insect life and reduces the dense, impenetrable nature of areas infested by invasive plants so that chicks can reach food without expending excessive energy. The specialist also plants winter grain that stands above the snow so that birds like pheasants have a food source during the winter months. According to Bunnell, this partnership allows the Mission Valley to boast a uniquely well-managed continuous public bird habitat— the largest in the western region of the state. “This area is the last best place for upland bird hunting in western Montana,” Bunnell said. He said the abundance of ground-nesting birds in the Mission Valley draws hunters and bird watchers from across the region - from the Bitterroot Valley to the Flathead Valley. According to Bunnell, restoration efforts are working. He said that chick survival rates have been up for the past two years. He attributes the change in survival rate to increased protective vegetative cover in the valley. “Things are looking up for us,” he said, speaking for both birds and hunters in the Mission Valley.

FLATHEAD INDIAN RESERVATION – The CSKT Tribal Council closed hunting of Rocky Mountain goats on the Flathead Indian Reservation due to low population levels, both in the Mission Mountain Tribal Wilderness Area and adjacent areas on the reservation, as well as on the adjacent Mission Mountain Federal Wilderness Area. The mountain goat population in the Mission Range was surveyed from a helicopter last winter by Tribal Wildlife Management Program staff. The survey revealed a total of 74 mountain goats, which is a decline from the populations recorded during past similar surveys. The reason or reasons for the decline is unclear, but similar declines have been reported for other populations elsewhere in Montana. Currently, mountain goat population declines in Montana are being assessed by an interagency working group of big game biologists and managers to determine potential causes for population declines and to seek remedies to turn the declines around. Generally, 100 mountain goats in a population is considered a minimum to maintain the population and to support hunting of the animals. If anyone has questions related to this closure, contact Tribal Wildlife Program Manager Dale Becker by phone at 406-675-2700, extension 7278 or by email at dale.becker@cskt.org or Stacy Courville at 406675-2700, ext. 7284.

September 26, 2018 - 7


Ronan Sports and Western closes after 61 years By Karen Peterson / Valley Journal

P

eople will have to find a new place to get gear, licensing and the occasional carton of fishing worms now that Montana’s great outdoor store closed up shop in early September after 61 years in business. Ronan Sports and Western opened in 1957 on Main Street. The shop eventually moved to a second location on the same street before ending up at 63298 U.S. Highway 93. Rob Shrider, owner of Ronan Sports and Western, didn’t start the business. He was born and raised in the small town and went to work at the shop in 1978, after serving in the United States Air Force for seven years. He said it was “a great business” to earn a living and support his family, including four children. Three of the kids helped out in the store as they were growing up. Shrider said the business faced its share of obstacles including several burglaries. He explained that burglaries happen

KAREN PETERSON / VALLEY JOURNAL

when the store is closed, as opposed to robberies that occur when the store is open. “We were never robbed,” he said. “With the burglaries, people took numerous items, guns mostly, and they broke the glass on the front door a few times.” The hometown business also faced

competition as big box stores developed in surrounding communities. Despite the challenges, Shrider said he worked with the business as an employee then as an owner for four decades and enjoyed spending time with the customers. “I want to thank them for all the fun years,” he said with teary eyes. “The cus-

tomers are the toughest part to give up.” He said the customers included locals around Lake County and tourists from outside the country. “We are just a little town in the middle of nowhere, but we had customers from farther than you can believe,” he said. “They regularly came from Canada to Alaska, maybe not every year, but they did come back.” People really started visiting the store when it was announced this summer that the doors would be closing for good. “I’m going to miss the people, but I’m going to try something different.” He doesn’t know what he will be doing yet as he starts down the road toward retirement. Before the store closed, he said he was going to finish cleaning out the building and sorting what was left. “I don’t know what I’ll do next until I get there, but I know I’ll need to be doing something.” Shrider didn’t own the building. He said the owners sold it in June. “I don’t know what will happen to the building, but someone bought it.” Ben Maughan jokingly said he started

“I want to thank them for all the fun years. The customers are the toughest part to give up.” - ROB SHRIDER, OWNER, RONAN SPORTS & WESTERN

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working at the store just before the mountains started coming up, but seriously, it was around 30 years, and people have told him “zillions” of hunting and fishing stories. “We had a couple kids come in, 15-year-olds, and they had a smallmouth bass that was 21-inches long and seven pounds,” he said. “It was close to the record, and they were so excited.” Maughan said he thinks the town will change without the sporting goods store. “It’s a loss to the community. Where will the people go to tell their stories? They’ve been coming in for years, and now, we won’t have that.” Pete Reum of Pablo said he has shopped at the store for many years and called it a “convenient” small-town location. He was buying a few last minute items before the store closed. “It’s sad to see it go,” he said.

vj

Fall hunter education class announced News from Tom Fieber, lead hunter education instructor

C

lass for the Polson, Ronan, Pablo, Fall Hunter Education course will start Tuesday, Oct. 2, at the Polson Middle School. All classes will begin at 6:30 p.m. and end at 9 p.m. Interested students are required to register online at fwp.mt.gov. A parent or guardian must accompany students under 18 to the first class with completed forms downloaded from the website. Student course manuals must be read and all the questions answered at the end of each chapter before the first class night on Oct. 10. No one will be allowed to take the class without this requirement completed. Pick up manuals with instructions at Westland Seed in Ronan, Murdoch’s or Walmart in Polson. Those in need of computer or printer assistance can register and pick up manuals at the CSKT, DFWRC Information Education building on 6th Ave. E, south of the tennis courts in Polson. Individuals 10 years of age or older at the start of the class may be certified upon successfully completing the course. Anyone born after Jan. 1, 1985, must complete a hunter education course before buying a hunting license in Montana (see FWP website for exceptions). The

course is free of charge and taught by volunteer instructors. Classes start Tuesday, Oct. 2, and continue through Oct. 4. A mandatory field course is scheduled for Sunday, Oct. 7, from 8 a.m. until 4 p.m. The mandatory written test is on Monday, Oct. 8, the final day. Participants must attend all classes and the field day and be on time to be certified. All hunter education classes are free of charge and open to hunters and non-hunters alike. Some students take the courses for firearm safety and outdoor survival information, even if they don’t plan to hunt. Adults, please feel free to attend as many classes as you can with your children. I encourage you to take the test and take part in the field day with your student. All firearms and ammunition are provided, as attendees are not allowed to bring either to the classes or the field day. For registration and updates, check the online class schedule at http://fwp.mt.gov/education/hunter/hunterEd.html. For more information on the Ronan, Pablo, Charlo Hunter Education course, call the lead instructor Tom Fieber at 406-250-3386 or Germaine White with the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes at 406-675-2700 ext. 7299.

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Hunting & Fishing


Local craftsman on target bows get as many as nine applications for strength and flexibility. nside a spacious workshop nestled beneath the craggy After the glue cures, the bow is placed in a press. shadows of the Mission Mountains, a dozen handcrafted “Custom designed wooden bow forms and air presses are archery bows in various stages of production await completion used for each bow design to give them their initial shape and by father-son bowyers Dan and Jared Toelke. contour,” Jared said. Nearly 20 years ago, Dan an avid outdoorsHours of tedious sanding, detail work, and man, turned his passion for archery into a fine-tuning give each Toelke bow a combinacareer by starting Toelke Traditional Archery. tion of beauty and performance, prized by bow Whether it’s the size, power, or choice of wood and archers around the globe. CustomWe keep every- hunters veneers, the self-taught craftsmen are proud ers choose everything in the model including that no two bows are ever the same. the length of the bow, the draw weight, and the thing in stock. Crafted from woods sourced from all over type of wood used. This allows us the world, hunters and recreational archers can “We can handle any situation when it comes choose from several different styles of recurve, to custom orders,” Dan said. “Recently we to start orders long and a hybrid bows. The hybrid bow proreceived a custom bow order from a 6-foot-10 right away.” vides the user with the speed of a recurve and former NBA player.” the smooth draw of a longbow. Most custom bowyers take an average of six - Jared Toelke Dan and his son Jared build roughly 300 to nine months to complete a special custom bowyer, Toelke Archery custom-made bows per year from their workorder, but this crew can get them done in a shop, just east of Ronan. Every bow created fraction of the time. “A guy who dreams up a begins as several blocks of wood along with new toy doesn’t want to wait a year for it,” said thin wood strips. Fiberglass is the only manufactured material Jared. “We keep everything in stock. This allows us to start orordered in, which is layered among the wood in the limbs. ders right away. We have a six to eight week time frame.” Everything else is cut, ground, sanded, sprayed and assembled The team’s attention to every detail in every bow crafted has in the shop. paid off. An Internet search for “Toelke Archery” or “Toelke “Heat-treated bamboo makes up the working part of the Bows” will produce ringing endorsements for their hand-craftbow,” said Dan. “Bamboo wood is used because of its superior ed bows in forums for archers and bow hunters alike. “The tension weight, strength, and longevity.” finish is superb, and it’s silky smooth,” one comment said. “A Fashioning a bow starts with gluing together thin strips of fine example of superb workmanship and design,” said another. exotic woods and fiberglass onto the bamboo blanks. Some “Super quiet and pretty fast,” said another customer. By Rob Zolman / Valley Journal

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ROB ZOLMAN / VALLEY JOURNAL

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Public, tribal lands provide hunting and fishing opportunities By Mary Auld for the Valley Journal

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ccording to Dave Bunnell, president of the Mission Valley chapter of Pheasants Forever, public lands are the stage for most hunting and fishing in the Mission Valley. “Ninety percent of hunters in the area spend 100 percent of their time hunting on public lands,” he said. Hunting and fishing in Lake County Lake County land accessible to hunters and anglers from the public is managed by a variety of agencies. Hunting and fishing permits can be obtained for land owned by the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes, the state of Montana, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. With proper permits and attention to regulations specific to each kind of land, members of the public can fish and hunt in the tribally-managed Mission Mountain Tribal Wilderness and the Ninepipe Wildlife Management Area, managed by the state. At the federally-managed Ninepipe National Wildlife Refuge and National Bison Range, hunting is not allowed but fishing is permitted. Other areas of public or tribal lands available to permitted hunters and anglers are located throughout the valley. Permit fees are often used to manage and improve hunting and fishing opportunities. CSKT has jurisdiction over all hunting, fishing and trapping on the reservation. While tribal land is not public land, non-tribal members can obtain a permit to recreate on tribally-owned land. Those who are not members of CSKT must purchase a permit with stamps for hunting and fishing if they wish to hunt or fish on the reservation. Non-tribal members are only eligible to harvest the following from the reservation: fish, gray partridge, pheasants, ducks, geese, mergansers, and coots. Tribal members can hunt for big game and birds excluded from this list. Stacy Courville, wildlife biologist for the CSKT Department of Natural Resources, said that the tribes allow non-tribal members to hunt and fish on the reservation to create opportunities for outdoor recreation for all members of the public. “They don’t have to leave the reservation if they want to go waterfowl hunting,” he said of non-tribal residents of the Mission Valley. Mike Koole, refuge officer at the National Bison Range, which is managed by U.S. Fish and Wildlife, as is Ninepipe National Wildlife Refuge, said that the regulations on hunting and fishing on public lands of all kinds are tailored to the overseeing party’s goals for that land. At the Bison Range for example, the goal is to provide habitat for bison. At Ninepipe, the mission is to provide habitat for birds. Hunting and fishing are allowed based on their compatibility with those goals. 12 - September 26, 2018

Though hunting and fishing is managed with a variety of objectives in mind, land management agencies coordinate their regulations for the convenience of the public. “Within the reservation, Fish and Wildlife, the tribe, and the state work together to try to make our regulations as similar as possible,” Koole said. Statewide public lands management issues Public lands management and access has recently been the subject of statewide attention. In December 2017 Montana Sen. Steve Daines proposed The Protect Public Use of Public Lands Act, which would remove Wilderness Study designation from five areas around the state. Wilderness Study Area designation is meant to prevent development on land until Congress decides that it should be classified as a wilderness and further protected, or managed by the Bureau of Land Management for other uses. Removing Wilderness Study designation would mean that roads could be built in the areas, and that restrictions on activity would be removed. In a press release, Daines said that releasing WSAs would “increase the value of public lands for Montana outdoor recreationists,” including those who hunt and fish. John Todd, conservation director for the Montana Wilderness Association, wrote in a press release that though he agrees that a decision should be made about how WSAs should be managed, any decision about land management should be made with the input of “a diverse group of stakeholders working together at the local level.” While none of the WSAs in question are located in Lake County, Daines’ proposal has sparked conversation about the process that should be used to regulate public land across the state. Senators Steve Daines and Jon Tester both support a congressional bill that will permanently fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund. According to a press release from Tester, the fund has allowed the public to access “nearly 70 percent of the fishing sites and thousands of acres of wild places in our state.” If reauthorized, part of the fund would be used to increase access to public lands for hunters and anglers in Montana. The fund will expire in late September if Congress does not pass legislation to fund it. Dave Bunnell said that the Mission Valley chapter of Pheasants Forever is in favor of funding the LWCF. He said that the fund could increase access to public land in Lake County by compensating private landowners who allow members of the public to hunt on their land. He added that the fund could have “a significant impact on future land purchase capabilities of the state,” which could increase accessibility of existing hunting and fishing opportunities in the Mission Valley. Hunting & Fishing

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