September has arrived with a feeling more like October, at least when it comes to the cool mornings and the falling water temperatures on many local lakes.
I look forward to September almost more than any other month as a sportsman in Montana because of all the opportunities that come with it. Archery season, upland bird season, bear season and moose tags for those lucky enough to draw. But the fishing is probably what excites me the most, for the opportunities present in the moment, and the ones to come over the next 60-75 days.
Flathead Lake surface temperatures have dropped into the low 60s, once again pushing big Mackinaw up toward the surface chasing shallow baitfish. But, there are also some big females holding close to bottom, moving into their pre-spawn areas close to shore, many of which are in the protected slot that is still in effect on the north end of Flathead Lake. Releasing big fish back into 70-plus degree surface water can be difficult on them, especially the protected bull trout and cutthroat trout; these current lower temperatures are much easier on the fish. Rivers and stream temperatures right now are also much easier on the fish, and mid-day fishing is no longer as stressful to the stream trout.
Falling surface temperatures also means we will soon be targeting the Kamloops rainbows that populate Lake Koocanusa and Little Bitterroot Lake, as things really get revved up once the mid-day surface temps fall below 60 degrees. Non-spawning Kokanee become very active again as well, once the temperatures drop, and their feeding processes make them available to the Kamloops, so anglers imitating Kokanee on the surface can do very well. And those of you that like to target the Kokanee during snagging season also know that Sept. 15 is when you get to do your thing. It is truly a special time for anglers in the Flathead Valley.
But September is not just limited to the Flathead. I recently returned from a few days of fishing over on Fort Peck, and the weather change over there helps to “heat” things up as well!
Guide Jason Mundel and I did very well on walleye, pulling crawler harnesses around active perch schools, and the lake trout and Chinook salmon were taking advantage of the changes as well. In a week or two, the Chinooks will be looking to return to their spawning areas, actually where they were released into the water as fingerlings from the hatcher, and will be legal to snag after Oct. 1. In the meantime, there is plenty of great fishing to be had on the big reservoir! If headed that way, contact the Lakeridge Lodging and Bait Shop for all your fishing needs.
Another thing that excites me about September is the fact that we will soon be gearing up for ice fishing, and I was recently in Minnesota for the Clam/Ice Team annual meeting and product introduction. The ice fishing retailers are expecting another great year for sales, and their pre-orders from wholesalers and manufacturers support that. The ice fishing industry has released some amazing new products for the 2018/2019 season and my advice to ice anglers is do not wait to purchase any items you may want for your tackle box as we may see items sell out quickly. I will be covering some of these items in upcoming columns, and am excited about doing some early product reviews as we get closer to ice fishing season!
Lastly, I want to congratulate Managing Editor Miele on his pending retirement! This column would not be possible if Frank had not approached me back in 2014 about contributing, and I wish him and his family well in his retirement.
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