If you know me at all, you know I live to ice fish…just something about finding and landing fish through a 6″-8″ hole on a giant lake, especially after fishing thousands and thousands of acres by boat all year long. Plus, I love the technological advantages that modern sonars and ice augers and some of the finest crafted rods in the world bring to the table. Not to mention warm clothing, snowmobiles and the comraderies that ice fishing brings.

The weather forecasters are calling for another cold, snowy winter for us here in Western Montana, and even colder once we get East of the divide. That means GREAT conditions for our sister fishery, Fort Peck, in Eastern Montana. I am excited about spending more time over there this winter as we target big Walleye, Lake Trout, Northern Pike AND Chinook Salmon…through the ice!

I can’t wait to break out the gear, and you shouldn’t wait to get your dates locked in to join me out on the hardwater this winter. Planning on trips to Whitefish Lake, Lake Mary Ronan, Swan Lake, the Thompson Chain, Echo Lake, Lower Stillwater and MORE. Give us a call and we will explain the packages we offer, and how it all works! Let’s go ICE fishing!

WOW, has the 2017 charter season been one to remember, and perhaps the even better news is, it ain’t over yet!  There is still plenty of fishing left as we move from Summer to Fall, as the days get a little shorter and the temperatures (hopefully) get a little cooler.  Archery and upland bird hunters wait all year for September, and anglers should feel that same longing as we begin to again target big Rainbows, pre-spawn Lake Trout and Lake Whitefish, pre-ice Perch and more.

But let’s back up a bit. At the beginning of the season, Cindy and I purchased Mo Fisch Charters based out of Lakeside, Montana, adding to the A Able fleet of four boats based primarily out of Marina Cay Resort in Bigfork. The three historically full time boats in the Mo Fisch fleet would shrink to only one full time and two part time boats for 2017 due to personnel changes, creating quite the scheduling challenge, but all the guides in the now combined company knew the obstacles we faced (or so we thought) and were ready for what the summer would bring, all working under the new banner of “Howe’s Fishing”.

The Mackinaw fishing was great in the early stages of summer, backed up by the strong catches of all the boats that participated in the annual Fishing Without Barriers event.  All five of the participating Howe’s Fishing boats had better catches than we have had in years, contributing greatly to the number of fish brought in for the fish fry and ensuring that everyone who wanted a seat to go fishing were accommodated.

As the summer progressed, many of the Lake Trout we cleaned were packed with small perch, and soon after, the Lake Superior Whitefish showed up in numbers not seen for almost a decade. By late July, these feisty and delicious fish would dominate our catches as all the Captains were determined to “one-up” their teammates each day, with many outings putting upwards of 20-30 fish per trip into the nets!  The only thing better than the numbers of Whitefish were when large Lakers began to be caught on the outskirts of the giant schools of Whities!  A ten to twenty pound Mackinaw, caught relatively shallow on medium light spinning gear, offers an incredible fight, surpassing almost any other freshwater battle on the planet.

With September’s arrival, the combined efforts of A Able Charters and Mo Fisch Charters provided over 600 guided trips to clients from Montana to Maine and all corners of North America, not counting our dozens of trips conducted on Fort Peck in Eastern Montana, and we aren’t done yet! The Whitefish and Lake Trout are still biting daily and Walleye, Lake Trout and Chinook Salmon on Fort Peck are still providing incredible daily opportunities.  If you want to catch a mid-twenty pound Chinook salmon anywhere between Alaska and the Great Lakes, we need to get you on a boat with us out of the Lakeridge Resort in Fort Peck!

Large Kamloops/Gerrard Rainbows will be occupying our time very soon, as will pre-spawn Whitefish in the Flathead River on our War Eagle jet boat. Also, Pike, Bass and pre-winter jumbo Perch as we start to think about our guided ice fishing trips from the Flathead Valley to Fort Peck that will begin in December, if we get any kind of early winter.  No other outfitter in Montana offers the variety of trips in multiple locations all season long as the combined services of Howe’s Fishing, A Able and Mo Fisch Charters can.

2017 was an amazing year, and as we segue into Fall and Winter, all of us stand ready to make your fishing memories our top priority and as always, Cindy and I, as well as Matt, Clay, Pat, Chris, Bryan, Jr, Cameron, Tommy, Jason, Eddie, Taylor and Justin ALL wish you tight lines and we hope to see you on the water real soon!

Mike Howe, Outfitter

It’s cranking time! Most people don’t know it, but almost every crank bait made will need tuning, sometimes out of the box, sometimes after a fish or a snag, or even just banging it off structure.

Very simply, if the bait is pulling to one side or the other, it’s out of tune.  Many manufacturers recommend using some type of a snap or clip to attach your line to the lure, but some also recommend tying directly to the bait.  Know how the specific bait you’re using is supposed to be attached.

Put the bait in the water, to the side of the boat, not directly behind the boat, because turbulence from your motor directly behind the prop can cause it to run differently.  Put about 5-6 feet of line out and get your rod tip down into the water and observe what the bait is doing,

Watch how the bait pulls…if it pulls to one side or the other, you need to tune it.  You tune it by bending the line tie to the opposite side of the pull, or in the direction you want it to run.

VERY slight changes will cause a large change so don’t overdo it.  Better to make several small changes than to go too far, and weaken the tie point with back and forth adjustments. Have a good quality, long nose pliers and avoid bending the split ring. If you tie directly to the line tie, avoid scarring or putting any rough edges onto the tie point that could cut your line.

For storing your crank baits, I highly recommend the “Crank Canvas” system, a soft roll type of bag that stores and displays your baits, and is made in the USA!   Several different sizes are available and gives you a quick and easy visual choice and the pockets keep your baits secure and the hooks sharp! Check them out at crankcanvas.com and tell them I sent you!

Give Howes Fishing a call at 406-257-5214 or check us out at www.howesfishing.com for awesome guided fishing from the Flathead to Fort Peck!

Mike Howe

Montana Fishing Outfitter Mike Howe joins Cabelas and Clam/Ice Team Pro Staffs

Flathead Lake Fishing Charters

 

I am honored to announce the next step in my journey as an Outfitter, Guide and business owner here in Montana, having recently been selected for the Cabelas Pro Staff and the Clam/Ice Team Pro Staff.

This is a culmination of nearly 12 years of tirelessly working in the industry with dozens of partners, sponsors, guides and outfitters and so begins a new era for the combined services of Howe’s Fishing, A Able Fishing and Mo Fisch Charters.

I didn’t arrive here by myself.  Those that have helped me get here are too numerous to mention, many are still along for the ride and achieving their own goals as we grow together. Our “Brand” is growing, across the US and Canada, and being recognized by these two industry leaders as a leader in our own right, with what we do here in Montana, is assurance that when clients book with us, they are getting a brand that has been vetted and proven to be exceptional.

I take great pride in that and plan to work just as hard over the next 12 years, and beyond, to prove that their trust in me is justified.  There is much more to come, I can promise you that. I’ll see you on the water!

Mike Howe

Proud to represent all these fine companies-Crank Canvas, Macks Lure, RS NetsUSA, Silver Horde/Gold Star, Yakima Bait, Vexilar

Well, it has been a LONG time since I wrote a blog, and there is lots to talk about. In March, we had the opportunity to purchase Mo Fisch Charters, after the unexpected passing of Captain Bob Orsua.  I got my start at Mo Fisch, and Bob got his start at A Able with Shorty Goggins, A Ables Founder.  A LOT of people see this as an almost destined merger, I certainly do.  I also see this as a major chapter in the entire charter/guided fishing business in Montana.

In 2016, I took on a new guide that would be responsible for guiding anglers across almost all the waters worth fishing in Montana, East of the continental divide.  Jason Mundel is a multi time Montana Walleye Angler of the Year, multi time tournament winner in the Walleyes Unlimited of Montana tournament circuit, and one of the best multi species angler I know. Jason and I won the $10,000 first prize at this years NAIFC tournament at West Yellowstone in February.  He is a good friend and we obviously work well together.

During our initial process of getting him established over in the Fort Peck area, Jason introduced me to Eddie Mindt, who along with his wife Carrie, and their family, had just purchased the Lakeridge Motel in Fort Peck.  As far as I am concerned, there is no better place to base a fishing charter business on Fort Peck, then right from the historic town of Fort Peck.  Lodging, gas, bait, tackle AND guided fishing, all from the one location RIGHT ON the lake?  Pinch me, I must be dreaming!  So, before the year was out, we had an agreement that would see Eddie and his two sons, Justin and Taylor guiding Fort Peck anglers from the NEW “Lakeridge Lodging and Bait Shop” year round, with Jason operating full time from there June through August.  Eddie has made the Chinook Salmon his specialty, but he and the boys are experts on all the species in the lake, as well as ice fishing in the winter.  More on that in future blogs.

Then in February, when we learned of Bob’s illness and sudden passing, I volunteered to help the Mo Fisch operation by being the outfitter of record until such time as the sale could be completed, and a new outfitter could step in and continue operations.  When the sale fell through and the opportunity to purchase the business came my way, I didn’t need to give it a second thought.  Combining the two busiest charter outfits on Flathead Lake made not just good business sense, it make sense personally. So here we are…

Mo Fisch Charters will continue to operate out of the Lakeside Marina, with Matt McComb, Tom Cobianco and new guide Junior Garrison.  Howe’s Fishing/A Able Charters will continue to operate from Marina Cay Resort in Bigfork with Clay Anderson, Pat Campanella and Chris Mischke. We have a couple other guides that we will be mentoring and utilizing part time during our busiest months, much like every one of us did when we got our starts.  Couple this with our Eastern Montana opportunities and I think it is safe to say, we are now one of, if not THE largest freshwater fishing charter operations in the West.  Our corporate partnerships ensure that we will have the best equipment on the water, and our knowledge base and network will ensure that YOU the client will experience the best fishing opportunities available in the entire state.  Captain Bob and I wouldn’t have it any other way.  Welcome aboard, now let’s GO fishing!

 

 

 

 

A Lake Trout with a history, from Flathead Lake Montana

A Lake Trout with a history, from Flathead Lake, Montana

A client caught this fish the other day, and just before I put it back, I noticed an old “Floy Tag” on its back. FWP did a lot of Lake Trout tagging in the late ’90’s right after Flathead Lake went through another historical change when the Mysis shrimp arrived from upstream. This tag was black and blending in with the dorsal fin. I pulled the tag trying to get the number off of it. I submitted the info to the lake trout guys at FWP and told them it was 33″ and about 13#. Right in the middle of our “must release” slot on the North end of the lake.  This is the info I received….

“Tagged on 11/2/1998 by Mr. Jim Funke at Bootlegger Island area. The mac was 22” long at the time (no weight given).”

“So it has been carrying that tag for about 17.64 years. Given the measurements then, and now, the fish has grown 11” during that time period. That is a growth rate of about 0.61” per year which falls in line with the many other green tagged fish returns we’ve seen.
Our old growth charts would show that fish to be about 8 years old when first tagged, therefore the total age now would be around 25+ years old. So, born around 1990, 91…”

Bootlegger Island is in the South end of Flathead Lake, in what is Known as “Mac Alley” around Wild Horse Island.

This fish was caught about 18 miles from where it was tagged, most likely having migrated North this Spring to take advantage of the Flathead River spring inflow, which floods the North end of the lake with food every year.
We tell our clients that Lake Trout only grow about a 1/2″ a year from the time they are 22-24 inches, and this bears that out.
This fish was born right at the peak of the major changes that Mysis shrimp wrought on Flathead Lake. It has seen and lived through a LOT, and I am proud to say, she swam right away, until we meet again, perhaps another day! Congratulations Jessica Christopherson

If you’re like me, and I know I am…you have a lot of crankbaits.  So, yeah.  But, if you ARE like me, then you also have ( or will have very soon after reading this) a Crank Canvas brand Classic Pro crankbait organizer.  I have over 50 lures in this roll, and you can see that every one is visible, everyone is protected, and it really is a compact, well thought out system.  Check them out here in Kalispell at Snappy Sport Senter or order online at www.crankcanvas.com  You can’t go wrong with this one gang, I promise you!

Best way to store your crank baits

Best way to store your crank baits

20160427_151835

Apr
14
0

The Power of Video!

Seen any good fishing videos lately?  I sure have!  I have to admit, with the short ice season, and now a mild spring with very low lake levels, I have been watching a little more TV and internet than normal, but I like to think that that time is not wasted.  I consider it MY continuing education (wonder if any of those fees might be tax deductible?) in an environment where I never stop seeking that next hot tip or tactic that can put my clients on more fish!

Sure, we all grew up with Bill Dance and Jimmy Houston, two Hall of Famers, and their Saturday morning TV shows.  Then with the advent of The In-Fisherman and all their video series, our VCR’s (and then DVD players) brought us to many different places, for many different species.  But nothing compares to the volumes of videos that are available to us on You Tube, company web sites and fishing pro’s who travel the world and share their adventures with us, at the click of a button.

I categorize all the videos in two ways…educational or entertaining.  Not that you can’t learn a thing or two from an “entertainment” video, like a Bill Dance blooper reel, but I tend to stick more to the educational type ones.  For instance, when I bought a new side imaging sonar last year, I immersed myself in videos specific to this technology.  But this last winter, I found myself watching two series that really captivated me on several levels.

One is a video series on You Tube that was the brainchild of the guy who produces and stars in a series called “Uncut Angling”.  UA is one of those series that is very entertaining AND educational, and I just appreciate how this young man approaches his craft.  The series is called “39 Hours” and was produced with cooperation of Travel Manitoba.  The series follow three teams, as they compete in separate areas of North America, for a LONG weekend of competition, scoring one point for the longest fish of any legal species, through five, 8 hour segments, all confirmed via video.  It is a MUST watch, as entertaining as it is educational.

The other series is called “Perch Pro 2016” from the folks at Kanalgratis.se on You Tube and follows European teams as they catch those big European Perch, with Perch regularly exceeding one Kilogram (2.2 pounds)!  They employ many different strategies, from fly fishing to throwing BIG rubber baits, and the characters are very entertaining as well. They do use the “F” word quite a bit, as the Europeans seem to have an entirely different perspective of that word than we Americans do.  Kanalgratis produces dozens and dozens of videos, with world class production values and obviously high budgets.  In fact, Uncut Angling and Kanalgratis have even joined forces and co-produced several videos together, and as you can imagine, these were also well worth watching.

There are many ways to expand your existing skills, or learn new ones.  As I wrote in my last column, seminars are one piece of the puzzle, as is hiring a guide to help you advance learning curves on a specific body of water.  Online videos are an important resource that all anglers can benefit from, on your own time, in the comfort of your easy chair.  I hope you enjoy the two I have mentioned here.

Local lakes that have been fishing well include the Yellow Perch bite down on East Bay.  The weather has been co-operating lately and this bite should last well until the end of the month.  Don’t forget, a CSKT tribal fishing license is required.  The Grayling and Cutthroat bite on Lake Rogers has also begun, but the water is still pretty low, so be careful.  I’ll see you on the water!

mike seminar1Many folks ask me, “Why do you give seminars? Aren’t you giving away all your secrets”? I am one of the first to admit, there aren’t many secrets in my world because when we take a client out, it’s all there for them to see. They tell two people, and they tell two people…as the story goes. And while you can glean lots of great info at a seminar, nothing compares to seeing it in action, so while a free seminar (or even one that comes with a modest fee) is a bargain, it can’t compare to a paid trip.

We have it pretty good here in the Valley, with local guides and tournament anglers regularly participating at shows and at retailers during special events. Many larger cities where fishing is popular don’t have the breadth of talent we have around here, or they haven’t figured out how to make it happen. And then there are the places where there are seminars going on every weekend.

I have had the pleasure of attending seminars by some great, popular anglers like Dave Genz and Bro Brosdahl in the ice fishing world, and by open water guy’s like Buzz Ramsey and Jack Glass, Johnny Candle and Keith Kavajecz . Some of these guys are great anglers and some are great communicators, but not all are both. I think we have some of the best anglers around here who are both and most of them are very easy to learn from.

So, back to the “secrets” issue. Most of everything I employ while fishing was learned from someone else. Whether from another angler, from a book, a video or a seminar, I have honestly developed very few techniques of my own, and when I have, it has been more of a modification than an invention. Bottom line is, I like to help people catch fish, whether it’s taking paid clients out, or just passing on a hot tip. Most anglers are that way, whether they conduct a seminar or not!

This weekend will see me at the Missoula Cabelas talking about downriggers at my seminar from Noon to One, while Guide Pat Campanella will cover the same seminar here at the Kalispell store. Come and learn why and how we use downriggers in our local fisheries, from Kokanee to Lake Trout and everything in between.

The Yellow Perch bite is on down on the south end of Flathead Lake. Dick Zimmer has been raving about the numbers of the fish and the size of the schools this year. I am heading down this week and as long as the days are mild and the nights don’t get too cold, we will be talking about this for the next couple of weeks. Important to remember is the new regulation that only allows you to take ten perch over ten inches daily in Flathead, Smith and Lower Stillwater Lakes.

While many of our local lakes are now ice free, most of them have very low water levels so proceed with caution! Shallow areas may be impassable and a miscalculation could see you or your passenger in the very, very cold water so use your head and wear your PFD.

Lastly, lots of reports of Mac Days anglers catching large numbers of the small Lake Trout in waters exceeding 240 feet. Don’t be fooled by these numbers as these are NOT the large, trophy Lake Trout Flathead Lake was once famous for, simply stated. Mac Days is all about the numbers and these fish provide for that in spades. But the big ones are still out there and we know where to find them and how to catch them. How you choose to learn, is up to you. I’ll see you on the water!

 

Jumbo Perch in Montana

New proposal could see a ten fish over 10″ rule on Flathead Lake.

 

 

Public input for future fishing regulations welcome

 

It is comment time again, with FWP seeking public input on proposed fishing regulations for 2016 and beyond.  For NW Montana anglers, there are some important changes being proposed, as well as clarifications and some consolidations of regulations to make things less confusing for anglers.  When I suggest that folks participate and submit their comments, I often hear “I don’t bother with that, they’re gonna do what they’re gonna do…”  Ever the optimist, I still feel that our comments are read, and are given consideration.  Sure, sometimes things don’t go the way we would like to see them, but that is usually because there is overwhelming support on the “other side” of the issue.  Either way, here are some of the things being proposed for our corner of the state.

I am pleased to see several proposed changes meant to protect our Yellow Perch populations in some of our heavily fished local waters.  Only a few lakes in the state have any kind of harvest or possession limits on perch, and they have long been considered “non game” fish…Many still think they can be used whole as bait fish or cut up into bait, or even just left on the ice in winter if too small or to “feed the eagles”. In fact, only the non-edible parts can be used for bait, and the fish cannot be wasted.

This proposed change, while not imposing a total daily or possession limit, will make a 10 fish over 10 inches per day possession restriction on Flathead, Smith and Lower Stillwater Lakes.  Yellow Perch are fast becoming one of this regions most prized fish, all year long, but especially so during our extended ice fishing seasons on Smith and Lower Stillwater.

The popularity of our Perch Assault ice fishing tournaments and the extreme amount of pressure on East Bay in the spring attests to that popularity and there isn’t a tastier fish than a crispy fried yellow perch.  This ten inch restriction will still allow unlimited harvest of fish for consumption while returning those bigger, more mature fish back to spawn and maintain the resource.

Another proposal, along with the perch restriction, is to increase the harvest and possession limit of Northern Pike from Smith Lake to 50 daily and 100 in possession.  Fisheries managers and many perch anglers feel that this will contribute greatly to providing a quality Yellow Perch fishery on Smith Lake, one of the area’s most popular fishing lakes.

There are many other changes including Bass limits on the Flathead River sloughs, making Cutthroat and Lake Trout possession limits more consistent across the region, more aggressively targeting Northern Pike in several waters where recently introduced and more.  Many other changes will impact anglers across the state, so if you travel to fish, you will be interested in them.

When given the choice to comment on changes, no matter how you feel about them, or if they even impact you, I always feel better about participating, if for nothing more than educating myself to avoid any possible infractions.  Comments will be taken thru September 12th through the usual methods.  Go to www.fwp-mt.gov for more info.

Shorter days and cooler nights are having an impact on surface temps on our area lakes, and several are showing fall patterns.  The Whitefish bite on Flathead Lake has really slowed, if it ever really got going.  Sure, several folks got into some fish for a week or so, but I contribute that to simply more anglers actively targeting them this year.  If that changes, you will hear about it here.  I’ll see you on the water!