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!



Founder of A Able Fishing Charter & Tours-The last time we had a good Whitefish bite, Shorty was still leading the pack on Flathead Lake…

Well, it seems as if I have not written a blog in over two months! BUT, I have an excuse, the fish have been biting! In fact we are having one of our best years ever, with well over 350 Lake Trout on my boat alone! These are all very nice fish too; it seems they have been eating very well in what we are referring to as “The year of the baitfish”.

Everywhere we go, we are finding bait, from schools of small 4-6 inch Whitefish, to giant bait balls of Perch out in the deeper water that take 3-4 minutes for us to troll through…an abundance of food makes for very healthy, and chunky, Mackinaw.

Weather has been very unusual, with a HOT and DRY June, an above normal July, and now an August that can’t seem to make up its mind. The female Lake Trout we are cleaning seem to have some very well developed egg sacks, for the first week in August.

With things as advanced as they are, I would like to encourage our clients and friends to book your fall fishing trips SOON. I think the fish we usually start catching in August out in the deep water will be some of the finest eating Lake Trout ever, and those we are already catching seem to support this. These fish are on average 1-1 ½ pounds heavier than in years past.

Lastly, the Lake Superior Whitefish bite has begun. This bite has been all but absent over the last 6-7 years, but it seems as if the numbers of sizeable, catchable fish are back. We are now booking trips out to catch these hard fighting and tasty fish, offering fast jigging action for groups of 2-3 at a time.

Summer won’t last forever, so let’s get out on the water before the snow flies!

Spring fishing is HOT!
With all the talk about water levels, and whether our reservoirs will fill this summer, the prediction of what our water ways will look like come August and September is sounding dire. Of course, typical June rains could go a long way to ease those concerns, but I am a “glass half full” kind of guy and I say, FISH NOW, while you can and while our waterways are in great shape.
I can count on one hand how many years I have been able to fish the mouth of the Flathead River on Flathead Lake during the end of May and not have brown muddy water with a debris field that changes daily. Also, on that same hand, how many times the Swan River was floatable and fishable on June 1st.
Typically, our big rivers are running at or near flood stage right now. The Flathead River at Columbia Falls was running at HALF its normal flow on June 1st…with a slight uptick over the last couple of days due to recent rains. This will lower quickly once the rain subsides later this week. To even be able to talk about fishing these two rivers at this time of year is unusual so take advantage of it!
As for area lakes, reports are coming in from everyone that has ventured out of great conditions and catches. Several large pike in the forty inch range have been caught, and I heard of a 40 inch or larger Tiger Musky out of Horseshoe Lake. The multiple species opportunities offered up on the Thompson Lake Chain are fantastic in the spring and this year is no exception.
Another area lake that has been fishing well this spring has been Ashley Lake, with reports of big Rainbow trout and some nice post spawn perch being caught, and Kokanee Salmon starting to come on strong as well. Now is a great time to fish Ashley before the recreation crowd really moves in with the warmer weather.
Lake Mary Ronan is another lake that can offer some great action. I went out on Monday and while we were targeting Perch, I had been hearing the Kokanee had also been very active. One bit of advice for Lake Mary Ronan-In my experience, you do best getting out here early as the Perch bite is known to really slow around Noon and not pick up again until later in the afternoon. That was our case as we caught eager Perch right up until about 1130, and then they shut off. If you go, try the 15-20 foot range just off some weed beds for Perch in the 11-12 inchsize, nice eaters. If chasing Salmon, bring your oatmeal for chum as keeping them under the boat is critical when jigging them.
For those who don’t mind traveling, Fort Peck is becoming a destination fishery for both in state as well as out of state anglers. I happen to know that there are at least two very well-known TV show hosts filming over on Fort Peck this week, with one more scheduled to film the middle of the month. These TV anglers do their research and travel to these places at the peak times for Northern Pike, Walleye and Bass. Always have a back-up plan though, as spring rains can make roads impassable and wind can keep you off the lake for days. Be ready to head to a different part of the lake or even to Nelson Reservoir if conditions warrant.


Take a kid fishing




Regular readers of my newspaper column see me say it all the time…”Take a kid fishing”. As a guide, I get to see the wide eyes and smiles on kid’s faces when that “big” fish comes over the gunnel.  I regularly see great photo’s posted on my Facebook pages of friend’s kids and grandkids, and some videos that are truly epic.

My kids are grown and gone, with no Grandkids on the horizon, but you know what? Any chance I get to take my “kids” fishing; it is something I value more than most other things.  When I say take a kid fishing, it doesn’t just mean a 5, 6 or 7 year old, it could be your own kid, or someone else’s, or even just someone younger than you.  The beauty of it is, when the fish are biting, we are all kids again!

The Flathead Valley, and FWP’s Region One specifically, is a fantastic place to take a kid fishing.  Not only do we have some of the most diverse fishing in the state, but we have some awesome kids and family only fishing ponds, and regular events to  introduce kids to fishing and keep  interest high once introduced.

The “Kids Hooked on Fishing” program is alive and well in our area schools, with almost every fourth grade class in the valley participating.  Every year these students get at least one fishing trip, get to dissect and learn about the biology of the fish, and some even get to participate in stocking projects in the lakes and ponds they get to fish!  (Volunteers are ALWAYS appreciated at these outings and this is one way you can “take a kid fishing”).

Another fantastic opportunity exists in the many kids fishing ponds that exist across the valley, including the Pine Grove pond (having just undergone another expansion and upgrade, this is the crown jewel in Montana’s kids fishing ponds), Shady Lane Pond, Dry Bridge Pond, Buffalo Head, Swan pond and of course the pond at Snappy Sport Senter in Kalispell.  These are places that are stocked regularly and are managed for kids and families.  Local groups such as the Flathead Chapter of Walleyes Unlimited, Flathead Wildlife, the Sunriser Lions Club and Trout Unlimited are heavily involved in supporting these places.

When taking a smaller kid fishing, think about the size of the rod and reel they will be using.  Small hands can struggle with full size gear, and even a 5’ rod can be a little overwhelming, so maybe start them out with a kids specific outfit.  Those Spiderman and Barbie poles sure seem to catch a lot of fish at any kids event I go to, and I think it might just be because they FIT those younger hands.  Let them touch and handle the fish they catch, but don’t force them if they are a bit timid. Take a couple home and cook them up, let them see the value of harvesting their own food.  I see WAY too many kids every year on our boats that don’t make that connection.

Lastly, let’s also include the older generation who maybe can’t do too well on their own anymore.  Maybe the hands can’t tie a good knot, or the eyes are going bad.  Maybe they just want to sit on a bank or in the boat with a rod in their hands and a story to tell.  And maybe we can learn a thing or two along the way.  So when you hear those words “take a kid fishing”, remember, fishing is a timeless sport, one that makes us all kids again.  I’ll see you on the water!Gramma Ann

Spring Prep tips

A couple of weeks ago, I was lamenting the end of the ice fishing season and talked about properly putting way the ice fishing specific gear. I have been taking advantage of open water, as have many of you; for about a month now, but I know that most anglers are just starting to think open water fishing.  To make the most out of you time on the water, there are certain things one should do to ensure a trouble free day on the water.  We only get so many chances in our hectic day to day, so optimizing that time is critical.

If you are a boat owner, then you have either experienced some of these issues, or have seen it firsthand.  Saving embarrassment and wasted time (yours and the guys stacked up behind you at the ramp) let’s look at some issues that can end a day before it even begins.

Boats that sit all winter almost always need the air pressure in the tires adjusted.  So starting here, let’s get the tires up to required pressure and while we are at it, grease the bearings in the hubs.  Then, hook up the boat and check the wiring.  A little grease on the ball lock and inspection of the breakaway cable is next.  Lastly, check the winch strap and safety chain.  Straps dry rot over time, or get nicked and cut.  If it needs replacing, consider a steel cable option.

Moving to the boat, it is time to check all the wiring at the battery and put the battery (or batteries) on the charger.  Check your bilge pumps for clogging and that they pump water.  Put a little water in the bilge and visually make sure the pump( and not just the motor) is working.  Check all the storage compartments for moisture, open them up and let them air out.  Are your first aid kits expired?  How about the fire-extinguisher?  What condition are your PFD’s in and do you have the required number aboard for your passengers?  There are a lot of things to think about before you get to back the boat down the ramp and a methodic check and required services are critical when you are going to be on a lake that may only be 40-45 degrees on the surface and deserted.

How about the tackle?  If you put everything away correctly last fall, it should be ready to go.  Let’s start with your line.  Does it come off the reel in coils?  Tie a knot and test the breaking strength at the knot as well as just in the line.  If it breaks easier at the knot, it’s old and needs to be changed.  Line is cheap and your only connection between you and that fish.  If in doubt change it.

Do the drags on the reel work smoothly or jerky and stiff?  Does the bail open easily and snap closed with a turn of the handle?  If not, take them apart and clean them.  If you like to fish light lines, check all the guides on your rods for rough spots or nicks that may damage and break your line.  Run a Q-tip around inside the guides, any fraying of the cotton indicates a trouble spot. Finally, get out the tackle boxes and examine and organize all the lures, weights, hooks, plastics etc. Replace or sharpen hooks, check any pre-tied leaders and rigs and clean up any rust or goop with WD-40 or similar.

Taking a day to follow these precautions and do pre-season maintenance will eliminate those “gotcha” moments and maximize your enjoyment and success. Don’t forget to take a kid fishing and I will see you on the water!


Trophy Rainbows

16.5# 34" Rainbow

16.5# 34″ Rainbow


It’s that time of year again!  Every spring, we get super excited about the possibility of catching TROPHY Gerrard Rainbow Trout on Little Bitterroot Lake.  Clay was up there this week, and although the water temps are still a little low, and the water was super rough, they hooked into a giant!  After about a 15 minute battle, the fish took advantage of the rough conditions and spit the hook on a slack line!

That has me pumped about the next couple of weeks and we will be hitting it hard every chance we get.  If you are interested in booking a trip, give us a call.  We offer half day trips, so if conditions are not right, you are not forced into a full day of fishing.  Bring at least 3 other guys so we can take advantage of the two lines per person law and fish maximum lines.  BIG Kokanee salmon are always a bonus on this lake so, lets GO fishing!

Cooler of Kokanee

Captain Mike and client John Muraski pose with Johns 45 inch, 36 pound Mackinaw.

Captain Mike and client John Muraski pose with Johns 45 inch, 36 pound Mackinaw.


OK, so we didn’t break the overall Lake Trout record, which computes both length AND weight, but a fish like this is what dreams are made of.  BIG lake trout are our passion at A Able, and if that is what you are after, you need to know these guys are out there. And NOW is the time to chase them.   The lake has gotten off to a slow start this year, with late and extended runoff contributing to a later than usual big fish run. BUT, Tuesday was a special day, with big fish caught from several of our “usual” big fish spots, and a couple of new places as well. These fish are getting harder and harder to come by, but if you want a shot at one, do NOT wait. The time is now, lets go FISHING!


16.5# 34" Rainbow
16.5# 34″ Rainbow

Every Spring we look forward to May for just this reason. As water temperatures warm on Little Bitterroot Lake, bug hatches and surface feeding Kokanee offer a smorgasbord for these healthy and hungry Gerrard strain Kamloops trout. This is a short season and one we take advantage of by fishing  as many lines as possible on planer board systems.

This is true trophy hunting, not for those just looking to catch a few fish. We have several other options if that is what you are looking for, like Kokanee trolling, or casting for Northern Pike. It is Spring in the Flathead and life is GOOD!

Tina Hahn 23 pounds 39 inchesIf you have ever wanted to catch a fish of a lifetime on Flathead Lake, now might just be that time. While we can’t guarantee everyone will catch a fish like this, I can assure you, you WON’T if you aren’t on the water! The whitefish are starting to move into some areas of the lake, and the big lakers are right behind them. Let us help put you on them, morning trips are the time for these fish, and with three boats always at the ready, we can get you on the water!


This year has been a great year for big fish. I have been tracking my fish over 30 inches so far this year, and our clients are connecting on at least one fish over 30″ on almost every charter! These are Lake Trout over 20 years old and we are practicing CPR…catch, photo and release! There is a big one waiting for you, so give us a call. Hearing “that’s the biggest fish I ever caught” just NEVER gets old! Check out this photo from a recent charter then CALL!

kids and fish