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!


RIP Shorty…

April 22, 2017 at 8:11 pm |


Founder of A Able Fishing Charter & Tours

rge Goggins, 79
“Shorty” George Goggins passed away on Monday, April 17, 2017, at the age of 79, with his family present.

Shorty was predeceased by his beloved son Joe Goggins, his sister Mildred Carey, his niece and nephew Jody and David and baby Bobby, as well as his mother and father, George and Bertha Goggins.

Shorty is survived by his loving wife, Jeannie, of 58 years. They were married in Fontana, California, on July 13.

Shorty is remembered with love by his daughters Dana Schneider and her husband Gordon Schneider, and Sherrie Patterson and her husband Mark Patterson.

Shorty was born in Clover, West Virginia, in 1937. After attending school in West Virginia and Georgia he began working at a young age as a paint contractor. He eventually moved to Fontana where he met his wife at the local A&W Drive In and married her after dating for three weeks. He was 20 years old when they married and they soon had three children. Wanting to raise them in a small-town environment, he moved the family to Kalispell, where he worked as a paint and remodel contractor until the death of his son. After losing Joe, he took to the waters of Flathead Lake and became one of the best known fishing guides, “Fishing with Shorty” for 23 years. His trips were always an adventure and to be remembered.

Shorty is best remembered for his practical jokes, great and lengthy stories, and his always present captain’s hat. He would do anything to help anyone and had a huge heart that he didn’t easily show to people.

Shorty enjoyed being in the outdoors and loved to go fishing and hunting. He got great enjoyment from feeding the deer, squirrels and birds around his home and he would watch them for hours.

The family will hold a private celebration of Shorty’s life. He will be cremated and buried with his beloved son resting at Glacier Memorial Gardens. His family would love to hear about his life and the impact he had on others. You can contact Sherrie Patterson at 406-334-7580.

The family would like to thank everyone who showed such loving care and compassion to Shorty throughout his illness. Your efforts made a difference in his life and he knew he was cared for and loved.

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



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!



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.