Everywhere I go around the state, folks ask me about walleye fishing and where to catch them. Last week I had the chance to see how the fishing was on two of the most popular walleye lakes in the state.
My trip started out with a few days on Canyon Ferry Reservoir. The annual Canyon Ferry Walleye Festival was taking place, so I took the “Montana Outdoor Radio Show” on the road — or on the water since we did our show live in my boat. Adam Strainer, the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks fishing technician for Canyon Ferry, was my guest.
Strainer, who has a passion for walleye fishing, was very enthusiastic about the current fishery on Canyon Ferry.
“The walleyes are starting to make a comeback and they are getting bigger every year,” said Strainer. “It is becoming a walleye wonderland.”
It was hard to argue with him as the bite that weekend was definitely on and the winning team in the two-day tournament landed more than 41 pounds of fish, compared with just over 15 pounds for the winners last year.
The next stop on my walleye tour was Fort Peck Reservoir. Jim Farrington of Stevensville and I made the 450-mile trip to Hell Creek State Park, 25 miles north of Jordan.
We fished for four days, and for the most part the fishing was good. Fort Peck’s walleye fishing has improved dramatically in recent years. Anglers are catching bigger fish, including more of the coveted eating size of 15 to 18 inches. The fish are fat and healthy – probably because they are benefitting from an increase in the perch population. Walleyes prey on perch, so the more of them there are, the more there is to eat.
The water elevation on Fort Peck has remained high. It is currently 2,237 feet, just 13 feet short of full pool. The increase of water has done wonders for perch habitat.
However, the 30-plus inch walleyes that put Fort Peck on the fishing world map have been harder to come by the past couple of years. This might be because they are having less of a problem finding food.
For folks who want to catch walleyes, let me offer you a couple of tips.
If you’re just starting to fish for walleyes,the south end of Canyon Ferry might be a good place to go. There are fewer snags and you might find out where they are biting just by looking for the boats.
If you are wanting to try to fish Fort Peck, then I would recommend an 18-foot boat or longer. Fort Peck is big water. I also would suggest hiring a guide for a day or two. They will teach you the lake and where to fish for walleyes, including what tackle will be the most effective. Outfitters charge about $400 a day for two or three people fishing in a boat.