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Fishing Report


April 25, 2019

Yellow perch (Perca flavescens) are a small tasty fish that can easily be caught in large numbers during spring spawning season. One of the best places to catch perch this time of year is Flathead Lake. Yellow perch seek shallow and relatively warm waters and begin spawning when the water temperature rises to between 35- and 65-degrees Fahrenheit.

I’ve found that in Flathead Lake the action really takes off when the water temperature hits 45 degrees and the sun starts to regularly peek through the clouds. Each year for the last three years I’ve fished Flathead Lake the week of April 15 and I have had great success.

Yellow perch are easy and fun to catch, making this fishery a great way to introduce new anglers to fishing and for experienced anglers to kick off the fishing season.

The lower third of Flathead Lake is controlled by the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes. They, in cooperation with Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, have established very liberal limits on yellow perch. The reason is that yellow perch pressure trout and other native species so both agencies want to see their numbers reduced. At this time there is no limit (bag or possession) on yellow perch (but you can only have 10 over 10 inches). In practical terms, most of the perch you’ll catch will be 6-9 inches long with the occasional 10-12-inch perch thrown in.

Last week we fished seven days on Flathead Lake and came home with one whitefish, three 12-inch smallmouth bass, and about 400 perch. Yes, 400 perch. After filleting them we had about 25 pounds of boneless perch in vacuum seal bags. That’s a lot of fish tacos!

Here’s some specific tips to help you in your hunt for yellow perch.

Bring warm clothes and rain gear. The weather is variable. In a single day on the lake we saw sun, rain, snow with temperatures swinging between 29 and 50. Travel to Polson and launch at the boat ramp adjacent to Kwataqnuk Resort & Casino. With the lake waters low, you will need to beach your boat or wear boots or waders to get onboard from shore. If you have passengers that don’t get around really well it’s best to get them on the boat on-shore before you launch.

Your destination is East Bay (fishing area 39 on my Lowrance chart). You get there by heading north for about a mile and then working your way east. Be careful to avoid the shallows and rocky outcroppings. You’ll see the boats anchored up in 4 to 6 feet of water. Find a spot near the other boats and anchor facing into the wind (usually from the south) and start fishing.

If you don’t get a bite in a few minutes (using the tactics listed below) try moving a few yards south and east.

You want to be near the weed beds, not out in all sand. The water is crystal clear so you should be able to see the bottom without any trouble.

You’ll have good success with a bait hook on a swivel with a small crimp-on lead weight right above the swivel.

Just cast and let it sink to the bottom. You’ll usually have a fish within a minute or so. If you don’t feel a tug wait a minute and give the line a jerk to set the hook. More often than not a fish swallowed the hook and you’ve just caught a perch.

You can add a bobber to this same setup to get a visual queue when you have a bite. Just rig it so the bait is almost on the bottom. Clip-on bobbers are fine for this and easy to rig up.

Another option is a “perch fly” consisting of a eighth-ounce weight on the bottom and two hooks with chartreuse skirts position one-third and two-thirds of the way up toward the swivel, respectively. Tip the hooks with a piece of worm or bait and jig these near the boat.

If you prefer more active casting and retrieving, try a quarter-ounce white jig head with orange eyes and a small white Mr. Twister. Just cast out and slowly retrieve. This often generates an aggressive strike when a perch sees the lure, so you’ll know you have a fish on.

No fishing trip to the Polson area is complete without visiting Zimmer Tackle in Pablo. Dick & Paula Zimmer have operated this iconic shop for years. Dick makes his own tackle, lures and jig heads. His lures are tried and true and his advice is excellent. In addition to making fine tackle Dick prides himself on being able to put anglers on the fish. So much so, that while I was talking with Paula last week, she insisted I take a business card and call Dick from the lake if we had any issues finding and catching fish. Dick provides a level of technical support to anglers like no other shop.

Let’s go fishing!


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