Fine memories of ice fishingOne February day about a dozen years ago some fishery biologists and I met about 25 youngsters at Canyon Ferry Reservoir, which is the first reservoir on the Missouri River near Townsend and Helena in Montana. This was part of the “Hooked on Fishing, Not on Drugs” Program that many wildlife agencies promote in schools.
By: Bernie Kuntz, The Jamestown Sun
One February day about a dozen years ago some fishery biologists and I met about 25 youngsters at Canyon Ferry Reservoir, which is the first reservoir on the Missouri River near Townsend and Helena in Montana. This was part of the “Hooked on Fishing, Not on Drugs” Program that many wildlife agencies promote in schools.
It was a pleasant time with several Labradors running about, begging for food and rough-housing with youngsters. Some parents were there too, as I remember, and all we adults helped the kids bait hooks for perch and rainbow trout. We had a portable warming shack set up, propane heaters, and lunches. So no one got cold and no one went hungry.
Trouble is, even with some 50 lines in the water, no one caught a single fish of any kind!
A couple weeks later about 20 fishery personnel gathered again on the Canyon Ferry ice for a “going away party” for a guy who had just landed a full-time fishery job. As I remember, this group managed to catch a grand total of only five perch!
“What’s the problem?” I asked these biologists. “Where has the great perch fishing gone that I used to enjoy here in the mid-1980s?”
I got all kinds of answers: Fluctuating water levels that resulted in sporadic spawning of perch; increased walleye numbers resulting in lots of perch getting eaten; perch flushed down the river in periods of high water … many of the people I talked to simply didn’t have an answer.
So enjoy the ice-fishing that you have in North Dakota. Some lakes get winter-killed, I know, due to lack of oxygen. But most do not, and the perch and crappie fishing you are able to sample is probably as good as can be found anywhere.
I do remember good days of ice-fishing in Montana, though, in particular a February day in 1987 when John Thorp his daughter Sasha, and Ben and I went ice-fishing on Canyon Ferry. Today, I dug out the long-ago column I wrote following that trip, and re-reading it made all the memories come flooding back.
Ben and Sasha were 10 years old, and Ben had his right arm in a cast from running into a wall at school while chasing another kid, so I did all his hook-baiting and fish-unhooking.
The fishing was fantastic! We’d set the hook, run away from the hole until the perch would pop out and onto the ice, then rebait the hook and drop it back down. The fishing was so fast, we could not keep up the legal six-rods-per-angler in the hole, so finally we relegated ourselves to fishing two rods apiece.
I wrote of our laughter, and the sun shining, and the wonderful companionship. I remember Ben teasing Sasha, and his bright smile, and the yellow perch we caught that day — 185 of them, to be exact, and one rainbow trout. John and I worked for two hours filleting perch.
There were other fine days of fishing that we enjoyed at Canyon Ferry before the fishing went bad, but it is the single afternoon 26 years ago that I remember best.
Bernie Kuntz, a Jamestown native, has been an
Outdoors columnist for the Sun since 1974