By Robert Lucke
Talk to Havre FWP fish biologist Kent Gilge these days and soon you will notice he has a sort of bemused look about him.
He is not happy about this fishing season so far. Parts of it anyway.
"Some of our fishing areas are closed due to fire danger. Some areas have no water in them at all. They have been drained and in other areas we are going around killing the fish," Gilge said. "It is great this year!"
Faber Reservoir and Ross Reservoir were both killed out this summer due to a huge sucker population. Doing the killing this year saved FWP around $5000.00 Gilge thinks.
"Having the water levels down by drought, we did not have to use so much Rotenone and you can do a much better job," said Gilge. "For people who do not know, it is basically a powdered cube root from South America. It is very organic and biodegradable. It only affects gill breathing organisms. So stock can water and things like that."
Both reservoirs will be brought back to life next spring.
"With Ross Reservoir we will be stocking it with 7 to 9 inch Yellowstone cutthroat trout. It should be good fishing by midsummer," said Gilge. "Faber will be stocked in the spring with 3 inch rainbow trout. Fishing there should be good by late summer."
Are all the suckers gone for good? Probably not, said Gilge.
"Some people think sea gulls and pelicans bring them in. I think that people on purpose or inadvertently put them in. At Ross Reservoir with the creek dry, we really got a good kill. That was the whole purpose of doing it during a dry year."
Meanwhile fishing reservoirs like Beaver Creek have been great when they were open.
"Everyone is clamoring to know when they can fish the Lower Lake because that has been the best fishing all summer long. It is strictly up to the Hill County Commissioners to open or to close it," said Gilge.
But what fish they are when you can catch them.
"Along with some of our population sampling out there, we captured a 14.9 pound walleye and a 12.8 pound walleye too. By winter that 14.9 will be 16 to 17 pounds when it is full of eggs," said Gilge.
"Trout fishing is still slow in Beaver Creek Reservoir," continued Gilge. "Despite the stocking of almost 18,000 trout in the last two years. Many of them were 7 to 9 inches long. I don't know where they are going. Northerns are eating rainbow, but the pike population is low which is disturbing because I thought trout would be able to get out ahead of the jaws' for a couple of years. We thought we had gotten the trout population back up. Still there is another year or two to evaluate but it is not looking good right now."
Bear Paw Lake fishing is astounding.
"At Bear Paw Lake there were only 28 suckers in our netting this year. The trout are responding. Fish are chunky and people are noticing the size difference. That should continue and get better," Gilge contends. "Small mouth bass up to 2 pounds have been caught there too. I have been fly fishing off the dam and boy, when those bass come out of the rocks, they are feisty!"
Fresno, well that is a different story.
"With the extremely low water levels basically the damage has already been done out there," Gilge related. "We lost a lot of fish out of the reservoir due to flushing when they drew it down. If it remains low over the winter, the small fish will suffer. They will get eaten up. We rightly cancelled our walleye plant there this year. That will be switched to next year and that will help in building a good class of walleye."