Smalley gets crowded at Echo Lake, skunked at Lake Francis

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Doggone it, I did it again! Every year we get high river runoffs, conventional fishing wisdom says, “fish lakes.” Many local anglers have been scoring good catches of kokanee salmon, but a person can only eat or smoke so many salmon.

One evening last week, in an effort to catch some bass, I pulled my small fishing boat to the public access on Echo Lake.

Trailer rigs were parked for a quarter mile on both sides of the county road! At 6 p.m. there was no way I was going to launch, then brave the scramble of crazies rushing to load their boats and go home.

So I drove home.

I’ve learned FWP paid $500,000 for that easement from DNRC, then another $250,000 to develop the site, but there’s on-site room for only 30 vehicles and about a dozen attached trailers.

The next morning I bought two dozen nightcrawlers and headed for Lake Francis, near Valier.

In doing so I had violated Chinook walleye guru Dallas Denter’s edict, “I don’t fish walleyes until after the fifteenth of June.”

Years ago, when I compiled a weekly state-wide fishing report, I relied on Denter for up-to-date reports.

Previous years’ fishing calendars show “very few” or “skunked” entries for the first week in June.

This year, it will be the latter.

I arrived about 10 a.m., planning to hang around until dark unless limited by noon, but my lofty anticipations were dashed.

The first guy I met said, “You’re wasting your time. I haven’t caught a fish since the wind switched to the east.”

I’d done some reading that, after spawning at a temperature of 45 degrees, females lose their appetite and hang out in deeper water, while smaller males may hang out around the reeds, even suspending.

I didn’t mark a fish on the bottom on my finder until mid-afternoon, when I found two or three small groups of suspended fish. Could’ve been perch.

Patience, Fishful. Give those walleyes another couple weeks.

Jerry Smalley’s Fishful Thinking column appears weekly in the Hungry Horse News.

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