Second week in November and the lake whitefish are in the Flathead River.
But where are the fishermen?
No doubt those winter storms last week cooled the enthusiasm of many anglers, including mine.
But in checking some of the usual lake whitefishing hotspots, there just isn’t the numbers of anglers there were 20-some years ago when the annual lake whitefish spawning trip up the Flathead Rive drew crowds at nearly every accessible fishing hole.
I think my favorite time was when the best fishing was closer to the west side of the river right below the Old Steel Bridge.
So easy to drive out onto the gravel bar, then retreat to the truck to warm up freezing fingers.
“The colder weather has definitely pushed fish up the river,” said Chancy Jeschke at Snappy Sports Senter in Kalispell.
“We’ve heard of people catching whitefish all the way to Blankenship Bridge, and even to Wests Glacier.”
Popular accesses, according to Jeschke, remain pretty much the same as previous years, including the Old Steel Bridge, Hwy 35 bridge, Pressentine FAS, and Old Red Bridge at Columbia Falls.
Most veteran lake whitefishers recognize early morning generally provides the best bite, but fish can bite all day, especially if overcast.
Jeschke recommends a 6 ½-foot to 7 1/2-foot light- or ultra-action spinning rod/reel combo, loaded with 4-pound test Monel line.
Popular soft baits to thread on 1/8 oz to ¼ oz jig heads are Pete’s Crawdads and Gitzits. Green.
“The jig doesn’t have to always be right on the bottom,’ said Jeschke. “Within 3 feet is usually fine.”
Chancey’s hot technique tip: “The key to feeling a fish is to keep a tight line.
Start with your rod tip at 10:00 o’clock, tighten your line, twitch the rod tip up quickly while retrieving line on the reel to keep the line tight to the jig. Return rod to 10:00 o’clock.
Jerk the rod hard whenever you feel anything unnatural. Most times the bite feels more like snagging a leaf than a fish actually grabbing the jig.
Now put on your long johns and go get’em!
Jerry Smalley’s Fishful Thinking column appears weekly in the Hungry Horse News.