Another rough trip to Lake Francis

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“Well, that’s my token appearance at Lake Francis for this year,” said my fishing partner Joe as we pulled out of the parking lot, heading back to the Flathead Valley.

Once again, the walleyes of Lake Francis had out-witted us. Nearly every year for the past two decades, I’ve made the trip over the Continental Divide to Valier to fish for walleyes in Lake Francis.

No doubt part of my upper mid-western heritage!

Heritage or not, too many times I’ve been skunked. Including last week.

There have been trips when I’ve fished all day to catch a few fish. Even one day when I had three nice walleyes in the boat within the first hour.

Fisheries biologists at Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks say the early summer walleye bite depends on the availability of perch fry.

In other words, post-spawn walleye are hungry and, theoretically, should be eating the most commonly offered baits, including worms and leeches.

However, when the year’s perch fry population matures, walleyes switch to an almost exclusive diet of perch fry, refusing baits.

On previous year’s trips, where we’ve seen massive schools of tiny perch, the walleyes wouldn’t bite. Makes sense.

But this year we saw no perch fry and we caught no walleyes, despite our best trolling and jigging efforts.

I talked with one fisherman who told me his neighbor and two friends caught 47 walleyes in one day two weeks ago.

He went the next day and caught only three!

Token appearance or not, it’s the mystery of those walleyes in Lake Francis that draws me back every year.

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

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