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Fishing Montana
September 1996
Dale Saverud

This August again found my family and I enjoying the beauty of our cabin in the NW corner of Montana. Having grown up in "The Valley of Shining Mountains", it seems somehow necessary to return to Kalispell, Montana at least once a year. Between the family, friends, and all the other reasons to return to "God's Country" it usually isn't a hard sell to get my wife and kids to agree that a couple of weeks there is worth the boredom of the 1300+ mile drive to get there. And besides, the thermometer in the van read 119 degrees as we were leaving Phoenix and the forecast highs at 'home' were not expected to reach 70 degrees for several days!

Erik, my 15 year old son was anxious to get there. He had been invited to go on a hike the morning after we were to arrive with his cousin Sara's high school youth group. They were up early for their hike into the Jewel Basin, only to find when they got to the trail head that the rain and SNOW was just too much for them to handle. This was a big change from the almost 100 degree temps that they had only a week earlier. We hoped we had not missed summer as it was already August 3!

A few days later our fears of missing summer were quashed by several beautiful 80 degree days. We took advantage of this time to go out to our cabin on Little Bitterroot Lake. We enjoyed meals out on the deck, taking some target practice with the pellet gun that is kept there for just such occasions, 'tubing' behind the boat and .... oh ya... fishing! I did a little fishing at Bitterroot and managed to get enough for a nice breakfast. But the REAL fishing was yet to come.....

John, my oldest brother, saw an ad for a charter service on Flathead Lake. This lake is only about 7 miles South of Kalispell and is a BIG lake! In fact, it is the largest, natural occurring, freshwater lake West of the Mississippi River. And it does have a lot of fish in it. We decided John, his sons Brian and Allen and myself would go on a 1/2 day charter on the last full day that we would be in town.

The day started VERY early for me as my family was staying out at the cabin which is about 25 miles West of town. I left the cabin about 5:30 AM and picked up John at mom's house in town at 6:00 sharp. We met Brian and Allen and were off to Big Fork to meet our guide. Shorty's AABLE Fishing charter service works out of a dock at Marina Cay Resort. We were there well before the 7 AM check-in. The boat that we were about to go on was a sleek 24' cruiser powered by a huge 200 horse outboard. Our skipper/guide for the trip was Peper. Peper wasn't feeling too good that morning and he was trying to make sure that these 'green horns' would catch at least one fish so he would get his pay as this was a 'no fish no pay' proposition. He soon found that was not going to be a problem on this day and became much more pleasant.

We had only gone a mile or so South in the main lake when Peper shut down the big 200 and started a nice little 4 stroke trolling motor, turned on the fish finder and started putting out the rigs. This would be the first time most of us had fished with down riggers and even though it was a little strange at first we soon found that it was hard to argue their effectiveness. We would be fishing at a depth of about 35 feet with the bottom another 80 - 100 feet below that. From the band on the fish finder it looked like the lake was overflowing with fish.

The limit on the lake trout that we were after was 4 fish each under 30''; all fish 30" - 36" must be immediately released and only one fish over 36" could be kept. With four fishermen there was not a lot of extra room on this boat so we decided that we would each take turns starting with Allen, then Brian, myself and then John. Within minutes, the first fish was hooked but got off before it made it to the boat. Allen's luck was better with the next one and soon the first fish was in the boat. Fifteen more followed during the next 2 hours. The bright colored plastic squid and a little chunk of squaw fish had done it's job. Our limits were filled. We had our 16 fish. They ranged in size from about 18" 2 pounders to 25" fish that were close to 6 lbs each. Now that is what I call fishing! After buying a couple of foam ice chests, we were on our way knowing that the $60 each that we had just spent had been the best investment that we'd made in a long, long time.

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