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2017 Fishing Forecast | Kootenai Angler

Posted on Apr 08, 2017 by Dave Blackburn

We’ve had snow on the ground since December, January’s snow fall was light but February is turning out to have record snowfall. We had a 16 inch dump recently on top of our 12 inches and we are having a real winter. All in all our snow pack is at 115% of normal currently so we are looking at another healthy flow year on the Kootenai. The Yaak and the Bull rivers will be floatable through most of July, possibly into August.

Montana FWP update from Jared (Greenie) Lampton 
He guided for us a number of years until getting a full time position with Montana FWP.

“We conduct annual population estimates in four sections of the river.  Since we do most of the estimates in the fall we’ve found that our ability to predict how the fishing will be the following year is very limited at best.   This is because we don’t know how over-winter survival and spawning stress will impact the population the following year.  However, you might find it useful to know how our most recent estimates stack up to 5-10 year averages.

Our fall of 2016 estimate at the dam was 2276 rainbows per mile which is about the same as 2015 but about 25% lower than the 5-year average.   Also, the proportion of fish over 12 inches was the lowest we’ve seen in the past 5 years. However, redd counts and catch of rainbow trout fry have been up the last two years. The Dam section has held a relatively high total abundance and proportion of larger fish from 2012 to 2015.  It will be interesting in the future to see if the 2016 numbers are the beginning of a downward trend or if increased spawning success will help prevent that.

According to our estimates, the Re-reg section has had relatively high total abundance and proportion of fish over 12 inches in 2014-2016.  At this point, we don’t have any reason to suspect a drastic change in 2017.
In the Flower-Pipe section, downstream of Libby, we estimated about 1800 trout per mile in fall of 2016 which is only 63% of the 10-year average.  This is the lowest estimate since 2010.  The decline in numbers was spread across all size classes of fish.  The Flower-Pipe section is our longest running data set and our numbers show that total abundance of fish can vary wildly in short periods of time.

The Troy section has always had much lower densities of trout than the other sections of the river.  Last fall our estimate was 454 trout per mile which was 83% of the 5-year average.  The proportion of fish longer than 12 inches has been holding steady the last 5 years.  The proportion of brown trout in this section has been down the last couple years.

Our creel studies and anecdotal reports indicate that anglers have enjoyed good fishing on the Kootenai during the past 3 years or so, but those reports became more mixed during the end of the 2016 fishing season. At this point, we don’t have good reason to believe that is going to change drastically within the next year.”



About dave

Dave Blackburn started tying flies and fly fishing at the age of 10 and has been fishing and guiding the Kootenai River in Montana for more than 25 years. He graduated from West Virginia University with a BS in Forest Resource Management with an emphasis on water quality and aquatic ecology. He traveled westward and ended up in Montana on the banks of the Kootenai in 1981 where he now resides with his wife, Tammy. He is on the board of directors of the Kootenai Valley Trout Club. He has been a past director of the the Fishing Outfitters Association of Montana and the Montana Council of Trout Unlimited. Dave chaired the Upper Kootenai River Preservation Society, which was instrumental in defeating the Jennings Rapids Dam project. Dave is a FFF-certified casting instructor and a contract tyer for Umpqua Feather Merchants. He teaches fly tying and fly fishing at Flathead Community College. His photos and articles have appeared in Flyfisherman, Fly Rod and Reel, and The Flyfisher magazines.