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Tribes, county working to improve fishing access

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FLATHEAD LAKE – Increased boating and fishing access to Flathead Lake is a goal of county and tribal government, Tribal Division of Fish, Wildlife, Recreation and Conservation Tom McDonald said last week. 

McDonald told Flathead Reservation Fish and Wildlife Board members that county and tribal government have been working together to develop some fishing access sites along the lake, with the first site targeted for development in the Finley Point area. 

“Flathead Lake access is really hard to come by,” McDonald said. 

Lake County owns approximately 100 easements along the lakeshore that are publicly owned. The plan to expand access is a byproduct of working through the Flathead Lake Co-management Plan and the Flathead Reservation Fish and Wildlife Board, according to McDonald. 

“They are ready to seek active participation and partnership with the Tribes for development of those sites,” McDonald said. 

The Finley Point site will access Boettcher Bay, just north of Finley Point State Park, but to the south of the point of the isthmus. 

“That spot is a pretty good fishing hole, just south of the Narrows,” McDonald said. “It’s a development that would just basically be a parking area with a walking trail with a steel fishing dock. Year-round visitors could use it. Residents could use it.” 

McDonald said the partnership is exciting. The Tribes have partnered with the City of Polson in the past to develop Salish Point Trail and Fishing Dock in Polson. The project is ongoing, with 17 interpretive signs set to be installed within the next few weeks. 

“We want to increase public access to the lake,” said Les Bigcrane, Tribal Wildland Recreation Program Manager. “So people who don’t have shoreline, we want them to (have) public access to (the) lake.” 

The project has been under development for more than a decade and cost around $1 million in tribal funding, according to Bigcrane.

“Hopefully, late this spring we will be getting some underwater lights,” he said. 

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