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Spring Mack Days gets underway

Anglers, the wait is over. The spring Mack Days fishing event returns March 16 for a two-month long season, which runs through May 20. More than 3,500 tagged lake trout worth up to $150,000 in cash and prizes will be available for fishermen.

The fishing contest sponsored by the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes began in 2002 to help offset the imbalance of lake trout numbers in Flathead Lake.

“Historically, Flathead Lake was filled with westslope cutthroat trout, bull trout, and eventually kokanee salmon,” CSKT Wildlife Program Manager Germaine White said. “The salmon tanked when mysis shrimp were introduced, and there was no competition for food sources.”

It wasn’t long until the introduction of lake trout became a serious problem, for the lake’s vibrant ecosystem.

“Lake trout took off, and what we’re doing is trying to restore the balance of native and non-native species,” White said.

The rise of lake trout population numbers threaten endangered bull trout, but little can be done to fix the issue in such a vast body of water.

“What we want to do is invite anglers to help us restore the balance,” White added. “It’s a lot of fun to fish and bring them in, and (possibly catch a) tagged fish or win a lottery drawing. There are tons of prizes for small and big fish.”

The event will end May 20 with a fish fry and awards at Blue Bay. One tagged lake trout will be worth $10,000, five worth $5,000, and 10 worth $1,000.

There are also more than 3,500 other tagged lake trout with values from $500 to $100. CSKT Fisheries staff has been tagging lake trout for several days all over Flathead Lake, with some lake trout also being tagged by Montana FWP.

The tags are an internal tag that inserted into the fish. These fish have the adipose fin clipped and will be scanned when anglers turn in their lake trout. Bonus amounts are also given to anglers who turn in 20 or more lake trout during the event. As an angler’s fish total goes up, the bonus dollars increase.

Prizes will be awarded to the top 10 anglers based on their best 18-day average. The first-place angler receives a Mack Days Top Angler Jacket, and the other nine receive Mack Days Top 10 Angler sweatshirts. Fifty lottery prizes (worth $30,000) will be given away and will begin at $1,000 and go to $200. Anglers receive a ticket for each lake trout under 30 inches entered in the event up to the limit of 100 per day. That limit was reached in the 2011 Fall Event two times by top angler Wes Shockley of Plains.

Ninety-five was the high day for second-place angler Mike Benson of Lonepine, and 85 was the top day for third place angler Scott Bombard of Missoula. Steve Biere of Butte turned in the high for the 2011 Spring Event with 95 lake trout, while Chuck Forgey turned in a high of 84 the same day from the same boat.

Top 10 anglers are placed by their best 18-day average in the spring event. The tickets for the anglers who fish more than 18 days are also limited by their best 18-day high numbers.

Anglers have to have a total higher on any day over 18 before they can put additional tickets in the drawing. Bonuses keep going up, but tickets in the drawing are limited. Averages in the fall event for the top five were Wes Shockley-63.4, Mike Benson-57.4, Scott Bombard-54, Max Martz-41.7-Hamilton, and Craig Morigeau-34.4.

The spring event top five averages were Chuck Forgey-52.8, Mike Benson-40.7, Scott Bombard-39.8, Wes Shockley-36.8, and Jerry Benson-33.8. Other ways to win are Captains’ Prizes; captains get their name in a drawing each day for each angler on board who catches lake trout four $250 prizes, Ladies Top Anglers based on their total at the end of the event $300-$100, and weekend prizes-$200 and $100 drawings from each weekends catch, golden angler $200 and $100 drawing for anglers ages 70 and up, smallest fish two $250 prizes, largest fish $500-has to be over 36 inches and 24 pounds.

There was no large fish winner in the 2011 Fall Event. The 2011 Spring largest fish winner was Jim Bilodeau of Kalispell with a 40-inch, 25.8 pound lake trout.

The Flathead Lake Fishing Event is held on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays for 10 weekends. Fishermen will be able to fish the last week, May 11-20 in its entirety, a new feature for the fishing event.

All anglers must have state or tribal fishing licenses based on which part of the lake anglers choose to fish. A special $12 tribal license is available to any resident or non-resident for fishing the south half of the lake only.

For more information, contact CSKT Fisheries Biologist Barry Hansen, at 883-2888 extension 7282.

Anglers may go to the website www.mackdays.com to enter or to local sporting goods stores or tackle shops for entry forms. They can also enter at the pick up sites-Polson, Big Arm, Somers, Wayfarers, and Blue Bay.

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