Naethe claims Mack Days title
Pablo teenage angler Stephen Naethe won his third Mack Days title in a row, but just barely.
Entering the final weekend of the 11-week event, Naethe had already had his third title dating back to the 2009 fall event sewn up, but had to wait and see if anybody could tie him.
Columbia Falls angler Steven Benson needed to reach his 50-fish limit on both Friday and Saturday – Sunday’s fish did not go toward the top angler totals – to reach Naethe’s perfect 50-fish, 15-day average. Benson caught his limit Friday, but only caught 47 Saturday to finish in second place with a 49.8 average. On three days in the 32-day event, Benson came in with 49 fish.
Both the number of anglers and the number of fish that were caught, were new records for Mack Days, which was lenghtened from seven to 11 weeks. The 1,160 anglers were able to catch 34,637 mackinaw, far exceeding the 25,000 fishery managers hope to catch.
Naethe led all anglers with 1,365 fish, but the top angler is determined by the best 15 days of the event. Polson’s David McDaniels finished in third with a 47.4 average. He was followed by Michael Benson (46.1), Charles Forgey (45.4), Daniel Long (41.8), Craig Morigeau (37.8), Jerry Benson (37.3) and Bob Turner (34.7). Charlo’s Tyson Atkinson and Dean Vaughn tied for 10th with a 34.5 average.
Nicole Peters led all lady anglers with 356 entries. She was followed by Laurie Randall (264) and Debbie O’Hara (211). Charlo’s Garrett Vaughan won the 12 and under group with 252 lake trout and Brady Weible finished behind Naethe in the 13-17 group.
David Lautnore was the top lottery winner with his $1,000 prize. He was followed by Sharon McDaniels ($950) and Brandon Gilleard ($900).
Mack Days is sponsored by the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes and sanctioned by Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks as part of the Flathead Lake Co-Management Plan to balance the fishery of Flathead Lake by slowly reducing non-native lake trout and increasing numbers of native bull trout and westslope cutthroat trout.