Over a 25-day stretch in April and Could, Montana angler Kolton Turner hauled in a staggering 2,089 lake trout to win the 2023 Spring Mack Days fishing event on Flathead Lake, an hour and a half north of Missoula, Montana. In whole, contestants landed $225,000 in money and prizes whereas eradicating a complete of 33,297 invasive lakers from the fishery. 

The spring occasion, coordinated by the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes (CSKT), was the forty third biannual operating of the event, which began in 2002. Over 200 anglers braved spring snow, wind, and rain to take part between March 16 and Could 13.

“The inception of the occasion got here from a co-management plan that was signed within the yr 2000 by the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes and the state of Montana,” event organizer and CSKT member Cindy Benson tells Area & Stream. “That was signed after a number of conferences and public involvement to resolve how they have been going to scale back the non-native lake trout in Flathead Lake and improve native fish numbers. The anglers that have been at these conferences again then mentioned, ‘In the event you’re going to do something on this lake, allow us to be a part of it.’”

Turner grew up fishing the Mack Days event, and he’s received the highest angler prize for 3 consecutive years, in line with Benson. The highest 5 finishers boated a mixed whole of some 7,500 fish. The most important fish of the event weighed 36.6 kilos and measured greater than 45 inches. It was caught by Bryan Lengthy of Kalispell.

A Twin Method to Lake Trout Suppression

Shaped by glaciation on the finish of the final Ice Age, Flathead Lake is the biggest naturally occurring lake west of the Mississippi River. And its water is a few of the cleanest and most pristine within the nation. Lake trout have been launched to the system in 1905. Since then, the non-native species has led to dramatic declines in native populations of bull trout and westslope cutthroat.

“Mack Days” attracts anglers from across the state of Montana and everywhere in the nation. The event’s distinctive format permits contributors to fish as many or as few days as they want. Contestants vie for 900 tagged fish, which carry prizes starting from $100 to $10,000. “They actually sit up for profitable some {dollars} off of the tagged fish,” says Benson, who hits the lake with a crew of biologists the week earlier than the occasion begins to tag prize-winning fish. “Those that don’t get caught are nonetheless within the operating when the autumn occasion rolls round.”

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In accordance with CSKT fisheries biologist Barry Hansen, between the spring and the autumn Mack Days occasions, the tribes take away wherever from 50,000 and 60,000 invasive lakers from Flathead annually. The event is a part of a two-pronged strategy to lake trout suppression that additionally consists of gillnetting. “The 2 methods complement each other,” Hansen tells F&S. “The anglers can catch smaller fish extra persistently than we are able to with nets, they usually see so much much less bycatch of native bull trout than we do by means of our in-house gillnetting operation.”

Hansen says it’s inconceivable to quantify the whole variety of lake trout that’ve been faraway from Flathead since CSKT started suppression efforts greater than 20 years in the past, however he believes that the discount has been substantial. “That is the biggest lake within the West, and it had the biggest lake trout inhabitants within the West after we started,” says Hansen. “It’s been fairly a serious job, however with the angling public’s assist, we’re making strides.”

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