Sunday, April 14, 2024
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Mack Days: Perfect weather for opening weekend

by CSKT Fisheries
| March 21, 2024 12:00 AM

The 2024 Spring Mack Days on Flathead Lake, sponsored by the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes and sanctioned by Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks, began Thursday, March 14, and wrap up May 11.

Mack Days fishing events, held each spring and fall, are a fish conservation effort designed to lower the numbers of non-native voracious feeding lake trout in Flathead Lake to increase the numbers of native bull trout and westslope cutthroat, which were the dominant fish of the lake for hundreds of years.

The event offers up to $225,000 in cash and prizes to the many qualifying hard-working anglers who must turn in at least 11 lake trout to earn bonus dollars, which go up as their totals go up. Tagged fish winners can claim $100 to $10,000, and lottery-prize winners can take home $100-$2,000; prizes are also available in different categories.

The $10,000 tagged lake trout “Leto” (meaning hidden one) is somewhere out there waiting for a lucky angler to entice him to hit their lure. There are also three $5,000 and six $1,000 tagged fish, and more thand 9,000 others with values from $100 to $500.

The warm weather on opening weekend was great for fishing and fun. Turning in perfect first-day totals of 100 on Thursday were Bob Turner, Kolton Turner and Jason Mahlen. Overall, the first-day total came to a whopping 986 lake-trout entries.

Turning in tagged lake trout the first weekend were: David McDaniel, Polson, $200; Mike Benson, Lonepine, Chris Demmons, Missoula, Tristan Persico, Missoula, and Jerry Benson, Plains, $100 tags; and Chris Shae of Kalispell, $100 and $200 tags.

The Top Twenty Anglers category is led by Jason Mahlen and Kolton Turner, both from Kalispell, who are tied with 300 entries apiece from Friday through Sunday. Bob Turner of Kalispell ran out of daylight on Sunday, coming in with 99, which brought his total to 299. Five anglers tallied 100 on Friday, including Mahlen, and Kolton and Bob Turner, plus Jerry Benson of Plains and Mike Benson of Lonepine.

Tyler Varga of Kalispell ending up with 99 fish Saturday, after losing his last catch of the day just as it came up to the boat. Tyler is in fourth place with 224 total; Jerry Benson is fifth with 217; Jake North of Denton, sixth with 202; Ken Varga of Kalispell, seventh with 197; Felix Gauci of Stevensville, eighth with 196; Mike Benson of Lonepine, ninth with 194; and Clint Speer of Kalispell is 10th with 177.

The total catch is at 6,625, with 986 Thursday, 2,171 Friday, 1,983 Saturday, and 1,485 Sunday. Total lake trout entries for Friday to Sunday is 5,639, compared to the highest weekend total of 6,138 recorded in 2017. The second highest was 5,987 in 2016.

Brodie Smith of Kalispell has grown up fishing on the lake and his expertise is showing. He is leading the 13-17 Category with 89 entries. Lane Brazda of Missoula is in second with 14, and Kennedy Yang of Missoula is third with 12. In the 12 and Under group, Eli Yang of Missoula leads with 11; Mason Cusker of Bigfork is second with four, and Gage Spring of Alberton and James Kuchera of Kalispell each have two.

Lady angler Melissa Triano of Bigfork is in first in the women’s category with 24 entries; second place is Jamie Caldwell of Kalispell with 13; Aryahna Stevenson and Connie Jones of Kalispell are tied for third with 11; and Shirley Batz of Kalispell sits in fifth with seven.

Felix Gauci is leading the 70 and Over group with 196; second is Mike Benson with 194; third is Jack Kirkland with 132; fourth is Marty Herak with 38; and fifth is Wes Wilkinson with 27 entries.

Winners of the weekend prizes were: Matt Brazda, $200; and Bob Turner, Larry Ashwell, Bryan Long, and Gene Corne, all with $100 awards.

Smallest lake trout entry so far is Michael Stevenson with a 236mm-9.3” and Shawn Stevenson with 217mm-8.5” entries. There are no large lake trout entries yet; to qualify, anglers must pull in fish 36 inches or over and with a weight of 20 pounds or more.

Entries continue to be taken until the end of the event. We apologize: our website is currently under reconstruction. Please send entry information, including name, mailing address, telephone number, and age if 70 or over to cindy.benson@cskt.org or call 406-270-3386. You can also enter at the end of a day of fishing when you turn in your catch.