Tag Archives: Fort Peck

2nd Annual Fort Peck Fishing Trip

Last year we were invited by our friends, Kevin & Crystal, to go along with them to Fort Peck Lake here in Montana.  We all had such a great time, we decided to go for a 2nd Annual trip.  Fort Peck Lake is below Fort Peck dam and is 134 miles long at normal operating level, with 1,520 miles of shoreline.

We kept a journal this year and have lots of pictures to share.  If you get a chance to fish this lake, I would definitely recommend you do it.

*Note: Not all fish pictures are necessarily the exact fish that corresponds with the writing.  Once you take this many fish pictures, it’s hard to remember which was which.  But I did try to keep the actual type of fish accurate to the text.  Also, some days include a fish count.  And some days I forgot and there were too many fish and too many days for me to remember. Lots of fish, people, lots of fish…

 

Saturday Morning:

I’m opening up our posts about Fort Peck through the haze of having had a nap after being on a boat all morning. The naps are one of the big perks of these fishing camps… I fell asleep to the feel of rising up and down on the waves since my body seems to think I am still out on the water. It’s been a pretty good first day… We got an early start and made breakfast burritos with some pre-made eggs and sausage. We grabbed our mugs of tea or coffee and headed out.

We have come to Hell Creek both times as there is a nice campsite, launching area and we have gotten a pretty good feel for where we will have success fishing in some of the nearby coves.  The roads getting here are better than last year, but 30 miles of washboard gravel road tends to wreak a little havoc. As we clean layers of dust off gear or tighten bolts and screws, the phrase “welcome to Hell Creek” has been bantered between us all. As we were heading out on the water this morning we discussed which area we wanted to try and both Bob and Kevin were anxious to get back into the cove where they caught some really nice Small Mouth Bass last year. We motor our way back and see the familiar landmarks and settle in to troll our way up this finger of Fort Peck.

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The first fish in the boat is a medium Bass from Bob. Three more follow, increasing in size, from both guys and ending in one smaller one from Bob. Amongst them, Kevin caught a Crappie that wasn’t a keeper. Kevin keeps saying he knows there’s a big Pike in there as he watches big blips come across the fish finder. And he proves himself right as his line starts zinging along, the tip of the rod curving down to the water. He’s super excited and we all jump into action, grabbing nets and moving other fishing poles. Kevin is reeling hard and this fish is just taking off with his line, while Crystal is trying to maneuver the boat to allow Kevin to get this guy on the boat. Kevin works the fish close to the surface and we catch sight of that big, angular Pike head and I can’t help but exclaim “He’s gorgeous!” which causes the fish to panic and dive down. Kevin gets him to the surface twice more before we get him in the net. Thankfully Mr. Pike had taken a roll or two and was wrapped securely in Kevin’s 8# line. Bob nets him up and Kevin goes into celebration mode. It’s a super decent fish. He weighs in at 11 lb 5 oz and is 38” long. There’s a lot of teasing about bigger fish that everyone else has caught. But really, it’s a nice catch.

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As the bite dies down, we head into shore to replenish supplies and clean fish so we will be ready to head out for the evening.

Saturday Evening:

We head out for an evening of fishing as the sun beats down. I don’t know what the temperature is, but the forecast for this week is a high of 105° F and it’s HOT.  Last year we didn’t bring swimming clothes, but this year we are ready. After fishing for a short time and not seeing a lot of response from the fish, Kevin decides to change into his swim trunks. We all politely avert our eyes, but Kevin has a wardrobe malfunction and can’t get his balance, we all start laughing as we hear him struggle which causes him to crack up. A boat that had been further away is drawing closer and jokes about them being traumatized by his bare, white bum start flying around. Crystal is standing at the back of the boat watching to see if Kevin needs help and I glance up at her and realize that there’s a very clear, miniature view of the front of the boat in the reflection of her sunglasses. “I can’t look at you, or towards the front!” I say. By this time we are incapacitated with laughter and Kevin sounds like he is starting to panic. Crystal goes to the front and I guess they get Kevin sorted out because we hear a splash and he’s in the water. After he gets cooled off, we try a couple of other spots to fish and end up with just a small Bass that we don’t keep.

 

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This little guy had big ideas…

Saturday Fish Count:

Bob: 2 Small Mouth Bass

Kevin: 2 Small Mouth Bass

1 Pike

1 Crappie

Crystal: 1 Small Mouth Bass

Katrina: 0

Sunday Morning:

On Sunday, I took a little writer’s retreat and relaxed at camp. Everyone else went out but only caught a few super small fish and didn’t keep any.

Sunday Evening:

Sunday night was gorgeous, we went out around 7pm and the water was cobalt blue with reflections of a lavender sunset to the west.

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We pulled into a cove and saw fish jumping, which always seems like a good sign. The Red-winged blackbirds were calling to one another and huge dragonflies were hovering over the water. Kevin caught a barely keepable Walleye early on. We were trolling around and suddenly Crystal says “Is that a snake?!” We all rush to look and instead of a snake, see a monster of a Pike with another fish in it’s mouth, breaking the surface of the water as he attempted to get his meal down his gullet. We watched him as he made an appearance on both sides of the boat and saw one more flip of his long body further away and he was gone. We didn’t figure we would catch that guy, since he had just eaten, but we were now hoping for a big Pike in this cove. Crystal caught a little Perch and Kevin caught a dinky Walleye.

DSC_4768We were trolling around a flooded area and Bob had on an orange spinner as he casted in between snags. Suddenly he had a fish on and after working a few minutes got a nice Pike on the boat. It was a nice way to end a slower day.

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Monday Morning:

Monday rolled around nice and hot again, with 99° F in the shade at 2pm. We got a later start and headed out at 7:30am. We had some nice cloud cover to start but it blew off pretty quick, although there was just enough of a breeze to keep from sweltering on the boat. Crystal brought along a floating tube and cooled off on that and we took a swimming break as well.

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Crystal caught a Walleye on a Perch colored Colorado blade. Kevin caught a Walleye and a Perch that he threw back.

Bob caught a Pike that was about 5 lbs and 32” on a yellow and orange Colorado blade on a bottom bouncer with a worm.

It started to get hotter and the fishing died down so we headed in to take a break for mid-day.

Fish Count:

Bob: 1 Pike

Kevin: 1 Walleye, 1 Perch

Crystal: 1 Walleye

Katrina: 0
Monday Evening

This was the hottest day of the trip, at 102 ° F. So we took a break from fishing in the evening and did some housekeeping around the camp and some napping. This was a serious napping day, especially since we had splurged on a campsite with electricity the day before and we had a/c in the camper.

Tuesday Morning

4th of July – ‘Merica… Bob & Katrina’s Anniversary

We woke up extra early and got out on the lake at 6am in hopes of getting some time out fishing before it got too warm since it was so hot the day before. We pulled up to the first spot, hoping to land on the fish and get going. After a few minutes, Bob was able to pull up a small mouth bass. This fish was his first of the day and seemed like a good start. After a few minutes, there was not much biting and we moved to another spot. Kevin caught a perch that he threw back and then a fairly decent Crappie using a Gulp Alive minnow on a jigging head. Kevin was frustrated because he was getting bites but not getting anything hooked, so he decided to keep the Crappie. But shortly after he caught a real nice Walleye. I finally hooked into a little Bass that I threw back in the drink.

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I probably would have caught more fish, but I got a little caught up in the relaxing part of fishing and didn’t spend quite as much time with my line in the water as I could have. Anyway, since I finally caught a fish, I decided I needed a break and sat down on the back edge of the boat to drink my tea. Bob was messing around with getting a lure from Kevin in the front and as he came back he dropped it and it clattered on the bottom of the boat. He asked if I could help him out and I turned around to see him kneeling down on one knee to get it. Right off, I knew he was up to something. He handed a big, shiny, lure up to me and I suspiciously took it. Looking at it more closely, I realized it had fancy engraving across the front of it. I looked at it more closely and read “Marry me, but this time in Ireland.”

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And I figured that would be fine, so I said “Sure.” Actually I told him he was crazy and then I said sure. Which is a bit of a joke because I don’t do great with things that involve emotions and when he proposed 14 years ago I didn’t say “Yes!” and cry and get all scream-y like they do in the romantic movies. I said “Sure.” I always explain now that it’s really a good thing because it meant I was sure. So that was fun.

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After awhile things calmed down and we went back to fishing and Kevin caught a Pike. We could see a lot of big Pike in the shallows, feeding on minnows and other fish. We continued fishing without catching anything worth mentioning and decided to head in until it cooled off a bit.

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Tuesday Evening

We got back out on the water at a little after 5pm. It was a beautiful last evening of our trip. There was a cool breeze and some decent cloud cover which made for a pastel sunset. We had a Bald Eagle that was hanging out in the cove we were in and we got a chance to observe him which was pretty neat, especially as it was the 4th of July. He flew to a couple different vantage points, at one time giving some geese a heart attack. We also saw mule deer coming down to drink at the water’s edge. Kevin caught another Pike and two walleye and I caught my second fish of the trip, a Bass. Back at shore, Kevin showed us some good tips on how to cut up fish and we will get some video up soon (hopefully).

 

Wednesday Morning

Bob and Kevin went out for a short time while Crystal slept in (she’s 9 months pregnant so it was totally warranted). I got up at 5:30am and went looking for toads to draw in my Nature Journal. We had caught a few last year and I was hoping to find one this year too. I didn’t find one, so I had to settle with a cool feather and my new bluebird friend. Crystal woke up after awhile and we relaxed at camp and drank some coffee. The guys showed back up shortly with two walleye, a drum and a Bass from Kevin. Bob had caught a Bass and a Gold Eye that he threw back. Then we broke up camp and said good-bye to Fort Peck for another year.

Alright, thank you to those that made it all the way to the end of this mega-post.  For those of you still interested, I am going to add a few more random pictures and fill you in on some lure information.

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*some affiliate links included

Fishing Gear We Used:

Bottom Bouncing with Worm Harness: Kevin and Crystal had made up a bunch of the worm harnesses so I don’t have a link for you.   We are going to learn how to make them and do them as a handicraft (think life skills) in our homeschool, so I will get a tutorial up for you.DSC_4715

“The Ambassador” (Not the actual name, but a name it had previously earned for helping Kevin bridge the gap between this world and the underwater one) Kevin caught a little of everything with this guy.  It’s actually a Perch colored jointed shad from Rapala.

JDR Lures: We used a variety of these, some of our favorites were the Bleeding Eye Brown Trout, Danger Close casting spoon and the Perch casting spoon

Berkley Gulp Alive Minnows: These were pretty hot for us.  We used them on a jigging head and had pretty good success with these.  Maybe the most success out of everything we tried.  Bob has a little container of liquid that comes with some of them and it adds a scent to the bait, so maybe that helped too.

 

 

Summer Fishing Series: Part II-4th of July Fishing at Fort Peck

Ft. Peck 4th of July weekend-

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For this part of the series Katrina and I joined a couple of friends, Kevin and Crystal for a fishing trip to Ft. Peck at the southern part of the late had Hell Creek marina.  This would be our first time fishing there on that arm of the lake.

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During the weeks leading up to the trip both Katrina and I were figuring out what we would need to bring for both food, water, and fishing gear. We brought what we thought would be a good batch of gear.  A medium-light action spinning combo, a medium action spinning combo, and my typical tackle box:  basically the spoons from JDR Specialty Tackle that I had purchased on the last trip.

For the food we borrowed a Yeti 125 from my dad so that we would have just one spot to keep the food cool and get the fish cooled down until we were able to get home.  We wrapped dry ice in newspaper and put it in the bottom with regular ice over the top.  It worked so well, we were able to freeze the fish we caught and it kept our ice from melting the whole time.

About a week prior to the trip, we met up with Crystal and Kevin, who we would be getting to know very well during the next week (if want to get to know someone, the best way I have always found is to go “live” with them for a period of time by camping, hunting and generally being outdoors).  We talked through some of the specifics of what each couple would be bringing so that we could prevent doubling up on things.  This really set us up for a good time!

On the night before we were going to leave for the trip, we got as much of the gear ready as we could, so that we would be ready for the next day of travel.  After I wrapped up my work the next day, we loaded up the cooler, our gear, and the kids who were going to stay with grandparents who happen to be on the way.

We got the kids settled with their grandpa and grandma and met up with Kevin and Crystal in Lewistown.  This is where the fun began.  We hooked up the boat to my pickup as it was better suited to pull it and could handle all of our combined gear.  We got gas and then were on our way.

We arrived to the camping spot about 12:30 am, which was about what we figured, based on when we had left Lewistown.  We then started stealth-fully looking for a camping spot which had shade during the time when we would possibly in camp.  We found a spot and pulled out the tent to get it set up.

We had just recently purchased a tent from our local Sam’s Club and we had set it up in the yard the week before, that was helpful since we were setting up the tent in darkness.  We got it up just as the wind started blowing.  We found out one of the legs was a bit weak and we supported it with a bit of duct tape.

After finishing up the tent we went to getting the truck and camper unloaded. At this point we were all a bit tired and crashed.

Day 1 of Fishing:
We woke up early and made breakfast and tea for the girls and talked about what we would try to do to get the trip started off well.  We ate and got on the water relatively early and we were fishing!

The day started off kind of slowly.  We decided since I had had some luck bottom bouncing with my dad a few weeks earlier, that we would try that.  We were able to get a couple fish here and there, but nothing truly significant.

Katrina: I am going to interject here and just say that I had never been fishing like this.  My previous experience with fishing had been sitting on a bank, throwing the line out and waiting.  So I really didn’t know what to expect when I found out that we would be sitting all day in a boat.  I brought a lot of books and was prepared to nap!  But what I found out was, it was amazing out there.  There is a lot more to the ways you can fish from a boat which makes it really interesting.  And it was just so relaxing and fun, especially in the morning, the water is beautiful, the fresh air smells fantastic, and you don’t really have any responsibilities on a boat.  It’s not like you are expected to accomplish anything besides fishing out there!

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Day 2

Once again we woke early.  This time we tried further down the lake, we found where the electronics said we had fish, but they were not biting.  We used all types of colors, ranges of depths, and speeds, but to no avail.  The fish were just not biting.

We decided to take a break as it was very hot.  We moved into the main part of the lake and before we knew it Kevin had jumped in.  We all decided to follow suit and jumped in after him.  This was a great change to the day, it being so slow for so long.

After we all clambered back into the boat, we decided to try going around the edge of a cove trolling some of the spoons from JDR specialty tackle while bottom bouncing.  We were trolling along when Katrina called “I think I’m hung up!”  When I turned to look, the rod was bouncing heavily!  After a few more moments of reeling, to our disappointment, the line went slack.  After reeling in the line, I looked at the end and it was a clean break, telling us it wasn’t a snag, but rather a pike’s teeth that had done the job.  Unfortunately, we had not set up that pole with a steel leader.  Just a reminder that when you can, use a steel leader to help get the fish in the boat.

We moved down the bay, and a few minutes in, we were all reeling  up again as Kevin had hooked in to a fish.  However, this wasn’t an ordinary fish.  I happened to be watching Kevin as the fish hammered down the bottom bouncer and almost took the rod into the lake.  At times during this fight, the fish seemed to tear line from the reel, then Kevin would be able to catch up to him and get him closer to the boat.  However, after the five minute struggle, the fish, with his sharp teeth, cut through the line and left Kevin struggling to accept what had just happened.

After that fish, we decided to keep fishing that bay, as it seemed to be holding fish that were biting.  After another few minutes, we found out that we were going to have a “crappie” day!  Kevin hooked into the first one, and then one after another we all started catching these great pan fish!  We also caught a few walleye during that day and packed it up to head to camp and have another great dinner done by the whole crew.

Day 3 – Redemption

After talking the previous night, the gals decided they would like a morning off to sleep a bit more and enjoy their warm drinks (coffee and tea) while Kevin and I decided to head out.  This proved to be good for us, bad for the gals.

We decided to try to catch the walleye bite in the morning in the same bay that we had fished the day before.

We got to the bay early with no other boats around.  We decided not only to try to be there in the morning, but to also try  plastic baits on a jig head instead of spoons and bottom bouncers.  Almost right off we started catching crappie and a walleye here and there.  It was fun to be catching fish consistently which was a change from the past two days.

One of my casts in particular I threw towards the bank where we had fish the day before. This time, to my surprise, I ended up hooking in to something different!  It struggled and pulled differently than any of the fish I had caught prior, and after a couple of minutes, I ended up bringing to the surface a really nice smallmouth bass! We brought him in to the boat and took a couple of good pictures and then moved down shore, not 10 minutes later I brought in another one just about the same size!  I couldn’t believe it!  Two really nice bass within a couple of minutes.

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After the two bass I thought it had been a really successful day and didn’t really expect much else from the day.  It was then I ended up hooking into another nice fish.  As I was reeling, it felt different as it was coming up.  When it hit the surface I was ecstatic.  It was about a 5 lb walleye, my biggest to date!  Kevin was giving me a bad time about my luck as we took a couple of pictures and put it on to the stringer.  Since it was a big fish I decided to put two hooks through his mouth so he wouldn’t get off.

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We kept on fishing for awhile, still in awe over the difference in this day.  I decided that I would look to see how the fish on the stringer were doing.  When I looked down I saw something terrifying.  My walleye had worked his way off one of the hooks and the other was open!  I set down my rod and was going to pull it up slowly so I could replace and close the hooks, but when he felt me pull up on the stringer, he shook right off of the hook and back in to the water.

This was devastating as he was by far the best Walleye I have caught and I definitely wanted to show Katrina a good sized walleye.  But after a few minutes we both got back to fishing.

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Kevin, running the boat and fishing from the bow, then got a bite and hooked into a good fish.  The fish came up relatively quickly, but it was another 5lb walleye.  Although we both knew it was a different fish, I couldn’t let him get off easy, so I told him thank you for getting my fish back into the boat.  This time we ran the string through the gill so there was no way for him to get off.

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It was about lunch time after Kevin’s fish so we headed back to shore to eat lunch and pick up the girls.  We then went right back out to that bay to see what else it would hold.

To our dismay, the rest of the day was filled with a fish here and a fish there, although Crystal did get a good sized bass.

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Day 4 –(4th of July) All good things must come to an end.

We woke up early to get a couple of hours on the water. Although this was a last ditch attempt we didn’t have very much luck.  A few fish here and there.  Kevin did, at the end of the morning, finally did catch the pike of the trip.

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The clouds doing their part to celebrate the 4th of July

Things we did right:

Used electronics to find the fish

 kept trying different depths, colors, and methods

When we found something that worked, we stuck with it

Having friends and family around

Things we could have done better:

HAVE A LIVEWELL

Asked about what was working from a local shop before fishing.