Folks in western Montana know that Lake Mary Ronan can be a great fishery for kokanee salmon, trout, perch and largemouth bass.

Last year in July, the lake made the news when an angler reportedly caught two northern pike, one of which got away at the boat while the other made it into the net. That was not good news for anglers who love to fish the cozy little lake just west of Flathead Lake near Proctor. Pike potentially could destroy the excellent kokanee salmon and trout populations in Lake Mary Ronan.

The lake is again in the news, but this time for a good reason: An angler caught a 21.5-pound rainbow trout while he was kokanee salmon fishing. Jim Lowe, 72, of Greycliff hooked into the monster of a trout Aug. 5.

“Jim’s family has been coming to vacation on the lake since the early 1930s,” said Mark Thomas of Camp Tuffit, the iconic resort established by his grandfather Charlie in 1917. “They were one of our first guests way back then. Jim's grandfather knew my grandfather.”

Lowe was fishing in 30 feet of water when the whopper of a trout bit. He took the fish back to Greycliff, a small town east of Big Timber, and had it weighed on a certified scale. It was a 34-inch-long triploid Arlee rainbow.

Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks started planting triploid Arlee rainbows in 2008 when the natural run failed due to perch competition and predation. Former FWP fish biologist Jim Vashro explained the process of creating a triploid Arlee rainbow.

“In a hatchery, fish eggs are treated after fertilization with precise heat and pressure at precise intervals so the resulting fish have three strands of chromosomes (triploid) instead of the normal two (diploid) strands in their DNA,” he said. “Triploid fish appear normal, but can’t reproduce so it is hoped they will grow longer/larger. Their numbers can be controlled and they won’t interbreed with other reproducing fish. Triploids in general haven’t done much, but in some cases triploids – and Arlees – make a breakthrough.”

You can view the huge rainbow at montanaoutdoor.com.

The Chinook salmon bite on Fort Peck Reservoir has been going strong over the past week. The landlocked salmon that are planted every year by FWP can get as big as 31.13 pounds, which happens to be the Montana state record and was caught at the face of the dam on Fort Peck way back in 1991. This year, the salmon are running as small as 5 pounds and as big as 22 pounds.

Todd Young of Glasgow and a couple of his buddies, Heath Headley and Kirk Boyer, went fishing a week ago Sunday and caught six chinook salmon, in addition to more than 20 lake trout.

“We were trolling in 80 feet of water over 150 feet,” said Young. “We were using a blue flasher and a glow squid to catch the salmon and a spoon to catch the lake trout.”

Last Saturday, Young went out and caught three chinook salmon before they were blown off the water by high winds.

My son Harry and his girlfriend Stephanie Klimaszewski and RJ Wimett went fishing with me on Flathead Lake on Monday. We ended up with seven lake trout using the whole-bait setup with a 9-inch pike minnow in 94 feet of water.


Mark Ward’s statewide Montana Outdoor Radio Show airs Saturdays from 6 to 8 a.m. in Missoula on KGVO 1290 AM. Email Ward at captain@montanaoutdoor.com.

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