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MARK WARD: Time here to go trolling for fish on Holter Reservoir

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Spring is here! One of the first sure signs of spring for me is when the ice comes off Holter Reservoir. I have a lot of fun trolling for rainbow trout in Holter. I also like to try my luck fishing for walleyes.

Paul from the Canyon Store in Wolf Creek - (406) 235-4111 - says the ice is off the lake.

"Tell them to bring their boats and they will probably catch all the trout they want to catch," he said.

Both boat ramps are open on the upper and lower campgrounds on Holter just above the dam.

"The walleye fishing is slow, but some anglers are fishing all the way upriver close to below the Hauser dam and catching a few," added Paul. "If you have a jet boat, you can get there, but with a prop you better know where you are going because the water gets shallow."

Trout anglers normally do well around Split Rock up to the northern part of Oxbow Bend past the cabins. Try trolling a size J-7 jointed rapala lure that is orange with a white underbelly. A fire-tiger colored one-16th ounce Mepps syclops also has worked well for me. In the spring, the fish are usually suspended in 5 to 15 feet of water.

Trolling boat anglers are not the only ones having fun catching trout at Holter, according to Paul.

"The two bays that both campground boat ramps are located in are a popular choice for shore anglers," he said

Paul recommends an egg sack, or if you want to fly-fish, try a lightning bug below your indicator.

It's a fun way to spend the day, especially if you want to take the kids fishing. They will have a good chance to catch a big fish.

Fishing on the Missouri River below Holter is improving.

"There is no doubt that the fishing is starting to improve. With the warmer weather on the Missouri, fly fisherman are using pink scuds and streamers for the best results," said Paul.

Elsewhere, the skwala hatch is still good on the Bitterroot River, according to Mike at Bob Ward and Sons in Hamilton.

"The skwala hatch is good on the Bitterroot and fly fishermen are also having some good luck with nymphs," said Mike. "I also received a report that the whitefish are still biting up the West Fork."

Steelhead fishing in Idaho has continued to be good on most days, despite high water.

"We hooked close to 30 fish over the weekend a week ago," said Kjel Olson of Missoula.

Some anglers are using a bead and a hook with a slip bobber setup. To view a video that I took while fishing recently on the North Fork, go to It might also be helpful for beginners to watch Jim Johnson explain the slip bobber setup.

The steelhead count, which has been impressive all year on the Clearwater River in Orofino, Idaho, is the main reason for the excellent fishing.

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


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