From the Spokesman Review
Clark Fork pike bite: A few fly fishers have been startled recently to learn something fish biologists have known for years: Northern pike are hanging out in eddies and frog water throughout much of the Clark Fork River.
A fly-fishing guide, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of a shunning by trout purists, said he'd never thought of targeting pike until recently, when he saw a bait fisherman soaking smelt in a big eddy near Superior, Mont.
The fly fisher fetched a 4-inch trout streamer pattern from his fly box, tied it onto his 9-foot, 12-pound leader and gave it a try.
On the second cast with a floating line and a 5-weight trout rod, a pike approaching 20 pounds slammed the leech.
"It was a pretty epic battle," the angler said. "The biggest fish I've ever caught on a fly."
The exhilaration over landing the toothy monster transformed to shock as the angler and his partner eventually hooked 15 northerns (while the bait fisherman caught two).
"I couldn't believe there were so many," he said, noting that he bonked every one of the pike.
"It seems like this is a new thing, but then I ask myself how often I've cast a Bunny Leech into a back eddy this time of year."
Ladd Knotek, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks fisheries biologist in Missoula, said he's not surprised at this and similar stories he's been hearing from fly fishers recently.
"Pike have been in the Clark Fork system for quite a while, but in low numbers," he said. "Only recently have more people started to notice."
That's probably because the pike population is expanding.
"In about 2000, pike really took off in Milltown (Reservoir)," Knotek said. "We've been reducing their numbers for the past three years pretty effectively to prepare for the removal of the dam, but every drawdown flushes some pike downstream.
"Pike numbers are high below the dam and we've found pike intermittently all the way to the Flathead."
The good news for trout anglers is that the Clark Fork in the St. Regis region is a single channel that doesn't have much pike habitat.
"But anywhere you find big eddies or backwaters, you'll find pike," Knotek said.
Electrofishing surveys routinely find 10- to 12-pound pike, but generally in areas where they probably aren't a limiting factor to trout, he said.
The fly fisher I interviewed generally confirmed this in several subsequent outings to target Clark Fork pike.
"I've caught pike every time," he said, noting that he's gone to a 7-weight rod and 20-pound leader, but has yet to land a 15-pike limit. "They've been from 4 to 20 pounds. I open them all up and they don't have trout in their stomachs, just whitefish – up to 15 inches long."