Haugan hosts kids fishing day at Savenac

·4 min read

Jun. 22—This family event has been taking place in Haugan for so long that the original year it began isn't honestly known. But a cooperation between the Montana FWP, Lolo National Forest and Friends of Savenac turned out with free fishing gear for kids to take home, hotdogs, chips and beverages with around 250 trout planted two days before the big day.

"It's become so routine", said Josh Schulze, West Zone Fish Biologist with Lolo National Forest, "that we just call the FWP Jocko Hatchery near Arlee and tell them the day of the event and they say, 'Done!' and it's taken care of."

This was his 5th year being involved in the event and guessed about 20 kids were fishing at midday, not counting the paparazzi of parents. No fishing age limit and no fish limit, Schulze reported it was about 50-50 on catch-and-release or taking their catch home.

"The weather plays a big part. On a rainy day, we can get only a couple of people but on the nice sunny ones, we have around 50 kids fishing. And this is an acre pond that's pretty shallow with very few places for fish to hide so a few days after today, the pond is mostly empty from raptors enjoying easy meals."

One family was outfitted with gear and bait for seven of their nine children and an observer could tell that after not having many bites, let alone landing a fish for an hour, that water splashing provided more entertainment. From Tacoma, there was a father with his two boys, ages 8 and 5, who was baiting hooks, coaching fishing techniques and philosophizing to them on the virtue of patience. When the youngest caught the first fish, the oration turned to fair sportsmanship.

What do Forest Service fish biologists do when they are not organizing and participating in kids fishing days?

"Mostly habitat work'" Schulze said. "I think about it in two parts. One is habitat protection which is when we (Forest Service) are doing other land management activities such as timber harvest or we're going to build a road for access, we're doing assessments to make sure those activities are getting completed but they are also not degrading the streams or having any adverse impact on the fish."

Bull Trout are the first species most people think of when it comes to protection and in this area, the news is dismal.

"Most of our long-term research like looking at the red counts each year in different areas, a lot of them are showing declines. We still keep trying and many (streams) have a fair amount of bull trout in these cold-water systems, so stabilizing is a primary focus."

The overall fish populations are shifting, he said.

"As the waters are warming, we're starting to see some non-native fish take a stronger foothold. Not necessarily the bucket-biologists dumping fish into the waters but the legacy-affect which is from years of transplanting German browns, brook trout and rainbows from hatcheries to supplement the population and diversity that they've been here long enough to naturally reproduce even though we don't stock them anymore."

Protecting and preserving the native fishery in this region of westslope cutthroat, bull trout and mountain whitefish require the coldest of the cold water and pristine habitats, is where the attention is as these places are usually in the steepest terrain and densest forests.

The Savenac Visitor Center is not open this year or next because of an extensive remodel taking place and that is the reason the American flag isn't flying. But visitors are welcome to walk the grounds and the volunteers are always delighted to put down a paint brush and share the history that they know of this famous setting.

Three campground hosts were under a tent cooking hotdogs and serving them to anyone who was hungry along with chips and drinks. They had just mowed the lawn the day before so that it was immaculate for the event, but also because of the pride they take in keeping the Savenac Nursery a beautiful setting.

Another rain sprinkle arrived about 1:45 p.m., which was the signal to reel in the bobbers, take down the Forest Service and Friends of Savenac tents and load up the cars after spending a day in a gorgeous setting with outdoorsy like-minded people who were grateful to have had the day together. Even with the fishing being s-l-o-w.

Recent Headlines