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Spring Mack Days officially underway, helps reduce non-native fish in Flathead Lake

Spring Mack Days
Mack Days Poster
Cindy Benson
Spring Mack Days 2023
CSKT Native Fish Keepers
Posted at 4:54 PM, Mar 16, 2023

BLUE BAY - Anglers will be sprawled across Flathead Lake for the next nine weeks as Spring Mack Days is officially underway.

The fishing event put on by the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes (CSKT) gives away cash prizes for catching lake trout, in an effort to reduce non-native fish in Flathead Lake.

“It’s getting to where we’re seeing people fishing as adults that were little kids when we first started, but that’s pretty cool,” said CSKT Fisheries Specialist Cindy Benson.

Mack Days on Flathead Lake has grown exponentially since its inception in 2002.

Cindy Benson
Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes Fisheries Specialist Cindy Benson says the Mack Days fishing competition is continuing to grow.

“We had 888 fish turned in. Today, we get more than that in single days,” Benson noted.

Benson said invasive lake trout were introduced into Flathead Lake in the 1900s.

The lake trout prey on native fish such as the bull and westslope cutthroat trout, decimating their populations over the years.

“As this reduction program proceeds, what we’re hoping to see is an increase in the populations of the native fish," Benson noted.

Mack Days Poster
Invasive lake trout that were introduced into Flathead Lake in the 1900s prey on native fish such as the bull and westslope cutthroat trout, decimating their populations over the years.

That’s where Mack Days comes into play.

CSKT puts on the fishing event twice a year, giving away cash prizes, and encouraging anglers to help them manage the lake trout population.

“The Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes knows that it’s expensive to go out here and fish and do this," Benson said. "They appreciate the help, they know that anglers are a big part of this reduction program."

CSKT provides cash prizes for the event and this year’s purse totals $225,000 in a variety of categories.

Spring Mack Days 2023
The Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes provide cash prizes for the event and this year’s purse for Spring Mack Days totals out at $225,000.

“Youth categories, ladies’ category, we have an over 70 category, those guys are also saying we need over 80 now," Benson said.

The event attracts anglers to northwest Montana and keeps them coming back.

“People come from several different states and fish in this event, people are planning their vacations around the events, you know they’re asking a year ahead of time," Benson told MTN News.

Benson hopes this year's Spring Mack Days brings in up to 30,000 lake trout, helping protect native fish populations in Flathead Lake for generations to come.

CSKT Native Fish Keepers
Spring Mack Days organizers hope this year's event brings in up to 30,000 lake trout, helping protect native fish populations in Flathead Lake for generations to come.

“This is a beautiful spot, it’s someplace that we need to take care of, we need to treasure it," Benson said. "And I believe that in doing this conservation effort to help our native fish, it will make it a better place to be.”

Fish can be turned in at Blue Bay Monday thru Thursday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. and on Friday thru Sunday at a half-hour before dark or 9 p.m. — whichever comes first.

There will be fish pickups at the following locations during Spring Mack Days:

  • Big Arm State Boat Ramp: 5 p.m. until 5:30 p.m.
  • Salish Point: 6 p.m. until 6:15 p.m.
  • Somers State Boat Ramp: 3 p.m. to 4 p.m.
  • Wayfarers Boat Ramp: 4:30 p.m. until 5 p.m.

Additional information about Spring Mack Days can be found at https://mackdays.com/.