Early spring brings boaters and watercraft users of all types out and onto the abundant and majestic waterways of Kootenai Country Montana. With more than 20-rivers, 150-named lakes, approximately 250-named creeks and 3-reservoirs, our northwest corner of Big Sky Country offers a myriad of opportunities. With waters of every variety, there is truly something for everyone.
But like the melting snowpack draining into the valleys from loftier mountain heights, the flow of outdoor on the water enthusiasts begins with trickles of watercraft and fishers. Thankfully though, it never gets too crowded on the turquoise glacial tilled waters of this relatively sparsely populated paradise.
Folks looking to land the "Big One," like the 33-pound, 1-ounce and 38.6-inch-long rainbow trout that made the state record in 1997 caught below the dam on the Kootenai persist in variable spring weather in boats of all types and arsenals of serious fishing gear. Camouflaged characters in 12 to 16-foot "V" Bow fishing boats blend in on generally all waters in our region. In early spring, open boats and modified bass boats begin to dot the larger lakes. Some of the larger bass boats are designed with bigger gunnels and are also used on our rivers. On the smaller lakes, Jonboats appear, and several are equipped with tunnel jets which allow them to not draw a lot of water and therefore can be used on rivers as well.
As things begin to warm up towards June, families and groups of friends take to pontoon boats, power boats and personal watercraft on our lakes and reservoirs to fish and sometimes just cruise to enjoy the days on the water together and the memories made. Some boaters camp out at one of the many abundant campgrounds scattered throughout Kootenai Country, many with concrete boat ramps. And some, craving the valued peace and quiet available here, simply slip into a cove for the night. Awakening in the morning, a heavenly peace envelops the crew of the craft like the mist on the water. After a hearty breakfast the sun is warming and the fishing begins again!
As it warms up even more, a rainbow of colorful personal watercraft and brightly dressed folks pilot their canoes, kayaks, float tubes, paddleboards, and rafts. Here, you can find not only fish and fun, but the solitude and peace that being "On the Water" brings. Whether you are gently paddling your canoe, kyak or raft across the placid waters of our stunning Lake Koocanusa or one of hundreds of smaller, yet equally breathtaking, lakes or braving the swift currents of the mighty Kootenai River or its tributaries, the serenity and excitement you will find is one of those transformative events you will never forget.
One of the newest trends among those seeking to connect to both themselves and nature is paddleboarding. From a gentle crossing of the water to a full on yoga experience atop these unique craft, it is just one more example of the limitless adventures here.
It’s your choice of going solo or with friends and there are crafts designed for any purpose you may desire. Stay safe and have your charts and maps on hand, as well as your emergency gear. Personal flotation devices are a must. Please avoid nesting areas of waterfowl and birds of prey such as loons and great blue herons. Some of these areas will be marked as "No Wake Zones." Be courteous too, and aware of other crews and crafts. Above all, get out on the water in Kootenai Country Montana and enjoy the beauty of it all!
Boat dealers in the Libby area include Northwest Motorsports, and Rick Breiland is quite saavy on the subject of what works well locally. They are located at 400 California Avenue in Libby or call (406) 293-9990. Dream Marine is located at 1001 Highway 37 just out of town or call (406) 293-8142. The Remp family has had this long standing business for more than 20-years and offer a large selection of crafts and repairs. Both outfits also carry clothing and accessories.
Area fishing guides include Dave Blackburn’s Kootenai Angler, located at 13546 Highway 37 or call (406) 293-7578. Also, Tim and Joanne Linehan’s outfit appropriately called Linehan Outfitting located at 482 Upper Ford Road near Yaak, Montana or call (406) 295-4872. Both Blackburn and Linehan offer lodging for fishers on the Kootenai River as well. Additionally, you can contact Kootenai River Outfitters at (406) 295-9444. Lenny Howell operates Silver Bow Outfitters at 500 East Fisher Road, Libby, MT. 59923. Lenny can be reached at (406) 293-4868.