Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Travel: Fort Peck Part 2

Fort Peck Lake is surrounded by the sprawling (1 million acre plus) Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge (CMR). One of most remote spots in the lower 48 the CMR is home to just about every animal species found in the U.S. With the exception of grizzlies and wolves most of the wildlife Lewis and Clark encountered still live here--elk, whitetail and mule deer, bighorn sheep and antelope draw hunters from around the country and around the globe. As do upland birds such as sharp-tailed grouse, sage grouse, wild turkey, pheasant and Hungarian partridge. Waterfowl hunting is also a big draw.

Travel is difficult within the refuge as there are just a few all weather gravel roads the rest are gumbo and mostly impassable when wet. Locals live by the mantra "never plan on staying within the CMR without at least a week's worth of extra groceries and above all bring plenty of water"--potable water here is scarce to non-existent. It also pays to travel in pairs just in case.

Off road travel is a no-no but camping is allowed just about everywhere.

The lake itself ranks among the best spots in Montana. While walleye, pike and smallmouth bass are the big ticket items the number of species available is mind-boggling. Obviously crowds are not a problem and given the huge variety something it seems is always biting. Below are just some of the less well-known species:

Because the lake lies generally west to east (the way the wind blows most often) it should go without saying but the lake also ranks high among the potentially dangerous small-craft boating spots on the planet. In other words no place for sloppy seasmanship. Anglers should keep one eye on the water and the other eye on the sky and be prepared to run for cover at the slightest chance the wind might kick up.

Stay tuned...

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