Kalispell Man Wins Mack Days for Third Consecutive Year

Jason Mahlen holds off Shima fishing family in Flathead Lake fishing derby

By Tristan Scott
Anglers from Idaho head out from the Blue Bay Campground to fish during Mack Days on Flathead Lake. Beacon file photo

Even when the fishing’s good, the catching can still be bad.

That wasn’t a problem for Jason Mahlen, of Kalispell, who last weekend won the Spring Mack Days championship on Flathead Lake for the third year in a row while edging out runner-up Ryan Shima, also of Kalispell, for the second year in a row.

Mahlen turned in 1,519 lake trout and averaged a record 74.6 fish a day over his 18 best days on the lake, which is how the top 10 finishers are determined.

In the process, he won $9,900, mostly through bonus payouts for the total fish caught.

Mack Days are sponsored by the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes and sanctioned by Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks. The events are used as a management tool to reduce nonnative lake trout in Flathead Lake to help increase the native bull trout and westslope cutthroat trout populations.

Once the dominant fish species in the lake, their populations have been decimated by the invasive lake trout.

The CSKT contributed $225,000 in awards and prizes, which were given out on May 17 at the Blue Bay Campground.

High winds and choppy waters hindered fishing in recent weeks, but the tournament mounted a total harvest of 34,179 lake trout, including a one-day best on the first day of the derby, when 1,825 fish were turned in.

Mahlen’s daily average was 60.7 fish, which is the best of the three years he has won. The 2014 event had him winning with a total of 1,805 entries over 33 days with a 70.4 18-day average and 54.6 a day for 33 days.

Ryan Shima came in second with 1,360 entries and a 66.5 18-day average, while his son, Danner, placed third with 1,227 and 62.2. Ryan’s father, Mike, of Polson, notched a fifth-place finish with 880 fish and a 46 average, while another family member, son Austin, caught 92 fish.

Bob Turner of Columbia Falls earned a top-5 finish while also catching the largest trout at 24.4 pounds.

Anglers spend up to 13 hours a day on the water during the events, and CSKT officials thanked them for their dedication.

“It is their hard work and dedication that makes the events successful,” according to a press release. “Each and every one of them plays a huge role in helping to reach the total numbers needed to make a difference in the future of the fisheries of the lake.”

The best day for fish totals was the first day on March 20. There were 1,825 lake trout turned in, while the lowest day was April 11 with a total of 14 entries.

Entrants in the 2015 event totaled 795 up from the 2014 event of 726 but down from 868 in 2013 and 1010 in 2012.

Go to www.mackdays.com to see the complete list of the totals for each angler.