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'Not My First $10,000 Fish'

CSKT Natural Resources Department

A Stevensville man is $10,000 richer because of a 10-inch fish he caught in Flathead Lake.

Every spring and fall since 2002 the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes holds the Mack Days fishing tournament, offering lots of prizes to anglers. The tribes do it to help reduce the number of non-native Mackinaws, or lake trout in the lake, because they’re crowding out native fish like Bull trout and West Slope cutthroats.

Biologists put microchip tags in a lot of the lake trout, and when someone catches one, the tag can be scanned, and some of the tags are worth money. Over 5,000 fish have tags worth $100 or $200, and there are a few fish worth $1,000 or more.

But only one fish, anglers called him 'The General', was worth $10,000, and Felix Gauci, a 62-year old retiree, caught it last weekend.

Credit CSKT Natural Resources Department
Felix Gauci kisses his $10,000 fish.

Gauci is a serious Mack Days competitor. He’s in the hunt for the prize for most fish caught since the fall tournament started in September, he’d caught nearly 600 lake trout by yesterday. As happy as he is that he caught The General, landing a $10,000 fish is not a once-in-a-lifetime experience for Gauci. He won that kind of money in a mako shark fishing tournament in his native New York 15 years ago.

Gauci recalls the first time he won $10,000 for a mako shark.

This fall’s Mack Days tournament runs on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays through November 16th. Any fish caught that anglers don’t want to take home are processed, frozen and sent to area food banks.

Eric Whitney is NPR's Mountain West/Great Plains Bureau Chief, and was the former news director for Montana Public Radio.
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