Ice fishing just getting started in Montana
By Hookemharry

Posted: December 26, 2002

Let’s go ice fishing. Well, not so fast. If the cold weather continues, it could freeze a lot of lakes solid enough for ice fishing. But as of right now, while some lakes have started to produce for ice anglers, it’s early enough that you still need to be careful.

Lets start out with a report I was e-mailed by Larry Marx, from Rovero’s in Seeley Lake. Marx says the lower elevations lack snow, but the lakes do have ice on them. Some of these lakes, however, have had the ice for only a few days.

In fact, you will notice most of Marx’s report this week focuses on ice, not fishing. Salmon Lake has been frozen and thawed. Last weekend, ice houses were showing up on the north end of Salmon. The ice is probably safe to walk on. However, you are advised not to drive on the ice.

Seeley Lake has been frozen on the south end for a week, but the north end has only been frozen for the last couple of days.

Placid Lake still has open water on the west end. Harpers Lake has been busy with anglers according to Marx. A nice batch of older trout was recently planted by the Arlee Fish Hatchery.

The lack of snow has created some unusual opportunities for some excellent ice fishing in the mountain lakes. Lakes like Cottonwood and Clearwater are still accessible by vehicle and they have good ice.

Lake Inez and Alva are also a good bet, as the ice may be getting thick enough to fish on.

Marx added that he is looking forward to a great spearing season for northern pike on Seeley Lake and said that he is expecting the northern pike ice fishing to be above average this year on Salmon and Seeley. Recent netting by Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks showed a good population of pike, trout, perch, bull trout and kokanee salmon in Seeley Lake, according to Marx.

For current ice and fishing conditions call Marx at 406-677-2445.

Tom Flynn, at the Oasis Bar in Shelby, told me that Miller’s Bottom on Tiber Dam has about four inches of ice on it. Flynn said he had not heard of anybody fishing yet on Tiber, as the ice has only been on the lake for a few days. In fact, there were reports of anglers still launching boats on Dec. 14. Call Flynn at 406-434-5734 for up to date information.

The folks at One Stop Conoco, in Valier, told me that the ice as of Monday was not good enough to go out on Lake Francis. The lake is looking good for water level so once the ice gets thicker, it should produce some good fishing. Call 406-279-3600 for more information on Lake Francis ice conditions.

One bright spot for ice anglers is old reliable Georgetown Lake. Bill Dirkes at the Sunshine Station in Philipsburg reports excellent ice fishing.

Dirkes said ice anglers are catching both trout and salmon at Comers, Red Bridge and Badger Bay. In fact, Dirkes indicated that because of the early ice compared to other lakes, that Georgetown Lake was getting quite a bit of pressure. So that might be the place to go and break out your ice gear for the first time this year. Call Dirkes at 406-859-3450 for current information.

Warmer weather east of the Continental Divide has slowed down the ice fishing there, too.

Mary Beth Kibler, of Kibler Charter Fishing at Sand Springs, said just a few anglers have been out on the upper bays of Fort Peck and the ice is still relatively thin. The main lake remains open.

Nelson Reservoir, near Malta, has an ice cover and anglers are fishing near shore, taking some walleyes and northern pike. No one is venturing toward the middle to go after perch in deeper water yet.

And Bob Krumm, a fishing guide and friend from Sheridan, Wyo., said the south end of Tongue River Reservoir has ice covering, but no one has been fishing yet. Once they do, he said, they should catch limits of crappies. It’s going to be a great winter for them.

In the meantime, have great week and a Happy New Year and remember we have reports from throughout the state every Saturday morning on the Montana Outdoor Radio Show from 6 to 8 a.m.