Last weekend I was in Great Falls for the Montana Hunting and Fishing Show at Four Seasons Arena. The three-day sport show always gives me an opportunity to find out from hunters and anglers how things are going up in the Central Montana Hi-Line.
The reports on ice fishing were not very encouraging. Dennis Hansen and Dallas Dentner, both from Chester, said the ice fishing was slow on Tiber Dam.
“You can catch some northern pike, but the walleye fishing has been real slow,” said Dentner.
“The ice fishing really has not turned on, but we made a couple of trips with my jetboat on the Marias River and we caught a few nice walleyes,” Hanson mentioned as he stopped by our booth.
The weather has played a big part in the ice fishing reports. There is good ice on most of the lakes in that area, but the bitter cold weather recently has kept many anglers off the ice.
“When the ice fishing started to become work, I decided to pull my spear-hut off and it is still sitting in the back bed of my pick-up,” Cliff Nelson from Joplin told me and he added, “I also picked up a construction job so I haven’t had the time since the first of the year to see how it really is.”
“The northern pike were biting pretty nice at Pishkun Reservoir,” according to Gary Baron from Great Falls. Baron and another angler went ice fishing last Saturday and caught about 15 pike for their efforts through the ice.
Many of the ice anglers we talked to during the show were concerned about the water level at Fort Peck Reservoir. The big pond in eastern Montana is slowly becoming smaller every week.
Water levels are predicted to be three feet below the lowest level every recorded for the 134-mile lake. Needless to say, that is a lot of water.
Mother Nature is trying to help, with snowpack in the Mountains at normal or above in most ranges and two feet of snow on the level up in the northeast part of the state by Glasgow. More snow and a heavy spring rainfall is still needed to feed more water into Fort Peck Reservoir as the drought in Montana continues.
The cold and snow have also caused some of the mule deer to try and get food from rancher’s haystacks near Raynesford. “We are having a tough time keeping the mule deer out of out hay,” said Dick Gondeiro from Raynesford. “This is the most snow we have had in a while so they are having a tougher time finding food.”
Gondiero still was not complaining about the snow or the deer in his haystack. “I guess we will take all the snow we can get because we need the runoff and moisture in this country”, he said.
Mike Violette, from Missoula fished Hauser Lake up in the causeway and caught some nice walleyes through the ice. Violette and his dad ended up with about 10 “eyes” for the day, with the biggest running about seven pounds.