Weather starting to turn toward ice fishing season

Who would have thought that on the week of Christmas, ice anglers would still be wishing for ice?

I don’t keep any records on ice-less days in Montana, but I really can’t remember a year when so many lakes around the whole state for the most part have been in the same dire straights when it comes to icing up.

Some lakes have had ice a week ago and when it has been safe enough to venture out the fisherman have produced pretty well.

Most of the state is suppose to receive some colder temperatures as Christmas approaches with highs in the teens and low 20’s during the day and colder nights.

Gerry, from the Silos RV Campground (266-3100) over on the south end of Canyon Ferry Lake, said he can’t remember either when the entire lake has been ice free this close to Christmas.

“They are still launching boats and when they do go out, most are fishing for trout and coming back with their limit,” he said. “The wind on Sunday was 69 miles per hour and when it blows like that you can’t make any ice.”

J.R., at Roberts Bait and Tackle (453-1472) in Great Falls, says the wind and warmer temperatures has kept ice off most of Tiber Dam. “There might be some ice in the bays and close to shore, but it is not enough to generate much enthusiasm to try and go ice fishing.”

West of Tiber Dam on Lake Frances, ice anglers have had a few days of fishing but as of Monday, the lake was open after strong winds and warm temps. “We had a guy bring in a 20 pound northern pike a week ago that he caught through the ice, but now there is no ice on the main lake and just a little by the dam,” said Shawna from One Stop Conoco in Valier (279-3600).

During the week between Christmas and New Years, some ice fisherman typically make a trip over to Nelson Reservoir or even Fort Peck Reservoir. This year, you had better call before you go because as of this week they are still suffering from thin ice or no ice at all.

“I know at Nelson Reservoir they had been ice fishing until a few days ago then the wind came up and blew the ice around,” says Steve from Malta Marine (654-1442). “Nelson had 1 to 4 inches of ice and Forchette Bay also had some ice but it was about 10 feet of mud before you got to the ice so I didn’t even try it last Sunday.”

Closer to home, with the forecast calling for colder ice making temperatures, I would be willing to bet that Browns Lake, Swan and Seeley and Georgetown Lakes still might have enough ice to fish safely close to shore, even though Gerry from the Silos RV heard that a friend of his had a 10 year old bust through the ice close to shore recently.

Before you venture out, call your local sporting good store and ask what reports they have gotten on the lake you intend to ice fish.

Dick Zimmer has been taking advantage of the open water and fishing Flathead Lake from his boat. “Sunday we fished the Northwest corner of Wild Horse Island and we did very well on lake trout in 30-60 feet of water over a sand bar that comes out,” says Zimmer (675-0068).

Zimmer used a whitefish fly set up with a 2 ounce #5 Lead-A-Gaiter. Zimmer also reported that fishing was excellent in Blue Bay where some anglers reported a catch of 76 one day recently. They were fishing in 120-190 feet of water.

Crow Reservoir looked like it had some ice on it and Zimmer was going to give that try sometime this week. Have a Merry Christmas and good luck fishing.