I don’t know about you, but the cold weather without a few inches of snow on the ground makes it seem that much colder. While skiers and snowmobilers are waiting for some snow to start their winter fun, the ice anglers should be ready to start to drill some ice holes.
Western Montana lake anglers are content to sit on a bucket or in a portable icehouse and jig. They, for the most part, are going after trout, perch, or salmon. Using glow hooks tipped with either maggots or corn seems to be the most popular choices.
This year, look for a number of lakes both north and south of Missoula to be popular spots once again for anglers to fish through the ice. Bitterroot Lake, just west of Kalispell, has a reputation for producing 16-18 inch kokanee salmon. The Thompson Chain of Lakes is also good for ice fishing.
Flathead Lake offers both ice and open water fishing. Ice anglers hit the frozen bays. The few boat anglers that brave Flathead bundle up and chase lake trout.
The water level goes down in the winter but you can still use the Blue Bay boat ramp to put your boat in the water. If East Bay has ice, the perch fishing seems to be the best.
Lake Mary Ronan is also a great lake to ice fish for perch and sometimes salmon. Crow Reservoir can also be good for trout and smallmouth bass. For current fishing and ice conditions on these lakes call Dick Zimmer 406-675-0068.
Northern Pike anglers will head to Salmon Lake fishing with tip-ups baited with smelt. Seeley Lake has produced pike on bait but the larger ones seem to be taken by anglers in spearing huts.
Trout anglers on Harpers Lake have done real well when Fish, Wildlife and Parks plants big trout that are spawned out from the local fish hatchery in Arlee. Your best bet would be to use a needlefish or weighted spoon and if you can make it there when they dump them in the lake you will have a ball.
It takes about 30 minutes for the trout to get acclimated after they hit the water but after that time, the bite will be on. I would recommend calling FWP to get the schedule for when plan on planting trout. Normally the plants have taken place around late December early January.
East of Harpers Lake by Ovando, Browns Lake offers good fishing for trout with the first ice. Georgetown Lake is always a good bet for ice anglers. It ices up early and stays with good ice most of the winter. Anglers like to jig with glow hooks tipped with maggots. Small kokanees and pretty good size trout usually take advantage of their offerings through the ice.
To keep up to date on every changing ice conditions log onto the Fishing page under Outdoor Chat on www.montanaoutdoor.com