Montana is certainly known for many things around the world. Most of them are good like skiing, snowmobiling, blue ribbon trout streams, and our magnificent mountain ranges. Well you can add one more unique thing about Montana to that list, weather! The old saying goes if you don’t like the weather in Montana just stick around 5 minutes and it will change. That may be an exaggeration but we sure have experienced some major swings in temperatures in the last week, all over the state, and those weather changes have affected ice fishing.
I was just in Billings this past weekend and attended the Great Rockies Sport Show. The main Metra Park arena is still under renovation and still closed from the damage that a tornado did to its roof last summer. The adjoining building where the Great Rockies Sport Show was being held still had scars from the debris that the tornado whipped around in the air and slammed into the roof and side of the building. That weather event was certainly unusual for Montana and many locals in the area are still talking about how lucky it was that that tornado didn’t cause more damage than it did to the area.
The Great Rockies Sport Show draws crowds from hundreds of miles away so we get to talk to folks from as far away as Livingston to the west and Glasgow to the north east. The weather conditions in the area that these folks traveled from were as varied as the people themselves. “Well it is nice to come to an area where it is not snowing and the temperature is not below zero”, said one couple who had arrived on Saturday from Glasgow. It happened to be 48 degrees in Billings that day and when they left Glasgow on Friday their area had snow and with a temperature of 26 below zero. In fact another couple from Jordan said it had been snowing all most every day since the first of the year or at least it seemed that way to them. On that same Saturday a couple stopped by our booth from Livingston and said, “ well the roads had a little black ice on them this morning until we hit the interstate and then it rained until we got to Columbus and the roads were dry to Billings”.
Ice anglers are finding this year to be very tough to find a dependable place to fish with the big swing in cold to warmer temperatures. One day the lake they want to ice fish on has good ice the next day the there is 6 to 12 inches of water on top of the ice making it nearly impossible to fish. That was the case last weekend on Holter Reservoir. Last week it was ice fishable and on Saturday it was not.
So my advice is to call ahead to a local sporting goods store or tackle shop near the body of water you are heading to drill some ice holes and do some fishing. It might just save you a frustrating trip.