December is here and there is still quite a bit of hunting to be done. Wolf season is still going on and upland bird and waterfowl season still won’t close for a few weeks. However, it is December and that means cold temperatures. Temperatures cold enough to make ice! Ice on Montana lakes means it is time for ice fisherman to start getting their ice fishing gear in order.
It is time to check ice rods including tip-ups to change the line if needed and of course restock tackles boxes with the appropriate hooks, lures and weights. Ice auger motors and blades also need maintenance with a change in spark plugs and sharpening recommended. Georgetown Lake and Browns Lake already have some ice but fishing reports have been spotty so far. Early ice conditions on lakes can be hazardous! Know the conditions before heading out. Many of the ice anglers look for the week between Christmas and New Years to hit the frozen lakes, by that time the ice conditions are better and the fishing also is normally better. Anglers that fish with tip-ups head to Tiber Reservoir during this during the holidays. I have heard of some nice size walleyes being caught when ice fishing Tiber. Especially right after the ice comes on the lake.
Remember the state record walleye came from this lake even though it was caught when Tiber had open water. There are big fish in the lake and ice fishing with your family friends can be a lot of fun. Minnows are popular bait with tip-ups and you can usually get minnows at a couple of locations in the area. Roberts Bait and Tackle in Great Falls 406-454-1877 and the Hi-Line Cleaners in Chester 406-759-5265 not only have live minnows but they also will pass on some helpful information like how the ice conditions are and if the fish are biting. Lake Francis by Valier is also a popular ice fishing lake. The One Stop Conoco in Valier 406-279-3600 normally has ice and fishing conditions for the lake.
Another lake that offers some great ice fishing is Nelson Reservoir 20 miles east of Malta. Last year, because of heavy snow it was hard to access the lake. In normal years however it usually gets good ice early and the fishing for northern pike and walleyes is good. Once again, tip-ups are popular but also jigging some popular ice fishing lures can be an effective way to catch fish. Westside Sports in Malta 406-654-1611 is an excellent contact for live minnows as well as current ice and fishing conditions.
While you are in the area ice fishing Nelson if you have some extra time on your hands you might trying your ice fishing luck on Fort Peck Reservoir. If you do decide to fish Fourchette Bay on the northwest end of the lake or Crooked Creek on the southwest end make sure you come prepared. The roads can become impassable in and out of both areas if they receive the combination of snow and wind that can close the roads. There are cabins for rent on Crooked Creek. For live minnows, current ice and fishing conditions contact Bob at the Bait Shop in Winnett. 406-429-2086