I traveled to Billings last week to participate in the Great Rockies Sport Show. The annual show was held at the Metra Park complex, and we had a good crowd to promote our statewide Montana Outdoor Radio Show and popular hunting and fishing web site www.montanaoutdoor.com too!
The three day hunting and fishing expo is the first of 2014 for show producer, Bill Reier Jr. He plans to take his show to Helena later on in February and then in Missoula and Bozeman later in March this year. Folks that attended the Billings show had a chance to book a fishing or hunting trip to Canada, Alaska, the west coast and as far away as New Zealand. The RV and boat dealers all had a good year 2013 and were eager to show folks what they had to offer in recreational boating and camping equipment for this year. “The attendance was back to where it was a couple of years ago for the show,” said Reier. Last year, the weather was a major factor with a snow storm blowing into eastern Montana. In fact, because of the storm, the highway that runs from Great Falls to Billings was closed on Friday last year. “About 40 percent of the folks who attend the show live at least 1 to 2 hours away, so when the weather is bad, they don’t leave home”. This year, the only issue with weather was the wind and that didn’t seem to bring on any travel issues.
The balmy weather that we have received this week has made ice conditions on some lakes a little iffy. However, the lakes that have had at least 8 to 12 inches of ice are still fishable. If you want to catch kokanee salmon, then Georgetown Lake is still producing, and reports say the salmon are a little bigger than last year.
Over in Helena, the kokanee salmon fishing is good on the Helena Regulating Reservoir, according Troy Humphrey from FWP, “The kokanee are being caught in 20-30 feet of water on pink or green ice jigs tipped with corn or maggots. There is 14-15 inches of ice”.
If you want to ice fish on Holter Reservoir, then you will have to do it on a maximum of 5 inches of ice. Holter probably has more open water than ice after the warmer weather. “I have had some success fishing up by the gates in my boat,” reported Trevor Johnson from Kits Tackle. “We drift about 20 feet from shore and pitch jigs into the bank and some days we will catch and release up to 60 fish”.
The Causeway on Hauser has 8-10 inches of ice, and some trout are being caught.
Canyon Ferry Reservoir might be your best bet for ice fishing, according to Adam Strainer from FWP, “Rainbow trout are being caught primarily between Pond 4 and the Silos using jigs or ice flies tipped with worms. Yellow perch, and a few walleye, are being caught between Hole-in-the-Wall and Duck Creek Bay in 40 to 50 feet of water using Swedish pimples or Hali jigs tipped with maggots or perch eyes. Ice conditions have been reported at 12 to 14-inches between Pond 4 and Confederate Bay, 6-inches from White Earth to Snaggy Bay. There is open water on the north end of Canyon Ferry, so be careful.
(Written by the Captain; Cover photo: weather.thefuntimesguide.com)