Last week I peaked at the weather forecast for the Helena area and on Wednesday the high was forecast to be 52 degrees. Fishing reports leading up to that point were sounding good on Holter Reservoir north of the Capitol City. The trout and perch were biting and there was plenty of open water starting from the Gates of the Mountains down river to Cottonwood Creek. It was time to go fishing, so the fishing date was set.
Steve Hellegaard from Missoula and I loaded up my boat for the first time in 2015 and headed east to Holter. I don’t know what the record is on Holter as to how early the ice has gave way to open water or if anybody even keeps track. However I can guarantee you that it is the earliest I have been on Holter fishing out of my boat. In fact I had to keep remind myself that it February and not April. One sure sign that I am not the only one that is confused by the Spring like weather this month was when Hellegaard asked me if he had to get his new fishing license. I pointed out that his current license is still valid until February 28.
Once we arrived at the Gates of the Mountain boat ramp we realized we weren’t the only anglers that were going to take advantage of the nice weather. There was a boat in front of us and a boat waiting to launch in back of us. Once we got on the water our first fishing stop of the morning was at the entry of the Gates. We starting out casting glass minnow jigs tipped with a night crawler toward shore as we drifted down river. The first drift didn’t produce any fish so we headed down river by the Coulter Campground. The week before, Trevor Johnson from Kit’s Tackle told me they did very well in that area.
It wasn’t long before we hooked into couple of nice size trout. We pitched jigs into shore for another hour with no luck and decided to take a boat ride down river to Log Gulch Campground. A long the way we passed a half dozen boats that looked like they were fishing perch or walleyes. Once we reached our destination, it was apparent that the trout were active for shore anglers using power bait or egg sacks as well as boat anglers trolling rapalas. We decided to change our fishing strategy and began to troll. The fire tiger colored 1/16 ounce syclops and rapala J-7 lure provided us the best action, but all in all the fishing was fair at best. Most of the fish that we caught looked like one year old planters as they were smaller than the size of trout that we normally catch while trolling in late March or April. We had a number of fish hit our lures but they did not get hooked. I think this is a result of the fish size being smaller.
As you might expect, ice conditions will change daily this time of the year. Brandon Bretz from Missoula fished Holter on Sunday. “We put in at the Log Gulch boat ramp but we could only boat just passed Split Rock up river. The main lake to the dam was open but there was a thin layer of ice off the boat ramp in the lower campground”. Bretz said fishing was good as they braved single digit temperatures in the morning.