Frigid sub-zero temperatures have arrived across Montana this week and next. Cold temperatures mean ice will be forming on lakes and reservoirs.
Ice anglers I have spoken with are getting excited to head to their favorite hard water lake and begin ice fishing.
It is a little early for fishing reports, but I am sure once the ice thickness is safe enough for anglers to venture on the ice the fishing reports will begin rolling in. Once there is good ice there are a few lakes that anglers will head first. These lakes are normally a pretty good bet for some early ice on fishing. Georgetown Lake is normally one of the first lakes to freeze up. The popular lake by Philipsburg is fun for the whole family as it offers up some excellent kokanee and trout fishing opportunities.
Browns Lake is also one of the first lakes to freeze and ice anglers target the lakes trout population. The first ice on conditions on Browns Lake is usually when the best fishing takes place. “If you are going to fish Browns I would recommend doing it before the first of the year as that has been when we have had the best success”, said Jim Johnson who lives in nearby Lincoln and has fished Browns for the better part of 30 years.
Johnson and his buddy Denny Peterson also travel to nearby Holter Reservoir and fish for the trout in that reservoir in the bays close to the dam. “The last couple of winters have been very good for perch fishing on Holter, however some days you have to drill a few holes to find them”, he said. One of the most productive spots for perch on Holter last year was the area between departure point to split rock.
Lake Mary Ronan by Proctor Montana just west of Flathead Lake is another lake that tends to get good ice early. LMR has always been a good place to catch some nice perch during the day. The kokanee bite might be better in the evening as some of the anglers that I have spoken with during past winters have had their best kokanee fishing at night. Anglers ice fishing for northern pike have their choice of a few bodies of hard water.
Noxon Rapids Reservoir by Trout Creek is one of the best pike lakes in Western Montana. John Harris from the Lakeside Motel and Tackle Shop 406-827-4458 always has current ice conditions and fishing reports for the area. Salmon and Seeley Lake have been good for ice fishing pike. One of the better lakes east of the divide is Tiber Reservoir for both northern pike and walleye ice fishing. Most of the northern pike and walleye anglers prefer tip ups to jigging.
Regardless of where you go ice fishing and what time month you go always use caution. According to wikihow.com here are some general rules for ice thickness. If the ice thickness is 3 inches or less stay off. If the ice thickness is 4 inches the general rule of thumb is it is suitable for ice fishing. 5 inches it might be suitable to drive a single snowmobile or ATV that weighs 800 pounds. 8-12 inches of ice will support a car or group of people from 1500 to 2000 pounds and 12 inches to 15 inches should be suitable for a light pickup truck or van.
(written by the Captain – aka Mark Ward)