If you are taking extra deserved time off between Christmas and New Years then may I suggest doing a little ice fishing. Ice fishing is a great way to spend a day. A lot of anglers bring their kids; catching fish on some of these trips is not the priority. Montana offers some of the best ice fishing and most of the time the toughest part of ice fishing is deciding where to go. There are really two kinds of methods of ice fishing and you really can separate the two methods by talking about most lakes west of the mountains and east of the mountains in Montana. Western Montana lake anglers are content to sit on a bucket or in a portable icehouse and jig. They for the most part are going after trout, perch, or salmon. Using glow hooks tipped with either maggots or corn seems to be the most popular choices. This year look for a number of lakes both north and south of Missoula to be popular spots once again for anglers to fish through the ice. Bitterroot Lake, which is just west of Kalispell, is excellent for 16-18 inch kokanee salmon. Lake Mary Ronan is also a great lake to ice fish for perch. Crow Reservoir can also be good for trout and small mouth bass. For current fishing and ice conditions on these lakes call Dick Zimmer 406-675-0068. Northern Pike anglers will head to Salmon Lake fishing tip-ups with smelt. Browns Lake is good fishing for trout some anglers have been having success using egg sacks just off the bottom. Georgetown Lake is always a good bet for ice anglers. It ices up early and stays with good ice most of the winter. Anglers like to jig with glow hooks tipped with maggots. Small kokanees and pretty good size trout usually take advantage of their offerings through the ice.
East of the mountains if you want to jig when you are ice fishing then I would recommend heading over to Canyon Ferry Lake or the Causeway on Hauser Reservoir. Both lakes do a good job of producing perch for ice anglers. Walleye and ling fishing is more of a challenge on Canyon Ferry Lake, but some local anglers have had success when they hit it just right. The regulated reservoir next to Hauser Lake has also produced some good bites through the winter for kokanee salmon. For up to date information on ice and fishing call Bob Wards in Helena.
Tip-up anglers can have their choice of fishing Lake Francis by Valier, Tiber Dam north of Great Falls, Nelson Reservoir east of Malta and of course Fort Peck Reservoir. All these lakes offer good northern pike, walleye, and perch fishing. If you want to catch ling then Fort Peck Reservoir would be your best bet. In all the lakes with exception of Lake Francis you can use live minnows. Plus all the lakes allow you to fish with 6- unattended set lines per angler. Call Roberts Bait in Great Falls or Westside Sports in Malta for fishing and bait information. Be safe and have a Merry Christmas!
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