Winter Fishing on Open Water: Captain’s Column
By angelamontana

Posted: January 30, 2014

I had a chance to fish Hauser Reservoir last week with the father-son jig making team from Kits Tackle, Trevor and Kit Johnson of Helena. When they first asked me to go fishing my initial thought was that we would be drilling holes through the ice. “No, we are going to be fishing from a boat”, Trevor relayed to me over a text message. Fishing from a boat in open water in January? That sounded good to me, “I will be on my way” I texted back. Trevor explained where we would be fishing and why there was open water. “Well, obviously it’s the middle of winter, but the Riverside ramp, located directly below Canyon Ferry Dam, on Hauser Lake is open year round. So, any winter day you feel is warm enough is a good day to get out. The best winter jigging bite is in the warmest part of the day, usually between 1:00-4:00 pm.”

When I arrived, the Johnsons were about to launch the boat. Their fishing method is really quite simple but very effective according to Trevor, “We use the Kits Tackle pro series marabou jigs. Brown/Yellow and Black seemed to be the hottest colors for the day. We create a buffer zone between the boat and the shore just far enough so we could still accurately cast our jigs within’ a couple feet of shore. We let the jigs sink to the bottom between jig ups and let the jig fall on a slack line. When jigging, we like to “pop” the rod into the air which in turn shoots the jig through the water like forage scurrying away. Then, when you let the jig fall on a slack line the fish thinks the forage is dying and inhales it. Then, when you go to “pop” your rod the next time…the fish is hooked”. The catching was a little slow to begin with, but once the daytime temperature started to warm up a little, so did the fish catching. I, personally. had a great day of catching, with the highlight of the day being when I managed to catch and release a beautiful brown trout that was 22 inches.

I was surprised at the amount of open water, and, according to Trevor, open water stretches a few miles downstream, “there are about four or five miles of fishable shoreline before making it to ice. Plenty to spend a day or two exploring for big rainbows and browns…and even a chance at a big northern pike! I say this because dad got bit off by what we think was a giant pike this winter”. In the middle of the day, we took a break for lunch and the Johnson’s surprised me with some hot tortilla soup. They were kind enough to share the recipe with me.


  • 5 cups water
  • 6 bouillon cubes
  • 2 chicken breast cooked and shredded
  • 2 cans white corn
  • 2 cans Mexican stewed tomatoes
  • 2 cans green c
  • 1 onion chopped
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • Cayenne pepper (to taste)

Simmer over medium heat the water and bouillon cubes. In blender, rough blend (not too liquidly) Mexican tomatoes, green chilies, onion, garlic and cayenne pepper. After blending, add contents to simmering bouillon. Also add white corn and shredded chicken and simmer for 20-30 minutes.

Serve over tortilla chips and enjoy with shredded cheese and fresh guacamole.

Here are some pictures from our January day on the water:


(Written by the Captain)

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