25 years have gone by since I first fished out of Hell Creek on Fort Peck Reservoir. Back then, the 25 mile road from Jordan to Hell Creek was a combination of gravel and mostly dirt. After a rain the road turned mostly to mud making traveling it an adventure. The wood post that were placed on many of the bends in the road to serve as a guard rail didn’t give me a lot of comfort as I tried to keep my rig on the road. The local folks in Jordan that I got to know always complained about the road and over the years have more than once lobbied for that 25 mile stretch to be paved. “People would come from all over to fish Fort Peck out Hell Creek if the road was just easier to navigate”, they would say back then. In some ways I always thought that road was why they called it Hell Creek in the first place.
Today, 25 years later, the road is still not paved but there is a lot more gravel on the road and a lot more traffic. Today, there are 10 times more boats, campers, and pickups traveling heading to Hell Creek and it has nothing to do with the road. It all has to do with the fishing. If the fish are biting the anglers will come. And they do from Idaho, Wyoming, South Dakota, North Dakota, Nebraska and Iowa. On any given day, you can catch walleye, lake trout, northern pike, smallmouth bass, and catfish. The fish are plentiful in Fort Peck, and they are also big. It is not uncommon to catch at least one 30 inch walleye and a 36 inch northern pike during a week fishing trip.
The Hell Creek State Campground now has 48 electrical sites and there are also still many non-electrical sites for folks to set up camp like there was 25 years ago. Another RV amenity they have added is a dump station. In the last couple of months the campground has seen an average of 60-100 campground sites occupied each day with the weekends the busiest. The motel rooms at The Hell Creek Marina, that is owned and operated by Clint and Deb Thomas, are getting bookings months in advance for this time of the year. During June and July, two truckloads of 1100 gallons of fuel are delivered each week.
The magic of fishing Fort Peck still remains after all these years. Despite the increase of boat anglers fishing Fort Peck, you still can find a point or area of the lake to fish by yourself, for a little bit of solitude. The 134 mile lake plays host to a bass, walleye, or northern pike tournament just about every weekend in the summer.
This weekend, the Montana Gov Walleye Tournament is being held 30 water miles east of Hell Creek out of the Fort Peck Dam Area. They expect 125 two person teams to fish this year’s tournament. While you are reading this column I will be on the water fishing Fort Peck for the 3rd week in a month and half. When the fish are biting like they are now, getting to Hell Creek for me after all these years is still just a minor bump in the road.