Topping the list of Montana’s top reservoirs is most likely already on your bucket list of places to go and if it isn’t it should be. Fort Peck reservoir is huge and shaped with irregular points and long bays that offer over 1500 miles of shoreline. With depths hitting the 200 feet mark at full water levels and a length of 130 miles, Fort Peck is the fifth largest man-made lake in the United States.
Over 50 different kinds of fish swim in Fort Peck’s waters providing opportunity for a smorgasbord for willing ice fishermen including lake trout, northern pike, walleye, and sauger. But the really unique thing about ice fishing Fort Peck is that you might catch any or all of those at trophy size through the same hole. It’s fairly common for first timers to top 12 pound walleye, 20 pound pike and 25 pound lakers. Ok, those are big numbers and the thought of having this opportunity every day should have anglers drooling but there’s more. The fishing pressure is limited to a few weekend warriors who come in one or two weekends a year and the locals aren’t taking up much space. So what’s the catch? Well, Fort Peck is in the middle of nowhere.
The town of Jordan, MT population 386, is a full distance marathon north of highway 200. There aren’t any airports or major cities within a half days drive. For your average east or west coaster eastern Montana is like a different country. With a water body this big you’ll want to do some research ahead of time but to make it easy you can call the folks at Hell Creek Marina. They can provide everything you need to hit the ice with confidence including food and a place to stay.
Bring your favorite jigging rod if you’d like but tip ups are really the way to go on Fort Peck. With easy going regulations that include a 24 hour tip-up check requirement tip ups can be spread as far and wide as needed to test the waters. Six tip-ups are allowed per angler and each one must be identified with the anglers name and phone number or name and 9-10 digit ALS number. The ALS number is provided when you buy your Montana license and once you are given that number it will never change.
ATV’s are the norm on Fort Pecks wind-blown ice but anglers beware; Fort Peck is big with dangerous pressure cracks and thin spots created by the Missouri River currents and natural gas pockets can cause ATV’s to disappear in a second. Imagine 247, 000 acres of available ice with water depths that vary from year to year by 50 -100 feet depending on precipitation. Keep this in mind, “Numbered roads within a Corps of Engineers recreation area may be used to access the ice where the road ends at the high water mark and is not otherwise barricaded or posted as closed. Travel from the high water mark to the frozen lake must be by the most direct route. Driving along the shoreline of Fort Peck Lake between the frozen lake and the high water mark is prohibited; except, as identified above when accessing the ice or to navigate around an ice pressure ridge or open water by the shortest and most direct route not to exceed 1/8th mile.” (via USACE)
Because if the major fluctuations it’s hard to point to one place or another as a consistent honey hole. Bring a good depth sonar to pick locations and be prepared to move around a lot. See
There are only a handful of places to access the reservoir and they are about as reliable as the winter winds. Fort Peck can be a tough place to fish due to its enormous size but anglers who are mobile and not afraid to ask questions can gather enough information from the locals to exceed expectations. Plan to start out at Hell Creek Marina the best place to get supplies and hot spot information then be ready to fish.
If You Go:
A paved road for larger vehicles provides direct access to the reservoir at Fort Peck Marina, located near the west side of the dam. Other access roads are gravel and/or dirt, leading to Hell Creek Bay, 26 miles north of Jordan, and one on the south fork of Rock Creek Bay, about 10 miles west of Highway 24.
Hell Creek Marina Beer – Bait – Pop – Groceries – Tackle – Lodging – Boat Rental – Fishing tips
Hell Creek Bay
1 Hell Creek Marinas Road
P.O. Box 486 Jordan, MT 59639
Phone 1 (406) 557-2345
Feature Photo and feature piece photo Credit :Tony Sisson
Thank you Tony!