Hyalite Lake, near Bozeman, is ice ready. A solid 6-8 inches is on top of the water with a couple inches of snow atop that. Walking is slick, so a walking stick/ ski pole is a good idea. The shady side/West side is thicker than the East side. Ice along the dam is fine. The headwaters, and inlets are thinner.
There have not been many anglers braving the ice. The ones I have seen are near the shore, along the dam, and across the lake, along the shore. Reports have been positive. The anglers have been in ice tents/shanties and rarely move. There is blood on the ice where they have fished.
Hyalite Ice tends to be covered in water so waterproof, insulated boots are a must. The sun can melt the surface pretty quick and turn it into slush. A few areas have been cleared for skaters.
Maggots are tough to find at the local shops. They have worms and mealworms, but no maggots yet. I found Maggots at Sportsman’s Warehouse in white and red. My best success has been with an inch of worm on a chartreuse Banana Jig. I have fished 3 days and done well each time. One day the fish were just under the ice. Normally, I jig a foot or so off the bottom. A strike indicator is money. Many of the bites are subtle. Set the hook on the bite. Don’t wait for a better bite. If you miss the strike, drop it right back and be ready to set.
The lake is full of Cutthroats and Brook trout. The Cuts are from 6-20 inches. The best keeper size is around 15 inches and up. Brook trout abound and are from 6-18 inches. I have iced one 18 inch and 3 16-inch Brooks this season. The rest, that I keep are 12-15 inches, and beautiful. Occasionally, you catch a Grayling up to 20 inches. These fish are protected and must be released.
The limit for Cuts is 5. You are also allowed 20 Brook trout. A fat limit of 25 fish is hard to do. You catch 5 Cuts to 1 Brook trout on most days. The Brooks seem to be closer to shore, and a lot of throwbacks. With patience, you can get 20 keeper Brooks.
Hyalite is a beautiful and peaceful lake. Rarely do I see over a dozen anglers. Most visitors are hiking, skiing, or hunting their Christmas Trees. You won’t hook Monster trout, but they are tasty. This is a great lake to teach ice fishing and take kids.
Enjoy your short rods and small holes!
For more Montana Grant, catch him at www.montanagrantfishing.com.