SW MT ICE FISHING TRIPS!!! Drillin and Chillin series #2
By Montana Grant

Posted: November 24, 2022

Knowing where to ice fish is important. Not every frozen puddle offers fishing opportunities. Montana has many great Ice Fishing Hot Spots. Ice makes fishing access easier. Consider it a Poor Man’s Fishing Boat.

You still need to know where to go once on the ice. This takes trial and error, and time. Once you learn the hot spots, mark them into your GPS. This will get you started but… rarely do I find fish in the exact same places from trip to trip.

The list of destinations below is not complete. There are plenty of community ponds and other more secluded lakes to access. Some areas require a snowmobile or a long hike to access. Not all lakes have plowed roads.

Here are some lakes to add to your Bucket List!

  • Brown’s Lake: Located 7 miles southeast of Ovando, this State fishing access site has become a weekend destination for ice fishermen. The lake draws anglers from across the state and generally produces very good 1- to 3-pound rainbow trout – with occasional reports of brook or brown trout as well.
  • Canyon Ferry Reservoir: Sitting 20 miles east of Helena, and just west of Townsend, Canyon Ferry provides anglers with a perfect oasis. The water holds a variety of fish including rainbow trout, yellow perch, walleye, the occasional ling, and more.
  • Clark Canyon Reservoir: Clark Canyon Reservoir is the site of Camp Fortunate, the site at which Lewis and Clark met the Lemhi Shoshoni Tribe. The reservoir spans nearly 5,000 acres, serves as the headwaters of the Beaverhead River, and is located 20 miles southwest of Dillon. Popular for its fantastic ice fishing, you will find a plethora of trout in these waters, as well as a variety of other species.
  • Georgetown Lake: Georgetown Lake is one of Southwest Montana’s most scenic lakes. Settled 18 miles west of Anaconda, this is a popular destination for Montana’s outdoor enthusiasts year-round. Because the lake is relatively shallow, ice forms and fishing generally begin earlier than many of the other Montana lakes. Ice anglers tend to focus on either salmon or trout while at Georgetown.
  • Harrison Lake: Home to a variety of trout, this state fishing access is tucked 5 miles northeast of Harrison. This lake is relatively small and off the beaten path, fed by the Blackfoot River, this is a prime ice fishing destination.
  • Hauser Lake: Resting 7 miles north of Helena, a 3,200-acre reservoir on the Missouri river yields rainbow and brown trout, as well as perch, walleye, and even kokanee salmon.
  • Helena Valley Reservoir: Just 8 miles northeast of Helena sits the Helena Valley Reservoir. This water is known for housing both perch and kokanee salmon but depending on the season and temperatures the salmon fishing may be slow.
  • Holter Lake: A 45-minute drive North from Helena will land you at Holter Lake, a local hotspot for anglers. This lake is home to Kokanee salmon, trout, and walleye; however, during winter, perch are the most popular target on this water.
  • Ruby Reservoir: 12 miles west of Virginia City sits the Ruby Reservoir which is stocked with several varieties of trout and a popular Southwest Montana fishing destination.
  • Willow Creek Reservoir: The Willow Creek Reservoir is one of the most popular fisheries in the Sun drainage. 70,000 fingerling rainbow trout are stocked annually to sustain the fish population of the area. With a stocked lake, your ice fishing adventure is sure to be a success.

You can also join the great website Ice Shanty.com. This free site has information on every ice fishing spot in the nation. You can also go the Forum and interact with other Icemen, including Montana Grant.

The thing about Icemen is that we are not fishing snobs, like Fly Fishermen, and other selfish anglers, we have all met. Most Winter tourists are here to ski, not to fish.  I have yet to meet a rude and greedy Iceman. They are always willing to teach, help, and share. That’s how they learned.

You need to be tough to travel on the ice. Transporting gear, and yourself onto slick ice and deep snow is hard. Drillin and Chillin is fun but requires work and desire. Cutting holes is harder. Sitting in the cold is the hardest! Icemen are not Wussies!

There is just something addicting about pulling a big fish through a small hole. I rarely keep fish except during Ice Season. Fresh filets are a tasty Winter treat.

Catch a Big One!

Montana Grant