Montana waters have no shortage of ice this Winter. Most lakes accept bands of the biggest Icemen safely, currently. This could change quickly if the weather warms up, but the Groundhog said we will have several more weeks of Winter.
The need to ice fish is still in many of us. My buddy Handy Randy just had surgery and Meat stick Dave got the bug, so Montana Grant had to go it alone. I purchased my new license online, printed it out and replaced my old license packs with new ones. I keep several license copies in my vest, tackle box, and on my cellphone.
The ice on Canyon Ferry is THICK!!! Areas where I fished a few weeks ago are frozen to the bottom. Pressure ridges are forming near the shores and throughout the lake where shallow water is frozen and piling up. The ice seems to be moving along with almost constant cracking and snapping.
Cutting a hole takes a full auger length. Once I saw that the lake was frozen where I was, I began trekking toward some other Icemen. They were about a mile away but seemed to be fishing.
Icemen are the friendliest of all fishermen. Fly fishermen may be the rudest and most selfish, but Icemen are sharing and courteous. As I walked toward the new ice, I saw a wheeler cruising my way. He immediately offered information and told me where his group had just limited out.
Walleye Ernie turned out to be a neighbor near where I live. My friend Handy Randy had become friends with Ernie but today was my first encounter. True to Iceman character, Walleye Ernie had me put my sled on his sled box. It was plenty big for my sled and me. He towed me to the open holes that they had just left. He shared his story and even his maggots!
The morning bite must have been something. Trout blood and parts were in evidence. Except for several Ravens and an Eagle, I had the place to myself. Within minutes, I had action, but it soon slowed down. It took a while, but I managed to ice a limit of fat rainbow trout. The biggest was a 23 incher.
Despite a windy and cold day, I managed to make a new friend, catch a limit, and get some needed exercise. It was a long walk back to the truck, without a wheeler hitchhike.