By Montana Grant

Posted: May 6, 2023

Usually, Ice Men are done fishing by the end of March. The lakes begin to melt, and Spring Runoff can begin. Slushy, old, and cloudy ice are not as good for fishing. Late ice can also be dangerous, especially closer to the shore.

April ice is rare, even in Montana. I saw an ice report on an Ice Fishing group, that bragged about Hegben Lake ice. They said it was over 36 inches at the dam. I have never ice fished this late but was excited to try something new. I called Meat Stick Dave up and we planned a trip. The drive is fun even if the ice is poor.

Off we went and when we arrived at the dam, 4 Icemen were already on the ice. The slope of deep snow, to the ice, is hard to navigate. Breaking through the crusty snow was a problem. Meat Stick loads his sled with more gear than most. His heavy sled would be tough coming off the lake.

We picked our spot and I tried to auger a hole. My full auger failed to hit the water! Fortunately, Dave’s auger had an extension and we cut through the 45 plus inch ice. Within a few minutes, I was into a big brown trout. I threw the browns back since they tend to have more toxic arsenic, mercury, and lead in them than rainbows. My next fish was a huge whitefish, that I also released. All our bites were off a jigged, baited, lure. No bites on a dead stick this day.

Meat Stick and I both iced some fine rainbows and threw several browns back. Dave’s best brown was 23 inches! The sun reflected off the ice and both of us got an April suntan. The other Icemen left without catching any fish. They were nearer to the outflow building.

When it was time to leave, the snow slopes had softened a bit which made climbing off the lake a challenge. Fortunately, Meat Stick had a long rope in his truck. He climbed up the snow with the help of my walking sticks and backed up his truck. We tied the sled onto the rope and safely towed his heavy sled up the bank. Whew!

It was fun fishing the hard water in April. I have seen more reports that this ice is still safe and producing some big fish. The runoff will change things soon.

 Maybe May Ice fishing is next.

Montana Grant

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