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  • Montana Outdoor News

    Ice Anglers Enjoy Some Good Fishing
    Location: Montana

    The fishing is good in Montana for ice anglers. Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks fisheries managers and biologists provided this survey of major Montana waters with ice fishing opportunities and offered some cautions. Always check recent weather reports and ice conditions daily when planning to ice fish.


    In the northwestern part of the state, Jim Vashro, FWP Region 1 fisheries manager, said Hubbart Reservoir, west of Kalispell, is producing one pound rainbows and Foys Lake, near Kalispell, has good fishing early mornings for rainbows. Lake Mary Ronan, 35 miles south of Kalispell, has about five inches of ice and is a good place to catch medium-sized perch. Smith Lake, eight miles west of Kalispell, has good fishing for 14- to 16-inch northern pike and perch.

    Flathead Lake on the East Bay offers sporadic but good catches of perch. On the Upper and Lower Thompson Lakes, anglers have a chance to catch perch, trout, and kokanee. Anglers are catching kokanee at Crystal Lake in the Thompson Chain of Lakes. Those with 4-wheel drive vehicles to make the trip are enjoying fair catches of kokanee at Beaver Lake north of Whitefish.

    Vashro also said lower Stillwater Lake has some decent ice combined with slush due to recent snowfalls. The lake is producing perch and a few pike.

    Most small lakes in the northwest have six to ten inches of ice with slush, so anglers are advised to watch for spots of bad ice.

    The big lakes such as McGregor, Little Bitterroot, Middle Thompson, Whitefish and Ashley are just forming ice and should be approached with caution.

    SOUTHERN AND CENTRAL MONTANA Dick Oswald, an FWP Region 3 fisheries biologist in Dillon, reports that Clark Canyon Reservoir has an 18- to 24- inch ice cover and the fishing is good for burbot and rainbow trout up to two pounds. Ruby Reservoir, also in southwestern Montana, is producing rainbow and brown trout and the ice cover is complete at about 18 inches.

    Bruce Rich, FWP Region 3 fisheries manager, reports that other southwestern region ice fishing spots include: Willow Creek Reservoir, also known as Harrison Lake near Harrison, Hyalite Reservoir near Bozeman, and Dailey Lake near Emigrant. All three waters support winter trout fisheries. Dailey Lake ice anglers mainly target small to medium perch, trout and occasional walleye.

    At Canyon Ferry Reservoir fisheries biologists report that fishing for rainbow trout is good off the Silos and south dikes. Ice depth on the south end of the reservoir ranges from 18 inches off the dikes to 10 inches at Hole in the Wall. The remainder of the reservoir is open water or unsafe ice.

    On Hauser Reservoir rainbow fishing is fair at the Causeway with seven to 10 inches of ice.

    There is no safe ice at Black Sandy or York Bridge, and Holter does not have enough ice to fish safely.

    The Helena Valley Regulating Reservoir has areas with seven to 12 inches of ice and it is producing perch and some kokanee. There is also open water in the middle of the reservoir.

    EASTERN MONTANA At Fort Peck Reservoir ice anglers are venturing out where the ice is from five to 12 inches thick. New snowfall could hide bad ice where it exists. The popular dredge cuts have been frozen for awhile with more than 12 inches of ice. KNOW YOUR ICE Fisheries biologists and technicians who know ice because it is part of their job, all tend to share the same advice: know the water body you plan to fish and how ice forms and changes there, or go with someone who does.

    Other advice includes:.

    - Wear a warm hat that covers your ears. In cold weather, 75 to 80 percent of heat loss from the body occurs from an uncovered head.

    - Wear mittens that are warmer than gloves and reduce the chance of finger frostbite.

    - Check out ice conditions before you go. Ask other anglers or local sources and take into account changes in the weather during the past 24 hours.

    - Before you leave home, tell someone where you plan to fish and when you plan to return.

    - Go with a partner and stay separated when going to and from fishing spots in case one of you falls through the ice.

    - Carry a pair of long spikes on a heavy string or commercial ice-fishing picks around your neck. If you break through the ice, you can use the spikes to grip the ice and pull yourself out of the water.

    - Wear ice cleats to avoid falls.

    - Carry a rope to throw to someone who falls through the ice, go out to that person only as a last resort.

    - Blue ice is usually hard. Watch out for opaque, gray, dark or porous spots in the ice that could be weak, soft areas. Ice also tends to thin more quickly at the shorelines.

    - Watch for pressure ridges. These are areas of open water or thin ice where the ice has cracked and heaved due to expansion from freezing.

    - Test the ice ahead of you with an ice spud bar or an auger.

    - Take ice safety and rescue training and know the basics about hypothermia before venturing out on ice, especially if you plan to fish with youngsters.

    - Don't leave children unsupervised on the ice.

    - Don't forget that lakes and ponds do not freeze at the same thickness all over.

    - Don't forget that moving waterırivers, streams and springs weaken ice by wearing it away from underneath. Avoid ice on rivers and streams, or where a river or stream enters a lake, pond or reservoir.

    - Don't forget most unsafe ice usually occurs early and late in the season, when the weather is warmer.

    News Source: Montana FWP - Jan. 30, 2008

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