Have you been out ice fishing in the valley this year? If you have, I am guessing it has been on one of our smaller bodies of water, as it seems Ol’ Man Winter just refuses to strike a “deal” with Mother Nature and get serious about making ice. While it is real winter in so much of the upper Midwest, our Montana weather just continues to be mild. Many area lakes do have ice, but the thickness and quality varies greatly, so please be super careful and assume nothing based on the calendar.
This mild weather is not just affecting the western side of the state, as the eastern side has been slow to ice up as well. While some parts of Fort Peck have frozen, the main body of the lake near the dam only iced over late last week, and needs a couple more inches before it will be safe from blowing open with any big winds. Nelson Reservoir has had ice for some time, but it is not the depth or quality it should be for mid-January.
Just over the mountains, Lake Frances is holding its own, with the annual derby being held last weekend, and Tiber Reservoir is hit or miss depending on what side of the lake you are on. And just Tuesday it was announced that the Lions Club Derby scheduled for Jan 26 and 27 on Canyon Ferry has been cancelled due to ice conditions (or lack thereof).
Conversely, the NAIFC event scheduled for this weekend on Hebgen Lake in West Yellowstone is proceeding as schedule with good ice and (dare I say it without jinxing it) relatively little snow on the lake, which could make for some of the best conditions in several years ... Figures, as I have decided to not fish the event this year due to scheduling conflicts. I hope it’s great conditions and the fish are biting, so Wayne and Denise Schlegel can win it for the second year in a row! Good luck to all the Flathead teams heading down to fish this incredible body of water. Entries are accepted right up until the rules meeting Saturday night — see www.naifc.com for more info.
Despite the mild conditions, our guides have found good ice and good fishing on a few of our local lakes, namely Smith, Lower Stillwater and Blanchard, and we only need a couple more cold nights to finish off several more, although I am not sure what we will see for ice on Ashley, Little Bitterroot and Whitefish lakes anytime soon. If an ice fishing trip is in your plans this winter, rest assured, we can make it happen despite the conditions. In fact, the mild weather means a comfortable experience and our guides know where the safe ice is, where the fish are biting and how to catch them!
And speaking of our guides, a couple have even been getting the boats out on Flathead Lake, taking advantage of the mild conditions. With all of the public docks pulled from the lake, launching can be tricky, but the fish often make it worthwhile this time of the year. Many fish over 30 inches are being caught, so if you want to experience Flathead Lake in the dead of winter, this is the year to do so! Give us a call, and if the weather and roads cooperate, we just might be talked into launching a boat and chasing some trophy Mackinaw!
Lastly, our phone has been ringing with folks making plans for the summer, and if you have any questions about what we offer, or just want to share some fish stories, please stop in to Cabelas this Saturday where we will have a couple of our guides there supporting the “Guides and Outfitters” event taking place from Noon-4 p.m.
Until next time, tight lines, and best fishes!
— Howe is the owner/outfitter at Howe’s Fishing, A Able and Mo Fisch Charters. Call 406-257-5214 or at www.howesfishing.com