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Anglers ice fishing

Fish Ice Fishing in Montana

Ice fishing is more than just a way to fill the days between the closing of one open water fishing season and the opening of the next. It is a chance to breathe the cold, clean winter air; to spend quiet time outdoors with family and friends, and to relax and collect one's thoughts.

Ice Fishing Basics

Safety, First!

Ice fishing is fun, but safety comes first.

Ice Fishing Safety >
Ice Fishing 101

What do you need to get out on the ice? We can help.

Ice Fishing Primer >
Fishing Regulations

Check the current Montana Fishing Regs for ice fishing specific rules.

Fishing Regulations >

Ice conditions

Do your homework before you go.

What is safe ice? Learn more on our ice fishing safety page.

 
"Ice Report" app

The Ice Report application allows anglers to distribute and share information about lake ice thicknesses during the ice fishing season in Northern climates. The ice data is submitted by users and there is no guarantee of accuracy. As always, check ice thickness yourself before venturing out. Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks has no affiliation with this application.

FAQ

FAQ coming soon. If you have a question that you'd like us to answer, let us know!

Where to go

 

Here is a guide to get you started. For more options, check with your regional FWP office or explore the FishMT map!

 
Region 1 — Northwest Montana
  • Lake Mary Ronan is about 1,500 acres and located seven miles northwest of Dayton. Ice anglers can target kokanee and yellow perch.

  • Little Bitterroot Lake is located near Kalispell. This 2,970 acre lake offers a variety of species including rainbow trout, yellow perch, and kokanee.  

  • Echo Lake is located five miles from Bigfork and 25 miles from Kalispell. The lake is filled by warm springs and a small amount of mountain runoff from Echo Creek. It is popular among anglers due to its large numbers of perch.

  • Thompson Chain of Lakes is comprised of 18 lakes of various sizes stretching along Highway 2 west of Kalispell. Depending on the lake, ice anglers can target kokanee, rainbow trout, brook trout, westslope cutthroat trout, and yellow perch. Be aware that access to some of the lakes may be restricted in the winter due to snow. 

  • Learn more about Ice Fishing in northwest Montana (PDF)

 
Region 2  
  • Browns Lake is located 15 miles from Lincoln. This 550-acre reservoir hosts a very popular rainbow trout fishery that usually provides some the earliest fishable ice in Region 2 (end of November). Standard jigging tackle including Swedish pimples and small tungsten jigs tipped with maggots or wax worms are productive set ups. Fishing quality and catch rates are typically better in the first half of the ice fishing season. 

  • Georgetown Lake has good fishing all season (ice on until March 31) for kokanee and rainbow trout, also, opportunities for trophy brook trout. Fish with rocker jigs or Swedish pimples tipped with a maggots, corn, or pieces of earthworm.

  • Nevada Reservoir is located about 12.1 miles from Lincoln, anglers can catch rainbow trout, westslope cutthroat trout, yellow perch at this 337-acre lake. A lot of the annual fishing pressure occurs at this waterbody durring ice fishing season. However, you will not have trouble finding plenty of elbow room, as this reservoir is not as popular as many of the other nearby waterbodies. Rainbow trout achieve maximum lengths of 18–20 inches and some anglers have reported catching 10-inch perch. 

  • Racetrack Pond is a small (50-acre) pond near Deer Lodge, MT. Racetrack pond is an ideal spot for anglers of all skill levels, including children and people new to ice fishing. Anglers can expect to catch primarily rainbow and westslope cutthroat trout. Racetrack Pond is catch and release only for people over the age of 14.

  • Upsata Lake is located northeast of Missoula, this 119-acre lake provides angling opportunities for yellow perch, northern pike, and largemouth bass. High densities of yellow perch make this a great spot to take the family, kids, or new ice anglers to for fun-filled days with lots of action.

 
Region 3 
  • Harrison Reservoir is a 40-acre lake located about 23 miles south from Three Forks. A variety of trout species can be caught , with the majority being brown and rainbow trout. In the future, kokanee may become a part of the fishery through the ice.  

  • Hebgen Reservoir is a large reservoir (6,500 acres) near the Idaho border about 20 minutes west of West Yellowstone. Anglers will mostly catch wild brown and rainbow trout as well as the occasional brook and westslope cutthroat trout. Maggots, worms, and horizontal sharp jigs are often used to catch trout, especially rainbows. Be wary of uneven ice conditions across the lake as its a large reservoir that is influenced by frequent winds.

  • Hyalite Reservoir is a 206-acre reservoir located 12 miles south of Bozeman. Hyalite is a popular winter recreation destination that provides opportunities to fish for Yellowstone cutthroat trout, brook trout and arctic grayling. Use almost any jig or hook tipped with red maggots or worms to catch fish through the ice. 

 
Region 4  
  • East Fork Reservoir is a 380-acre reservoir that supports a popular yellow perch and northern pike fishery near Lewistown. This reservoir is a great place to take kids as perch are plentiful and relatively easy to catch using standard jigging tackle baited with maggots. Pike are typically caught using tip-ups baited with smelt or dead minnows. Rainbow trout are also occasionally caught. Typically has fishable ice by mid-December.  

  • Holter Reservoir is a 3,667-acre waterbody located between Great Falls and Helena and is a very popular yellow perch, rainbow trout and ling (burbot) fishery.  Fishable ice is typically not present until late January and lasts only 4–-6 weeks. Eater sized perch are common and usually caught on standard jigging tackle (Swedish Pimples, Hali Jigs, etc.) in 10–40 feet of water. Large rainbow trout are common and are usually caught on standard jigging tackle (lead, buckshot, tungsten and rocker jigs) in less than 10 feet of water. Worms or maggots work well for perch and rainbow trout.  Ling are usually caught while targeting perch or fishing cut-bait (e.g., sucker meat) near the bottom. 

  • Lake Frances is a large lake (5,251 acres) that is a popular northern pike, walleye, and yellow perch fishery and usually has fishable ice by early January. Setting tip ups with smelt or jigging in 6-20 feet of water is typically productive for northern pike. Yellow perch are generally caught in deeper water with standard jigging tackle and maggots or wax worms. 

  • Newlan Creek Reservoir is a 265-acre reservoir located 12 miles north of White Sulfur Springs that provides opportunity for rainbow trout, westslope cutthroat trout, kokanee, and burbot. Burbot are often targeted at night using cut-bait or dead minnows. 

 
Region 5 
  • Cooney Reservoir is a 1,078 acre reservoir about an hour’s drive from Billings. The reservoir has rainbow trout, burbot, yellow perch, and walleye that can be caught year-round.  

  • Lake Elmo is a 64-acre reservoir in the Billings Heights and has a variety of fish. Yellow perch and crappie are the most likely species to be caught while ice-fishing using maggots and worms on small jigs just off the bottom. Lake Elmo is expected to be drained during the winter of 2021–2022.

  • Lake Josephine is a little pond on the south side of Billings at Riverfront Park that holds bluegill, channel catfish, and the occasional tiger muskie.  

  • Wild Bill Lake is a small reservoir (3-acre) located seven miles south of Red Lodge that is especially great for kids and beginners. Rainbow and brook trout can be caught here. The Wild Bill parking lot is accessible in the winter and the road is plowed. 

 
Region 6  
  • Fort Peck Trout Pond is a 53-acre dredge cut pond three miles north of the town of Fort Peck. A variety of fish species are present including rainbow trout, Yellow perch, bluegill, northern pike, largemouth bass, and the occasional walleye. Access to the reservoir is available using a fishing access site on the west side of Highway 117. 

  • Glasgow Base Pond is an eight-acre reservoir located 22 miles north of Glasgow on Highway 24. A fishing access site provides an access point to this reservoir. Anglers can target yellow perch, Rainbow trout, and northern pike at Glasgow Base Pond. 

  • Whitetail Reservoir is a 25-acre reservoir located just southeast of the town of Whitetail. Ice anglers have the opportunity to catch yellow perch, Northern pike, and rainbow trout here. Access is available at the north and west ends of the reservoir.  

 
Region 7  
  • Gartside Reservoir is a 40-acre reservoir located at Crane MT.  Yellow perch, bluegill and northern pike are the most common fish species caught through the ice.  Channel catfish and largemouth bass are occasional surprises through the ice.
  • South Sandstone Reservoir located south of Plevna or East of Baker MT is a 90-acre reservoir that is a popular ice fishing destination.  Ice fisherman can expect to catch yellow perch and northern pike and occasionally walleye and crappie. 
  • Spotted Eagle Lake is a 25-acre reservoir located in Miles City that produces sunfish, crappie and walleye.  

  • Tongue River Reservoir is a large waterbody (3,600 acres) located just north of the Wyoming border near Decker, MT and is a prime ice fishing destination. Walleye, yellow perch, northern pike, crappie, and even smallmouth bass and channel catfish can be caught through the ice.  

Filleting Tips

You caught some fish! Now, what?

 

 

 

Ice Fishing Gear

Ice fishing gear doesn't have to be complicated. Here are the top 5 essentials:

1) Something to measure the ice with — remember, safety, first!

2) Scoop

3) Rod and bait — fish love maggots!

4) Bucket

5) Auger

 

5 ice fishing essentials!

What do you need to go ice fishing?

Sara Smith, our Becoming an Outdoors-Woman Coordinator, shares the top 5 things you need to get started.

Montana Outdoors Magazine

Ice Fishing Gets Civilized

Electronic fish locators, portable ice houses, and other technological advances are making this once-brutal winter sport downright enjoyable. By Tom Dickson.

This article appeared in Montana Outdoors March-April 2010. 

Read the article 
Magazine spreadd