I think that in in general there are two sorts of ice fishing experiences. There are the sorts detailed in the work of the great philosopher Pat McManus which almost inevitably end with snowbanks, frostbite, and windchill, and there is the experience of my wife, who went ice fishing once, the sky was blue, the sun was shining, the wind was down, and she caught plenty of fish, including the only bass of the day. There are plenty of strange outdoor sports in Montana, but to outsiders, ice fishing is probably the strangest of them all. Even Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks has admitted as much; their intro to ice fishing opens with the following paragraph:
To those who have never tried it, ice fishing is sometimes looked upon as an oddity. So too are the practitioners of this sport. Seen from a distance, the forlorn-looking souls huddled over the ice often evoke feelings mixed with both pity as well as a strange sense of wonder: why would anyone subject themselves to this treatment?
Despite this skepticism, ice fishing is incredibly popular, and there are few better ways to spend a lovely winter day in Montana, especially since this winter has been an unusually cold one. Moreover, Southwest Montana has some of the best ice fishing in the state, including Canyon Ferry, the other Helena Lakes, and Georgetown. It would almost be crazy to not go.
As FW&P points out, the equipment needed for ice fishing on a nice day is pretty minimal: wear lots of warm winter clothes (obviously), grab an ice auger and scoop to make a hole, make sure to bring rod, lure, and bait, and you’re pretty much set. FW&P adds something to sit on a thermos full of something hot, but I say why not go whole hog and figure out how to bring something hot and delicious to eat too?