Fishing is one of the most popular sports in the U.S., and any avid fisher will tell you that Montana is a fisherman's paradise —; fall, winter, spring, or summer.
Whether you are a spectator or participant, the ice fishing tournaments across Montana are a spectacle you won't want to miss. This year there are three planned ice fishing derbies in Southwest Montana:
- Hebgen Lake NAIFC Qualifier | January 12, 2020 | Hebgen Lake
- Stan Shafer Memorial Ice Fishing Derby | January 1, 2020 | Clark Canyon Reservoir
- Broadwater Lions Perch Derby | January 25 & 26, 2020 | Canyon Ferry Reservoir
- Montana Ducks Unlimited Ice Fishing Tournament | February 29, 2020 | Canyon Ferry Reservoir
The lakes and reservoirs of Southwest Montana provide visitors with ample opportunity for ice fishing. You won't want to miss an opportunity to fish Canyon Ferry Reservoir, Clark Canyon Reservoir, and Georgetown Lake - which are home to perch, trout, walleye, and more - while in Southwest Montana; but, ice fishing enthusiasts each have their favorite spot, so don't hesitate to ask the locals for recommendations.
The Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks have several resources for both the beginner and expert ice angler. Make sure you stay up-to-date on regulations and conditions before heading out for a peaceful day on the ice. Check out FWP's regulations and ice fishing primer.
As you head out on your ice fishing adventure, please take both your own safety and the safety of others into consideration, and remember - ice conditions can change almost as quickly as the weather.
Top Ice Fishing Destinations in Southwest Montana:
- Brown's Lake: Located 7 miles southeast of Ovando, this State fishing access site has become a weekend destination for ice fishermen. The lake draws anglers from across the state and generally produces very good 1- to 3-pound rainbow trout - with occasional reports of brook or brown trout as well.
- Canyon Ferry Reservoir: Sitting 20 miles east of Helena, and just west of Townsend, Canyon Ferry provides anglers with a perfect oasis. The water holds a variety of fish including rainbow trout, yellow perch, walleye, the occasional ling, and more.
- Clark Canyon Reservoir: Clark Canyon Reservoir is the site of Camp Fortunate, the site at which Lewis and Clark met the Lemhi Shoshoni Tribe. The reservoir spans nearly 5,000 acres, serves as the headwaters of the Beaverhead River, and is located 20 miles southwest of Dillon. Popular for its fantastic ice fishing, you will find a plethora of trout in these waters, as well as a variety of other species.
- Georgetown Lake: Georgetown lake is one of Southwest Montana's most scenic lakes. Settled 18 miles west of Anaconda, this is a popular destination for Montana's outdoor enthusiasts year-round. Because the lake is relatively shallow, ice forms and fishing generally begins earlier than many of the other Montana lakes. Ice anglers tend to focus on either salmon or trout while at Georgetown.
- Harrison Lake: Home to a variety of trout, this state fishing access is tucked 5 miles northeast of Harrison. This lake is relatively small and off the beaten path, fed by the Blackfoot River, this is a prime ice fishing destination.
- Hauser Lake: Resting 7 miles north of Helena, a 3,200 acre reservoir on the Missouri river yields rainbow and brown trout, as well as perch, walleye, and even kokanee salmon.
- Helena Valley Reservoir: Just 8 miles northeast of Helena sits the Helena Valley Reservoir. This water is known for housing both perch and kokanee salmon, but depending on the season and temperatures the salmon fishing may be slow.
- Holter Lake: A 45-minute drive North from Helena will land you at Holter Lake, a local hotspot for anglers. This lake is home to Kokanee salmon, trout, and walleye; however, during winter, perch are the most popular target on this water. Holter offers some of the nation's best perch fishing, it is absolutely phenomenal.
- Ruby Reservoir: 12 miles west of Virginia City sits the Ruby Reservoir which is stocked with several varieties of trout and a popular Southwest Montana fishing destination.
- Willow Creek Reservoir: The Willow Creek Reservoir is one of the most popular fisheries in the Sun drainage. 70,000 fingerling rainbow trout are stocked annually to sustain the fish population of the area. With a stocked lake, your ice fishing adventure is sure to be a success.