By Robert Lucke
This looks to be a short but good ice fishing season according to Kent Gilge, Havre fish biologist with Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks.
However, this year is a good year to use even more caution than usual in venturing out onto ice as temperatures have been so warm before Christmas.
"Whether or not there is a truck parked out in the middle of the lake on the ice is how I test the ice," said Gilge with a laugh. "If the truck is out there, why then you can be certain that it is safe for you to walk out on the ice."
"The other thing is that if you see open water, it probably is not a good idea to go out on the flat stuff," Gilge continued. "Days are so short that night time temperatures really determine ice conditions. With say twelve inches of ice even with a warm spell, you should be set until March. Last night for instance (it got to 12 below in Havre) probably six inches of ice on the lakes."
Hot spots? Plenty for ice fishermen depending on what they are out to catch.
"There are some potential good spots but the trouble is no one has fished them yet to determine how good they are," related Gilge. "For trout, I think Bear Paw Lake should be good along with H.C. Kuhr Reservoir, Grasshopper Reservoir and Faber Reservoir. For pike and perch Bailey, Beaver Creek Reservoir and Dry Fork Reservoir should be good to excellent."
Problem is that the best ice fishing is usually around Christmas and has passed us by this year already, Gilge contends. But in a nutshell ice fishing for perch should be good, pike should be fair and trout should be good.
Don't forget about the Milk River for fly fishing and ice fishing this time of year.
"Something people neglect is Frenso tailwaters. There is great trout and fly fishing in the riffle below the dam and it is just excellent," Gilge said. "People have been getting three to five pound rainbows and browns there. All are fly fishermen. I don't know what bait fishermen would use in there."
The Milk River provides some excellent ice fishing as well this time of year and the river is open to fishing all year long Gilge reminded.