Water in the Winter: Fishing on Ice

In the winter most fishermen allow their season to come to a halt. Although fishing isn’t the same as in warm weather, it is still possible to get out fishing. If you have never been ice fishing before, it is a truly different experience than any other form of fishing. Although it is hard to go ice fishing if you have never gone before – since it requires some specific, specialized equipment – it is a great time and certainly worth trying.

Last weekend, I went ice fishing with my family and two friends at Georgetown Lake, which is about two and a half hours from Bozeman, west on Interstate 90. The day began interestingly enough as we tried to use a snow blower attached to a tractor to clear a path down to the lake and ended up struggling to find a way to pull the tractor out when it got stuck. Eventually we ended up with a path to the lake. To avoid dragging out the ice fishing huts by hand, we tried to use ATVs to drag the huts out on the lake. Unfortunately there was a lot of snow on the lake, in addition to a slushy layer that eventually caused the ATVs to get stuck. In the end, we had to wade through the slush to push the ATVs out and then drag the huts out by hand anyway.

Finally, once we were out on the lake, we drilled holes in the ice using a manual auger, which if you don’t know, is a lot of work. After the first two holes were drilled, we realized the spot we had chosen was too shallow and so we hauled the huts farther out on the lake and started drilling over. We drilled six holes for our two huts and began fishing.

Generally speaking, the rig for ice fishing is a short rod with a hook and, a few feet up, a flasher. Probably the best bait for ice fishing is maggots, which you can find at sporting goods stores. Once the bait is hooked, you simply drop it in the hole and jig (jerk up and down) so the flasher attracts fish. This last weekend, although we were not as successful as usual, we saw many fish going for the bait but only managed to catch one brook trout that was about 15 inches long. The conditions weren’t ideal and it turned out to be a pretty crazy day, but even then, fishing was a blast.