Despite spotty conditions, ice anglers are starting to head out on lakes around the state. The reports are coming in slow, but the ones I've heard look good for ice and catching some fish.
As always, ice conditions can change, so use caution. These are the ice fishing reports I gathered Tuesday:
Georgetown Lake is a popular ice fishing spot and Mary from the Sunshine Factory in Philipsburg said there's ice on the lake and and a lot of anglers seem to be fishing.
“I don’t know what they are catching, but I have seen a lot people near the pump house fishing. I don’t think the ice is very good yet because most of the them are staying close to shore,” she said.
Browns Lake has ice and the reports have been good, with some nice trout being caught.
“Browns normally has some pretty good fishing before the first of the year with first ice on, but it can also be hit-and-miss, too,” said Jim Johnson of Lincoln.
It might surprise you that East Polson Bay on Flathead Lake has fishable ice, but that's the information I received from Dick Zimmer of Zimmer Tackle in Pablo.
“East Polson Bay has as much as 8 inches of ice in some places, but it is not all across the bay – at least it wasn’t on Monday,” he said.
Using the Zimmer Tackle Trilobite Lure, he caught some lake trout and a few small perch fishing in 2 to 3 feet of water while staying close to the trailer park on the east shore.
Whitefish are still spawning and the fishing is fair by Polson Bridge on Flathead River.
“I am having some luck using the Country Mile Lure, but chunks of ice floating in the river were causing some problems the other night as the ice was getting caught up against the boat. So I only caught one fish but it can be good and those ice conditions will change, sometimes even daily,” Zimmer said.
Crow Reservoir has about 6 inches of ice and the trout have been liking the ready-to-go perch setup tipped with a piece of nightcrawler. Tube jigs tipped with a nightcrawler or maggot have also worked well.
Lonepine Reservoir has ice, and smaller northern pike are biting.
The ice hasn't been good enough to get out on Lake Mary Ronan, and remember that Pablo and Ninepipes are closed until after waterfowl hunting season ends after the first of the year.
Some other popular places near Kalispell that have enough safe ice to get on at this time are Church Slough and Blanchard Lake. I haven't heard any fishing reports from either, but if you can get on Church Slough at first ice the northern pike fishing is usually pretty good.
Chancy from Snappy Sport Senter in Kalispell and Zimmer normally have updated ice and fishing information for the Flathead area near Kalispell.
One final note: Joe Moline told me that his son Cameron ice fished Fresno Reservoir near Havre on Sunday and Monday and caught some decent eating-sized walleyes, some smaller northern pike and a ling.
If you're looking at planning a trip east, I would recommend calling Leonard at Roberts Bait and Tackle in Great Falls, (406) 454-1877, for current information on Helena-area reservoirs and Tiber Reservoir.
Mark Ward’s statewide “Montana Outdoor Radio Show” airs Saturdays from 6 to 8 a.m. in Missoula on KGVO 1290 AM. Email Ward at email@example.com.