In our last blog, “320’s Inside Scoop on How to Keep Warm for Winter Fly-Fishing”, we discussed the kind of gear you want for keeping toasty out there on the Gallatin during winter. Now, that advice is also applicable to another of our favorite winter sports here in southwest Montana: Ice Fishing. Since you already know the best ways of keeping warm on the ice, we’re just going to skip right over that. Instead, we’ve gone right ahead with compiling details about our top two favorite nearby spots to auger a hole and drop that line.
Distance from 320 Guest Ranch: 36 miles (about 40 minutes’ drive time)
Hebgen Lake is definitely number one on our list for several reasons. First and foremost, it’s the closest lake to the Ranch and is also within spitting distance of the lovely town of West Yellowstone. The ease of travel time and access also make it an ideal choice for those new to ice fishing. And for the locals who’ve been around the ice fishing game for a while, it makes a perfect day trip destination. In addition, we cannot discount the beauty of Hebgen Lake. Turn any direction while seated aside your augured hole-in-the-ice, and you’ll be greeted by a classic Montana mountain view. Most importantly, Hebgen Lake is often touted for having A LOTof fish in comparison to other regional lakes. If you’re looking for the closest thing to a promise that you’ll catch something, Hebgen Lake needs to be your go-to for an ice fishing destination.
Distance from 320 Guest Ranch: 168 miles (about 3 hours’ drive time)
Due to it being rather shallow at a high elevation, Georgetown Lake offers Montana anglers the benefit of some of the earliest safe ice fishing. The roads necessary for getting there are also guaranteed safer due to the lake being near a major ski area as well as the town of Anaconda, MT. So, state snowplows tend to be out in force to keep the area roads clear for that larger population. The most attractive thing about this lake – even more so than it being safe to get to and to fish on – is that Kokanee Salmon inhabit its waters. If you’re a fan of smoked fish, this is a lake where you can stock-up your salmon supply to the point that one day’s worth of catches will leave you prepped for winter. Sure, it’s a little further than Hebgen. But, get an early start, and every minute of every mile will prove worthwhile at the end of the day.
There are many who don’t realize the serenity one feels when alone for a day of fishing on the ice. These folks likely consider winter sports in the same light Dave Barry, an American author and columnist, considered them: “The problem with winter sports is that – follow me closely here – they generally take place in winter.” –Dave Barry. Here in lies the upside, though; with a majority not in favor of winter sports like ice fishing, the result is less competition for ideal, icy real estate on aforesaid lakes. Moreover, we’ve indulged you with the nitty gritty on how to keep warm and where to go. Now you have the know-how and the destinations. All that remains is to grab your pole and tack, hang up the gone fishin’ sign on your door, and catch yourself a piscatorial prize.