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Ice Fishing in Western Montana + Glacier National Park

things to do in the winter

Ice Fishing Winter’s Catch in Montana

Winter’s Catch in Montana

Montana is for fishing…in all four seasons. Our fish are biting year-round. And if you’re serious about it, you know that Montana is at the top of the list of dream destinations to cast a fly or drop a line. Ice fishing can be a true test of skill and a whole lot of fun. So carve a hole, sink a lure, kick back, relax and reel in your winter.

Play it Safe in Yellowstone Country

The cure for cabin fever lies just north of America’s first national park. Pack your mask, travel smart, and brace yourself for nature’s wild wonderland.

The Basics

Safety is an important consideration when ice fishing. Two things to remember: ice conditions can change almost as quickly as weather conditions and a cold day is even colder without any cover.

When ice fishing in Montana, plan ahead:

  • The essentials: Check the weather forecast and be prepared for it to change quickly. Bring along extra clothing, food/water, a first aid kit and a compass. While you're at it, bring a buddy.
  • Tip-ups: Essentially, a tip-up is just a short stick that balances on a base. For ice fishing, it's your "pole."
  • Tackle/Bait: You'll need basic tackle such as hooks, sinkers and bobbers. Try lures in the basic colors of black, silver, gold, pink and orange. Popular bait choices include salmon eggs, worms, corn and even marshmallows, depending on where you're fishing.
  • Ice drill/auger: A good hand auger should be enough to handle most ice fishing situations. Most fold or disassemble for easy transport and are usually available in 5 to 8-inch diameters.
  • Ice skimmer: Once you've augured a hole, a skimmer will help you remove the slush, as well as keep new ice from forming.
  • Clothing: Take care to dress extra warm. You'll be exposed to the elements and you won't be exerting a lot of energy to keep warm. Well-insulated boots are a must. Dress in layers, with a wind/water-resistant outer layer.
  • Shelter: While you certainly don't need a hut or shelter to ice fish, many prefer it. You can find everything from fold up wind breaks to nylon dome tents to mini bunk houses.


To fish Montana's waters, you must have a valid fishing license. For more information on rules and regulations, visit Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks fishing regulations.

Two rods and/or lines may be used to fish through ice on all lakes, reservoirs or ponds in the western and central districts of Montana.

Size of the Hole

The maximum size hole that may be cut for ice fishing is 144 square inches. There is no limit on the size of hole used for fishing with a spear or gig.


Special regulations apply to ice fishing shelters on Brown's Lake near Ovando. Each shelter must be marked with the owner's name, address and/or phone number, painted or permanently affixed to the shelter in legible letters not less than 2 inches in height, of contrasting color to the background and plainly visible at a distance of 100 feet.

Each shelter of closed type construction shall have a door readily opened from the outside for inspection by an office when the shelter is occupied. The door shall not be latched from the inside. Daily removal of the shelter is required.

Where to Go

Much of conventional fishing wisdom applies for ice fishing. The best times to fish are early morning and late afternoon…prime feeding times. Overcast days are often better than sunny days. And, noise will naturally scare away fish from even the most perfect hole. A key difference is that fish are more lethargic in the winter. Their metabolisms have slowed and they are generally more finicky about taking bait, adding to the challenge.

Glacier Country has a number of lakes that are popular ice fishing spots. Flathead Lake is the largest natural freshwater lake in the western United States. Although the lake usually doesn't freeze completely due to its size, most bays freeze enough for excellent ice fishing. Whitefish and lake trout are the most caught, although yellow perch and cutthroat trout are also present.

Whitefish Lake also offers excellent ice fishing beginning in late December. Additional ice fishing locations in Glacier Country include Smith Lake (near Kila) and Bitterroot Lake (near Kalispell). Numerous lakes dot the Seeley Swan Valley and most feature excellent ice fishing. Salmon Lake, Holland Lake and Placid Lake are filled with bull trout, cutthroat trout, kokanee salmon and northern pike.

Many travelers to Montana wisely plan their trips to include both of our national parks: Glacier and Yellowstone. To help make the most of your time, we’ve put together several road-trip itineraries that offer authentic park-to-park experiences. For inspiration, visit Glaciers to Geysers.

Featured Listings

Bar W Guest Ranch in Western Montana.

Bar W Guest Ranch

2875 U.S. Highway 93 W.
Whitefish, Montana 59937


River Meadow Ranch in Western Montana.

River Meadow Ranch

3195 West Valley Drive
Whitefish, MT 59937


The Lakeside Motel & Resort Inc. in Western Montana.

The Lakeside Motel & Resort Inc.

2955 MT Highway 200
Trout Creek, Montana 59874


The Lodge at Whitefish Lake in Western Montana.

The Lodge at Whitefish Lake

1380 Wisconsin Ave.
Whitefish, Montana 59937


Triple Creek Ranch in Western Montana.

Triple Creek Ranch

5551 West Fork Road
Darby, Montana 59829


Other Listings

A Beautiful House on Big Arm Bay

  • 1422 Golf Course Road Hamilton, Montana 59840
  • 406.363.3122
  • Visit Website

AB Properties

Ashley Lake Cabin

  • PO Box 4606 Whitefish, Montana 59937
  • 406.863.9337
  • Visit Website

Aspenwood Resort

  • 980 US Highway 89 West Browning, Montana 59417
  • 406.338.3009
  • Visit Website

Biggest Rental on Flathead Lake

  • 9899 Chamberlain Ventura, Montana 93004
  • 805.659.0740
  • Visit Website

Blackfeet Outfitters

  • 1720 10 th. Ave S #142 Great Falls, Montana 59405
  • 406.450.8420
  • Visit Website

Bootjack Lake Lodge

  • PO Box 4606 Whitefish, Montana 59937
  • 406.863.9337
  • Visit Website

Braidwater Vacation Rentals

  • 264 El Rancho Kalispell, Montana 59901
  • 406.253.0138
  • Visit Website

Brown's Cabin Home

  • PO Box 264 West Glacier, Montana 59936
  • 406.888.9073
  • Visit Website

Cabin Creek Landing B&B

  • 1771 Bitterroot Dr Marion, Montana 59925
  • 406.854.2126
  • Visit Website

Coram Creek Cabin

  • 2610 Trumble Creek Road Kalispell, Montana 59901
  • 406.261.3039
  • Visit Website

Flat Iron Outfitting

  • PO Box 2510 Thompson Falls, Montana 59873
  • 406.827.7606
  • Visit Website

Flying W Outfitters & Booking Service

Glacier Park River & Golf Getaway

  • 6614 Harvest Hill Rd Waunakee, Montana 53597
  • 608.576.7923
  • Visit Website

Glacier Ridge

Happy's Roadhouse Inn

  • 72576 US Highway 2 Libby, Montana 59923
  • 406.293.7810

Harbor Mountain Properties

  • PO Box 4389 Whitefish, Montana 59937
  • 406.862.5511
  • Visit Website

Island Lodge

  • 2433 MT Hwy 83 Seeley Lake, Montana 59868
  • 406.244.5200
  • Visit Website

Jane's Place Montana

King's Cabin

  • PO Box 575 West Glacier, Montana 59936
  • 406.260.6532
  • Visit Website

Lake Lodge

  • PO Box 897 Frenchtown, Montana 59834
  • 406.626.2493

Lakefront Hide Away in Somers Bay

Lakeshore Rentals

  • PO Box 4606 Whitefish, Montana 59937
  • 406.863.9337
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Loon Song Lodge

  • 432 East Idaho, C-437 Kalispell, Montana 59901
  • 406.253.8445
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Montana Hunting Fishing Adventures

  • 870 Sleeping Child Road Hamilton, Montana 59840
  • 406.363.3510
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Montana Lake Cabin

  • 5160 Shoreline Dr Ketchikan, Montana 99901
  • 907.617.5251
  • Visit Website

Montana Log Cabin

Montana Old West Outfitters

  • PO Box 25 Browning, Montana 59417
  • 406.338.2777

Montana's Duck Lake Lodge

Morning Star Outfitters

Piquett Creek Ranch

Rugg's Outfitting LLC

  • 116 Black Bear Trail Superior, Montana 59872
  • 406.822.4240
  • Visit Website

Seeley-Swan Vacations

  • PO Box 647 Seeley Lake, Montana 59868
  • 406.677.6600
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Standing Stones Bed & Breakfast

  • PO Box 950 Condon, Montana 59826
  • 406.754.2891

Tamaracks Resort

  • PO Box 812 Seeley Lake, Montana 59868
  • 406.677.2433
  • Visit Website

The Lodge at McGregor Lake

  • 12250 US Hwy 2 W Marion, Montana 59925
  • 406.858.2253
  • Visit Website

Triple M Outfitters

Whitetail Lodge

  • 1106 N Pittsburgh St Kennewick, Montana 99336
  • 509.783.3165
  • Visit Website

Wild Trout Adventures

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