Ice Fishing in Western Montana + Glacier National Park

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.

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
2875 U.S. Highway 93 W.
Whitefish, MT 59937
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River Meadow Ranch
3195 W. Valley Drive
Whitefish, MT 59937
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The Lodge at Whitefish Lake
1380 Wisconsin Ave.
Whitefish, MT 59937
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Triple Creek Ranch
5551 West Fork Road
Darby, MT 59829
406-821-4600 | 800-654-2943
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Big Sky Fishing Charters
180 Vista Lane
Bigfork, MT 59911
Jesco Marine & Power Sports
568 Fir Terrace
Kalispell, MT 59901
Tamaracks Resort
3481 State Highway 83 N., Mile Marker 17
Seeley Lake, MT 59868
The Lakeside Motel & Resort Inc.
2955 State Highway 200
Trout Creek, MT 59874
406.827.4458 | 888.827.4458
Whitefish Outfitters & Tours
541 Spokane Ave.
Whitefish, MT 59937
News from Glacier National Park Currently, 29 miles of the Going-to-the-Sun Road are open for travel.