Saturday, June 12, 2021

Ice anglers welcome deep freeze

| February 18, 2021 12:00 AM

Well, if this recent cold snap didn’t put a smile on your face, then you are not an ice angler!

After two months of unseasonable warm weather, ol’ Man Winter finally paid us a visit!

The cold was just what area lakes needed to ensure good quality ice stays with us through the end of March and possibly further. Honestly, I have always advocated for winter in winter, so we can have reasonably seasonal weather the rest of the year!

Lakes such as Whitefish, Ashley, McGregor, Swan and even Flathead need that kind of cold to really put the ice on and Somers Bay is a great example of what deep cold can do to a large lake, putting on several inches of crystal clear, hard ice almost overnight.

It also takes that type of prolonged sub-zero temps to impact frozen lakes already under several inches of snow.

Of course, anytime snow comes in behind a deep freeze, slush on the lakes is usually a result and as I write this, it looks like we have more snow on the way. If you are venturing out on a lake that just recently iced over, be very careful and watch for areas of pressure ridges and places where the snow may have weighed down the ice and flooded the area beneath the snow.

Just because it is mid-February doesn’t mean there is good ice everywhere, caution is always recommended!

This cold snap hit our operation over at Fort Peck as well, where the main lake was still all open water as of last Wednesday! Ice on the main lake is 4-6 weeks late this year but it put on a solid 10 inches in almost three days and more in the bays and protected areas!

We had a lot of folks cancelling planned trips for January and February, but conditions are really looking good now!

As I wrote in my last column, ice fishing derbies and tournaments are very popular here in Region 1 and over the last couple weeks some of the more popular ones concluded for the season.

Starting with the two-day Perch Assault held out at Middle and Lower Thompson lakes, which was smack dab in the middle of the cold front and held under miserable conditions, the father and son team of Ken and Tyler Varga took top honors for the overall!

Out at the Snappy Family Fun Derby held on Lake Mary Ronan this past weekend, the grandfather/grandson team of Matt and Tenden McComb took first place together!

Memories these guys will hold forever, congratulations!

And THIS weekend’s Fisher River Valley Winter Fishing Derby held out on the Thompson chain of Lakes is another area favorite!

Two days of multiple categories with lots of prizes and cash up for grabs! Look for the posters around town, but you can enter in advance at Snappy’s in Kalispell, Happy’s Inn or Libby Sports Center.

This one is for a great cause and helps fund emergency services in the Fisher River Valley.

So far this ice fishing season has seen some great fishing, with some very mild weather. If you haven’t gotten out there and taken advantage of it, well, what are you waiting for?

Give us a call and we can get you out on the ice and show you what you have been missing!

Be safe and I’ll see you on the water!

Mike Howe is the owner/outfitter at Howe’s Fishing, A Able and Mo Fisch Charters. Call 406-257-5214 or at