The absence of snow in Western Montana has been impacting various winter activities, from ski resorts to Glacier National Park. Among the affected pastimes is ice fishing, a beloved winter tradition in Montana that has taken a hit due to the mild weather.
Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks spokesman Dillon Tabish emphasizes the need for caution, stating, “You really don’t want to be playing fast and loose with ice thickness.” The ice conditions in Northwest Montana this year are less than ideal, prompting warnings about the importance of extra vigilance.
Tabish suggests assessing ice conditions by examining the edges, emphasizing the significance of clear, thick ice. This year, the unseasonably warmer weather adds an extra layer of caution. Typically, by January, most lakes across the Flathead region are fully frozen or have some ice cover, but the slow start to winter has disrupted this pattern.
Bigger lakes, like Whitefish Lake, are experiencing limited to no ice cover, causing challenges for ice fishermen and related businesses. Chancy and Dave’s Fish Camp co-owner Chancy Jeschke compares the situation to selling winter tires only when necessary, noting that the lack of snow translates to fewer sales of sleds, boots, high suits, and ice houses.
Chancy and Dave’s Fish Camp in Evergreen serves as a hub for fishing needs and provides a hotline for ice conditions at 844-774-3474. Jeschke advises anglers to exercise caution due to varying ice conditions on different parts of the lake, emphasizing the importance of safety. Typically, a thickness of about four inches is considered safe for walking on the ice.
Despite the slow start, there is a silver lining in the weather forecast, which predicts colder temperatures. This change bodes well for ice fishermen, offering hope for the development of thicker and more stable ice. While the season’s beginning might be slower than average, the expectation is that, by mid to late January, many lakes, including the larger ones, should be in suitable condition for ice fishing, keeping the cherished Montana tradition alive.