Fort peck lake ice fishing

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Ice Fishing at Fort Peck

As the leaves begin to change into their orange and red hues and the breeze gives off a chilly bite when it blows by, we know that the summer season has come to an end and winter is waiting for us just around the corner. While some might not love the fact that we’ll all be wrapping ourselves in multiple layers just to go outside, there is no denying that Montana is incredibly beautiful during the colder seasons. If you’d rather stay warm in your newly renovated room at our hotel in downtown Glasgow, checking out the beauty of our historical town blanketed in a sheet of white, then that’s totally okay! But if you’re a winter and fishing enthusiast, you should remember to add your fishing gear to your bag before you leave for your journey!

The Fort Peck Reservoir, just a mere 20-minute drive from the Rundle Suites, offers some of the best ice fishing in the country. In this blog post, we’ll give you a few reasons why you should add ice fishing to your plans when you come to stay with us. For more information about our hotel and amenities, give us a call, or simply book your room now!

‘You Never Know What You’re Gonna Get’

If you’ve ever been ice fishing, you know that more often than not, you’ll only have a couple species of fish that you’ll be hoping to catch. Not at Fort Peck. With over fifty kinds of fish swimming beneath the ice at Fort Peck Lake, you’ll never know what you’re reeling in until you get it to the surface. What makes it truly unique is that you don’t have to move around from location to location for different species, just patiently wait at the same hole. Even if you’re a first-timer, or your kids came along for the adventure, it’s not uncommon to catch a massive trophy fish at the lake (you won’t even have to use the popular fishing trope “it was this big” when telling your friends back home!). Some of the fish that are found at Fort Peck include:

  • Chinook salmon
  • Smallmouth bass
  • Sauger
  • Lake trout
  • Northern pike
  • Walleye
  • And oh so much more!

Large and Isolated

Another reason why Lake Fort Peck is one of the premier ice fishing locations is just how isolated it is. With over 1,500 miles of shoreline and spanning over 245,000 acres, the lake is the fifth largest artificial lake in the country and the largest lake in Montana by surface area! With so much space, you’ll have no worries about any competition. Sure there may be some locals spread around and just a few lucky so and so’s like you that have found the ice fishing paradise, but that’d be it!

With so much area to cover, it is recommended to do a little research on prime spots to drill your ice fishing hole. Ask the staff at our hotel if they have any advice or contact the Hell Creek Marina and they’ll provide you with all the information you need, even access to local fishing guides. Due to the size of the lake, it is also beneficial to be mobile on your ice fishing escapade. ATV’s are quite common, just make sure that you stay safe and aware since there could be spots with pressure cracks and thin ice, but being able to ride around will give you much more of an opportunity to find the sweet spot for collecting trophy fish.

The Fort Peck Interpretive Museum

If your party is going ice fishing and it’s not really your thing, or the kids don’t want to join, the Fort Peck Interpretive Museum is a great alternative! Boasting the two largest aquariums in Montana, dinosaur exhibits, facts about the history of the area, and more, the museum is a great option to escape the cold, expand your knowledge, and have a great time!

Rundle Suites

At Rundle Suites, our staff is dedicated to making your stay as comfortable as possible as can be. With our newly renovated hotel rooms in our historic and hundred-year-old building right in the heart of downtown, we’d like you to consider us your home away from home. For more information or to get your room booked, contact us now!


Flathead Lake

WHY choose Howes Fishing?

Howes Fishing is the largest charter boat operation in Montana, and is the home of both A Able and Mo Fisch Charters. A Able has fished Flathead Lake since 1987 and Mo Fisch since 2006. Many of today’s lake guides fished with A Able as kids, or got their start guiding here! Both companies merged in 2017.


Owner and Outfitter Mike Howe personally books every trip, selecting the guides, boats and location to best suit your needs. If you wish to fish with a specific guide, Mike does everything he can to meet that request.


Our fleet of boats are all independently owned by the Captain(s) you are fishing with, experienced guides with a lot of “skin in the game”. Mike has assembled the best team of guides available, who ALL work together to assure your enjoyment and our reputation is unmatched on the water. We fish year-round, on the open water as well as ice fishing.


Where are you located and what will we be fishing for?

While our core business is Lake Trout Charters on Flathead Lake, we fish a variety of waters within the Flathead Valley, including fly fishing and light tackle spin fishing for multiple species. We also offer year-round fishing on Fort Peck Reservoir in Eastern Montana and ice fishing in the winter.


During peak summer season on Flathead Lake, as water levels allow, we spare no expense so we can operate out of PRIVATE marinas in Bigfork and Lakeside. All three have private restrooms and two locations have a bar and restaurant mere feet from our boats. NO public boat launch drama here!


Our variety of offerings is unmatched by any other outfitter in the state and no matter what type of fishing you desire, we can make it happen!


We do not have an office location; our boats are our offices and while all bookings are done through our website, we will be happy to answer any questions you may have before you book, just call or use our “ask a question” tab!


What time do your trips start?

Flathead Lake peak season morning trips go from 7AM-12PM and afternoons from 1-6PM. Our guides expect to run two trips a day so no exceptions can be made for a later start. (Full day trips can start at 8AM) Nonpeak start times can be adjusted more freely but typically an 8AM start is normal during off peak seasons. All other trips start times will vary based on conditions, bite windows and other factors.


Do I need a fishing license?

YES, everyone 12 years of age and older will need to obtain a Montana fishing license before starting your charter. We do not sell them on our boats (although you can get them online from anywhere you have a signal). Once you receive your confirmation, info about license vendors and online instructions are included. If you have booked a scenic tour or are just going along for the ride, and do not intend to touch a fishing pole, then you do not need a license.


What is provided?

We provide a fully equipped, cabin style boat (lake trips) and a professional guide. All your fishing tackle, fish cleaning and light snacks and cold drinks are provided. You need only bring your Montana fishing license, clothing as the weather dictates and a small cooler (you can leave in your car until the trip ends) to take your cleaned catch home. Sunglasses and a hat are always a good idea. If a full day, you should bring a lunch as we are on the water for nine hours. YES, you may bring alcohol, but please drink responsibly.


Are “tips” (or gratuities) expected, and what is a “normal” tip?

Like most personal service activities, tips are a normal way of life. At a minimum, the cost of your charter includes a professionally outfitted fishing boat, quality fishing gear and all safety equipment, fuel, and the guide. You would pay equal or perhaps much more for just the boat, gear and fuel for a “do it yourself” trip and still not have the knowledge, skills and entertainment factor of a local guide, often the keys to a successful and enjoyable time on the water. With that in mind, the typical gratuity for a professional guide of any kind is 10-25% of the total cost of the trip.


Can we bring our dog?

No-Our boats are not set up for having dogs aboard, and they can be stressful environments for the dogs and our Captains. (The only exception is for a small dog that will remain in its carrier at all times.)


Do we need experience?

NO! Our Flathead Lake trips are perfect for everyone, from complete novices of just about all ages to experienced anglers alike. The Captains will take care of all the rigging, explaining everything as they do, but when the fish strike, it is all on you! (We will coach you as necessary, but you get to fight the fish to the boat). On all other trips, varying levels of experience are recommended, please discuss this ahead of your booking.


Is there an age limit?

While we enjoy having kids aboard, anglers younger than 5-7 sometimes feel frustrated that they aren’t “part of the action” due to the environment. We have to keep a close eye on fingers and hands near moving equipment, sharp objects and fast action. Please be prepared as the parent to keep a very close eye on your younger children. All children under 12 MUST wear a life jacket at all times, and especially with the younger ones, bringing their own can make it an easier experience.


Can we keep what we catch?

While we encourage all of our guests to keep a few fish for the table, which we will gladly clean and fillet for you, packing fish to “send back home” is not easily accomplished here and often not realistic like in places like Alaska. It is very expensive to pack and ship via UPS or Fed Ex, so please respect our resource and only keep what you are prepared to eat fresh, or properly freeze or smoke immediately. (On some of our trips, like for Gerrard Rainbows and large Northern Pike, we are strictly catch and release except in the case of an injured fish or having mounted) and of course we must observe any and all size and number limits.


Are there bathrooms aboard?

All of our lake boats, at a minimum, have a “Porta Potty” and privacy screen for the ladies aboard. These are “tinkle toilets” and are NOT meant for the big jobs. There are “P-buckets” for the men. Please plan accordingly for your time aboard…


How do we book a charter?

We ask everyone to use our very user friendly “Book Now” feature on our website. All bookings require advance payment. If a date is not available, we will advise the next available date. If we cannot accommodate a request, an immediate refund will be given. Any other questions can be asked through our “ask a question” tab or by calling 406-257-5214. PLEASE allow up to 2 business days for confirmation of your request.


What is your cancellation policy?

While we require full payment to reserve your trip, we fully understand that stuff happens, so we ask that you notify us, via a phone call, at least 24 hours before your trip begins if you need to cancel. Once within the 24-hour period, it is virtually impossible to fill your reservation window and the full cost of the trip will be forfeited.


We look forward to your time with us, and please share your confirmation email with everyone in your party so all are equally prepared! Thank you!


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Prosperity reached many during the height of the North Dakota oil boom on the Bakken formation oil field in far western North Dakota. This modern-day gold rush brought a surge of labor to work the oil fields during the Great Recession, to a largely rural and secluded part of North Dakota. The boom peaked in 2012 and has since slowed with falling global oil prices.

But, the real secret of what lies below the ground’s surface has been discovered; ice anglers in the local area are just discovering the secret of what lies below the surface in local reservoirs. The next boom on the local landscape may very well be an oil field fishing boom.

Josh Johnson is the fishing guide owner and operator of Fishcast Angling. Johnson has lived in Williston in the heart of the Bakken oil fields since 2012. He chases big bites on three main waterbodies that produce exceptional angling: Fort Peck Reservoir, Sakakawea Reservoir and the Greater Missouri River System. All are part of the Missouri River system with the reservoirs having some distinct start and end points with dams and water residence times. Johnson’s favorite targets are big walleyes and northern pike, and trips to Fort Peck for lake trout.

“Growing up in Minnesota, there were fantastic fisheries, but you ran into a lot of fisherman, and it was hard to find something that truly hadn’t been fished much,” Johnson explained. “While there is a small amount of fishing pressure out here in Williston, it really is like a frontier. Sakakawea is getting popular and sees more anglers, but there still are plenty of places you can go and be by yourself. You can blaze your own trail and you’re not walking in somebody else’s tracks all the time. You can get on some world-class fish for a variety of species — walleyes, pike, and in the case of Fort Peck, trophy lake trout.”

Johnson spends time on Sakakawea, a 180-mile long impoundment of the Missouri River, the west end of which touches Williston. Cool-water bait fish migrate between ends of the system depending on the time of year. A large fall run of massive schools of emerald shiners drives one of the important bites and lake cycles of the year. Johnson appreciates that he can be fishing just 10 minutes from home and have outstanding opportunities for walleyes and northern pike, and have a chance to catch a number of other species to highlight the reservoirs’ diversity, such as shovelnose and pallid sturgeon, burbot and channel catfish.

Johnson fishes the western, riverine end of Sakakawea the most, since it’s closest to home. But he’s known to make big moves out of necessity. “You could go out and fish close to town and have great fishing, lots of bait, and water clarity of 3 or 4 feet. You could come back the next week and it could turn to mud. Water levels are fluctuating, the water clarity fluctuates, and it really matters what side of the lake you’re on. If it’s starting to get dirty, I move downstream and try to find some clearer water.”

Johnson is a believer in paying attention to what the fish are eating. “Sakakawea is primarily smelt forage,” he said. “There are also a lot of cisco and emerald shiners. The shiners move into and out of the river, so when they are running, I will be moving to find them and stay with them. At that time of the year, a lot of my fishing is actually river fishing on the far western end of Sakakawea.”

A couple of hours west of Williston in Montana is the famous Fort Peck Reservoir. Fort Peck Reservoir is 134 miles long with an average depth of more than 75 feet. Its huge size and scale make it a trophy fish producer in one of the least densely populated areas of the Lower 48 states. Its sheer size and remoteness can make it intimidating.

“If you’re looking for fishing reports on Fort Peck, you’re pretty much going to be making your own report. There are a few marinas and hotels putting out reports on ice conditions, but mainly you have to figure the ice fishing out on your own,” Johnson said. He has a simple approach to fishing these Missouri River impoundments. Keep moving. “Water levels fluctuate, bait moves, water clarity changes. A spot is only good for so long and then you need to find a new one when the fish move. You don’t want to fish empty water; you want to keep moving until you find fish.”

Once you’ve augered new holes, it doesn’t take long to know if you are in business. “Once you are on a spot with fish,” Johnson said, “you find them pretty quick. They show up if they are around. If you see bait on your graph, stay put. If you don’t, you can jig but it’d be better to move. Out here, big moves are best. Sometimes you can make a few moves on a spot, but most of the time it’s best to pick up and move 10 to 20 miles. Start with a few micro moves, but eventually you’ll need to make the big moves.”

Johnson has some good advice for rookies on Fort Peck. Pick out some spots and be ready to make big moves. “If you’re on the dam end of Fort Peck, it’s more stable in terms of clarity,” he said. Johnson also noted that the water clarity during early ice works on a more west-to-east gradient until winter settles in long enough for everything to reach some equilibrium. Rains or snow thaws change clarity in a hurry.

The best advice that Johnson had was to seek out prominent, obvious structure. In many premiere Ice Belt fisheries, obvious structure gets fished repeatedly. But not out in western North Dakota and eastern Montana.

“It’s really about finding massive, giant, main lake structures, picking the best looking spots on the map, and going there. There’s a little bit of a learning curve when you are on these waters, but it’s worth it. That’s the challenge out here — the vastness of the waters and the lack of reports. The reward in the back of your mind has to be that you can come across world-class fish on any hookset,” Johnson said. “Honestly, I’ve never fished anywhere else like here where I feel any hookset could be a giant. This area is the last, best ice fishing frontier. There are more remote places for sure, but to have a place like this where you don’t have to fly or hike into or snowmobile 60 miles, it really is an ice fishing frontier.”

Josh has thrown a lot of baits at these big fish over the years and has settled into a few patterns that are key to his success. For walleyes, Johnson uses a RapalaFlat Rap or Jigging Rap. “If it’s bright and sunny, I use blue chrome, if it’s overcast, I use blue and white glow. With these systems being river impoundments, there’s still a fair amount of current. They fish heavier and can stay in that current and stay in the flasher cone.” Johnson said. “You can catch everything on a Jigging Rap. That’s my go-to on walleyes. It doesn’t hurt to have deadsticks out either, but I prefer to find the fish and catch a few before I commit to sticking around and putting out the deadsticks.”

Johnson acknowledges that deadsticks with smelt are the most popular technique for pike fishing out in the oil patch. While he has used tip-ups and deadstick offerings, he’s found an active approach works best with the area’s plump pike. “I get more fish on jigs than tip-ups, in about a 4-1 ratio. My best bait is the half-ounce Northland Airplane Jig. It’s a bucktail jig that glides exceptionally well and can be bobbed through the water, too,” Johnson offered. “Besides working better, I just prefer to jig them. It’s very, very effective, especially on early ice in December.”

Targeting lake trout at Fort Peck, Johnson turns to familiar lures for their functionality. “I pull out my walleye and pike gear. We’ve tried white tube jigs and other traditional lake trout gear, but jigging raps and airplane jigs have been our best producers. The nice thing about using jigging raps on Fort Peck is  that you can catch everything the lake has to offer. You can catch walleyes, pike and lakers, all from the same spots. It’s not uncommon to catch some of each.” 

For more on ice fishing in and around the Bakken oil patch, check out Josh Johnson and Fishcast Angling on social media channels, or call him at 701-570-0774.

— Scott Mackenthun has been writing about the outdoors since 2005. You can follow him on Instagram @scottmackenthun and on Twitter @ScottyMack31.

Ice Fishing For Trophy Lake Trout - Fort Peck, Montana

Address: P.O. Box 486, Jordan, Mont. 59337    Phone: (406) 557-2345

E-mail: [email protected]

Ice fishing

Fishing doesn't end when winter comes to Montana. It continues past ice-up on Fort Peck at Hell Creek. It just changes a bit.

Rather than boats and motors and hitting the waves, winter action on Fort Peck involves ice shacks, northern spears and tip-ups for walleyes and lake trout.

Many fishermen bring their own equipment to Hell Creek, but for those who either don't have it or don't want to bring it, we offer five ice shacks for rental during the winter. These spearing shacks rent for $45 per day.

If you don't have a pike spear, we sell or rent those, too, along with spearing decoys -- lures without hooks that you lower below the ice to bring the fish within spearing range.

Perhaps the most valuable thing about Hell Creek Marina in winter, however, is that it's a good base of operations open with meals, rooms, bait and tackle.

We also have up-to-date advice and information on what part of the lake is best for fishing and any hazards that anglers might find when they head out into the white-open-spaces of Fort Peck in winter.

Web work by [email protected]

Ice lake fishing peck fort


Ummm...Fort Peck Ice Fishing Lake Trout: Too. Much. Fun


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