Better Than Nothing

Better Than Nothing

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Lewis, Jimmy

“The true force behind ice fishing is that it is better than no fishing at all,” states renowned American author Jim Harrison in his essay “Ice Fishing, the Moronic Sport.” And while many may agree with the sentiments of this literary genius, it is worth considering that ice fishing, whether by means of a shiny chrome “Swedish pimple” or a live minnow, has an appeal all its own with the power to make anglers covet its unique excitements, challenges, frustrations, and tranquilities.

Where to Go
Montana is a big ice fishing state. Favorite locales include Canyon Ferry (perch, walleye, trout, and the occasional burbot), Dailey Lake in Paradise Valley (perch and trout), and Hebgen Lake (exceptional trout fishing). Of course, once you're hooked on this particular type of angling, explore more “exotic” waters such as Fort Peck Reservoir, Nelson Lake, and Seely Lake, where the ancient art of spearing northern pike the size of small pigs is still enthusiastically practiced with shocking results.

How to Do It
This is the easy part. Walk out onto a frozen lake, drill a small hole, sink your bait, and pull unsuspecting fish from the dark, forbidding place beneath your feet. Though some of my angling friends release their catch, ice fishing is generally not a “catch and release” sport. And that is fine, because it typically takes place on reservoirs that are stocked by Fish, Wildlife & Parks each year. Ice fishing also provides a ready cure for cabin fever by offering outdoor adventure when a trip to Belize, Christmas Island, or southern Florida is simply not an option.

The most enjoyable aspect of gathering around a hole on the ice in frigid temperatures for the ostensible purpose of catching a fish may be the social element of the affair. A “shanty” (some of which can take on the proportions of a luxury apartment complete with a TV and satellite dish) is a pleasant amenity but not totally necessary.

Reap the Rewards
What better way to spend a cold winter evening than with a meal of fresh-caught Montana fish? Allow your catch to find its way to the grill, poaching pan, or smoker, to be enjoyed with some brie and a good bottle of Cabernet. Good luck and bon appetite!

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