By: Chris Shaffer
At this same time last year I was boarding a plane and film Pautzke Outdoors in Northern Montana when Kim Anthony of Ice Fishing Montana called me and told me to stay home. The ice was unsafe, if not gone, she said. Meanwhile, this year is much different. While we filmed on Tiber Lake this week and some of the ice was more than two feet thick.
Everyone wants to know how long the ice is going to last. Unfortunately, we don’t have any answer for you. Ice can change daily. One day there’s good ice. It can be gone the next. Always make sure the ice is safe before venturing out. Meanwhile, we checked tip ups today without a problem. On the other hand, I put a four-wheeler through the ice Thursday. I ran into a pressure ridge. There was inches of ice where I went in and more than two feet inches from that. Be careful.
Weather has been unpredictable in Northern Montana. Temperatures have ranged from -10 to 50 in a matter of days. And, they are expecting it to reach a high of 50 this week. Action was very good when the barometer was stable or rising. Any time it was greater than 30 we caught fish. Falling pressure spelled poor results, which is normal.
When we were here in mid January all our action came on live Blue, Gold & Chartreuse Fire Dye sucker minnows. However, this week the walleye and pike equally grabbed the Chartreuse, Pink & Blue Fire Brine smelt. We used both baits with lots of success. The larger walleye have been eating the Chartreuse Fire Dye sucker minnows and the biggest pike have been keying in on the Blue Fire Brine smelt. To the honest, we caught pike on Pink, Blue, Chartreuse and Red Fire Brine smelt. The dead bait bite has finally matched the live bait.
Walleye and pike are starting to stage to spawn on Tiber, which means the most action is going to come in 15 feet or less. Expect a few large pike and walleye to be caught this week and for as long as the ice lasts. More surprising is the number of large perch being caught on the dyed sucker minnows, too. There’s been a pile of pound and larger size perch all coming on the live bait.
All our fish came on tip ups. We lined points, coves and areas where structure was evident with the dyed live sucker minnows and brined smelt. We hoped to try some fat heads, too. On the other hand, the sucker minnows and smelt worked so well we didn’t get the chance. Our largest walleye was 26 inches and the pike was about 12 pounds, although a few likely larger fish did break us off.
Editor’s Note: For more info and updated Tiber Lake reports please visit https://www.facebook.com/icefishingmontana. Pautzke Fire Dye and Fire Brine is now available at most Montana Walmart locations and North 40 Outfitters.