The 2020 Montana ice fishing season is starting to get rolling. We've had pretty warm temperatures lately and ice has remained kind of sketchy on many lakes. Michael Herman, owner of Pryor Creek Bait Company, told me that as of today (1/8) Canyon Ferry still has lots of open water. Same with Lake Elmo. Tongue Reservoir reports decent ice and Cooney has about 7". No word on Deadman's Basin.

Ice fishing tournaments can be a pretty fun way to spend a day on the ice. Fishing is always more fun when cash prizes are on the line. So, when I was chatting with Michael today, I asked him if there were any fun ice fishing tournaments around Billings. I had poked around the internet for a while and couldn't really find any. He confirmed it. No ice fishing tournaments at Cooney, not at Deadman's, nor at Tongue Reservoir. I called the FWP office up at Lake Elmo and she said there are no ice fishing tournaments scheduled at Elmo either. Honestly, I was kind of surprised. Maybe I'll start one next year.

Where to go, then? Most of the ice fishing tournaments in Montana are in the western and southwestern part of our state. Some biggies for 2020 are posted on the Visit Southwest Montana website:

  • Hebgen Lake NAIFC Qualifier | January 12, 2020 | Hebgen Lake
  • Stan Shafer Memorial Ice Fishing Derby | January 1, 2020 | Clark Canyon Reservoir
  • Broadwater Lions Perch Derby | January 25 & 26, 2020 | Canyon Ferry Reservoir
  • Montana Ducks Unlimited Ice Fishing Tournament | February 29, 2020 | Canyon Ferry Reservoir

Fort Peck is not any closer than Dillon or Canyon Ferry (you're looking at 3.5 hour drives  - or more - in either direction), but if you'd like to head east instead of west, there are two big ice fishing tournaments on the schedule this year at Peck:

  • 48 Hours of Fort Peck - March 6, 2020
  • Hell Creek Marina Ice Fishing Tournament - February 8, 2020

There are 26 approved ice fishing tournaments in Montana for 2020, starting in January and running through early spring. You can see the full list on this pdf from Montana FWP.