Ice Fishing

Ice fishing is more than just a way to fill the days between the closing of one open water fishing season and the opening of the next. It is a chance to breathe the cold, clean winter air; to spend quiet time outdoors with family and friends, and to relax and collect one’s thoughts. Just a half-hour from Yellowstone National Park, Hebgen Lake is the premier ice fishing location. Ice fishing is best near the dam, accessed through Kirkwood Marina, or at the Narrows, which you reach via Yellowstone Holiday RV Campground.


Ice fishing typically begins in West Yellowstone in late December/early January and can go through April, depending on temperatures and ice thickness.


Hebgen lake is home to fat brown trout and rainbow trout.

Madison Adventures

If you’ve never been ice fishing before, a few essentials to get started include rods and reels best suited for the ice, an ice auger, rod blanks, tackle, and bait and lures to attract your preferred catch. Not only is equipment important, but doing the proper research on clothing and even shanties will help keep you safe and warm on your fishing expedition. Of course, our local experts and fly shops are available to help point you in the right direction.


Make sure to check ice depth, as the ice can be inconsistent. Use caution and avoid areas that are shallow with exposed rocks that can heat up and soften surrounding ice. For more information on permits, visit Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks.


As with any outdoor recreation, ice fishing comes with some inherent risk and can be mitigated by proper education. If you are new to the sport, take time to acquaint yourself with ice fishing safety protocols and resources.

  • Keep in mind, blue or clear ice is usually hard, but opaque, gray, dark, or porous spots could be weak. Ice also tends to thin more quickly at the shorelines, so pay attention to any areas that look different.
  • As a rule of thumb, if the ice is under 4” thick, you should stay off. At 4”, it is safe for walking and ice fishing, 7” is safe for snowmobiles or ATV’s. Cars, trucks, and SUV’s are not recommended on the ice.
  • Lakes and ponds do not freeze at the same thickness all over. Moving water weakens ice, so watch for areas where streams or water flows enter.
  • Keep dogs on a leash. Many ice accidents come from trying to keep control of pets.
  • Carry a pair of ice picks around your neck; if you fall through the ice, you can use them to grip the ice and pull yourself out of the water.

Please remember to clean up your fishing site and pack out all trash. Follow the Leave No Trace seven principles: Plan ahead and prepare, travel on durable surfaces, dispose of waste properly, leave what you find, minimize campfire impact, respect wildlife and be considerate of others.

For any fishing in the area, be sure to obtain the correct permits and licenses. For more information on ice fishing in Montana, go to Montana, Fish, Wildlife & Parks.