Fort Peck, Take it From Me
As someone who had never winter camped, never targeted Lake Trout (let alone caught one), and certainly never filmed Lake Trout fishing; I was super excited when I got the call from Mike that we were going to be spending 5 days in Eastern Montana at the Ft. Peck Reservoir chasing trout. To say that I wasn’t nervous about this trip would be a lie. What do I do with my dog, are we really going camping in January?? What kind of gear should I pack (do I even own any laker gear)? What camera set ups do I need? What do I do if I dump a wheeler into 100+ feet of water??
I had a ton of questions as someone making this trip for the first time, and I got a lot of them answered. If I drink enough cocktails, I might pretend to be a Ft. Peck/Lake Trout Expert, but for this I am going to give you the honest answers as a Montana Rookie, who is now planning every trip I can to this great place!
What do I need for Gear?
This is a great question that we were all wondering as we gathered gear. For most of us, who are not die-hard Lake Trout fishermen we needed to expand on our gear. Digging through our open water tackle boxes proved be a treasure trove for us, we pulled out our paddle tails, big blade baits, bigger spoons, open water (bigger) reels, and bigger hooks. We rigged these up on Siscowett rods from Elliot.
These 46” Heavy rods are built for chasing predator fish through the ice, we also rigged up some of our favorite Lake Winnipeg Rods such as the Greenback from Elliot. Knowing that we could count on rods rated for Canada’s giant Greenbacks helped a lot of the guys save some money and justify buying more specialty rods because they can use them on more than one fishery (for me it worked out well because I stole rods from Mike to use while we were out there). Fishing ¾-1oz jigs on 10-15 pound braid with an optional flouro leader, gave us the ability to safely fight these awesome fish without worrying about breaking off, and having the control that we needed to get them through the hole.
What camera gear do I need to bring??
Knowing that in my case I am going out to film a TV show my camera list is probably going to look different than yours. I packed a Sony A7SIII, Sony A6400, a Drone, and several GoPros, as well as mics, tripods, and lights. Does the average angler need this? No, probably
not. This is however, a trip of a lifetime for most people, and I recommend capturing every minute of it that you can. A cell phone will take phenomenal pictures while you are out there (Pro Tip: set to wide angle and get close). A GoPro also creates a stress free, and relatively easy way to capture your trip, can be worn on your head, chest, or even on a tripod. GoPros have come a long way in terms of video, and audio quality, as well as being weatherproof for capturing your trip.
Camping in January? Are you Crazy?
Yes. And at least a little bit. There has been a trend happening since the dawn of COVID-19 where people are moving to winter camping. It has been great for the ice fishing industry and can be done quite easily with the right gear. Mike and I stayed in our Glacier Truck Bed Camper which has worked great for us all year, and other guys stayed in the Eskimo 860XD and 650XD. These hub houses create the perfect tent for camping in the winter, they can be heated easily with a Buddy heater, and with a padded cot and temporary floor bring the comforts of home. We stayed at the Ft. Peck Marina and Campground which worked perfectly for us and allowed very easy access to the lake. One of the biggest takeaways for me was to make sure you have enough wool socks packed so that you can wake up and put clean socks on every morning and start your day off right!
What do I do with my dog??
For those of you that are married this question may not raise as many flags for you as it does for me. But it is a question that I must answer every time we go on a trip. For most trips I have a friend who can watch my pup for me, but on this longer trip and not wanting to burden her to much I chose to board my dog in Grand Forks. It is 100% worth it to find a spot that your dog likes, where you won’t have to worry about them while you are gone. It makes the trips infinitely better when you aren’t worrying.
What do I do if I dump a wheeler into 100+ Feet of Water?
Thankfully we did not have to find this out during our trip. Fort Peck is known for it’s pressure ridges and moving ice. To combat this, we built and hauled a bridge to Montana that we could pull behind our wheelers allowing us to “safely” traverse cracks/holes in the ice. While we were lucky to not have to find a way to rescue any equipment, it does happen. From what I know; you are responsible for retrieving any gear that you lose through the ice. This means a) finding a rescue team locally to help you out (not sure if this is an option on Ft. Peck) or b) you rescue it yourself using electronics and grappling hooks to locate your gear and pull it back to the surface.
While I am no expert on the ice, I’m not afraid to ask the “dumb” questions so you don’t have to. Hopefully this has helped answer some of the questions that you may have while planning your trip to Ft. Peck!