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Field Notes: Spearing Northern Pike

Northern pike inhabit Medicine Lake and some of the surrounding lakes and ponds. Fishing for these predatory fish is best from late fall through the early spring. Fishing or spearing from inside an icehouse is preferred during winter, but fishing from shore or non-motorized boat is a good option in other seasons.

Fishing takes place primarily on Medicine Lake . Although fishing does occur on Lake 12 and Gaffney and Swanson lakes, the fish populations are low or nonexistent, and thus these lakes are rarely used for fishing. Due to the wilderness status of Medicine Lake , power boats are not allowed, nor are powered augers during the ice-fishing season.

Canoes and rowboats are permitted on Medicine Lake , but few people use them because of the high winds that can arise at any time, creating safety concerns.

Eight public access points for fishing are located around Medicine Lake . The most used areas are those off of Montana State Highway 16 and along the Environmental Education Area shoreline. Most fishing is done from the shore. Winter ice fishing is very common with the aid of an icehouse. These temporary shelters, in essence hard-sided tents, must be hand pushed or dragged out onto the ice and removed before ice-out in the spring. Fishing within the refuge complex is subject to state regulations. Refuge-specific regulations are included in the state fishing regulations, which are updated every 2 years.

Refuge Specific Regulations
Refuge Fishing Map
Refuge Public Use Map

•  All fishing will be in accordance with state regulations.
•  Fishing allowed during daylight hours only.
•  No trespassing on islands is prohibited
•  No motors are allowed on Medicine Lake
•  No open fires of overnight camping on the refuge
•  Vehicles only on graveled roads and marked fishing trails
•  No littering, including fish remains.

Medicine Lake: Open for fishing November 15 thru September 15. Trespass on islands and use of motor prohibited. Bank fishing permitted except in closed areas.

Gaffney and Swanson Lakes: Open for fishing August 15 through March 31. Boats and bank fishing permitted.

No. 12 Lake: Open for fishing November 15-March 31. No vehicle access in this area.


Medicine Lake National Wildlife Refuge
223 North Shore Road
Medicine Lake , MT 59247


Office Hours
Monday Friday 7:00 am to 3:30 pm
Mountain Standard Time

406/789-2305 PHONE
406789-2350 FAX EMAI

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