Please join me at the Billings Cabelas store on December 8th for a FUN day of ice fishing instruction, sharing and getting to know each other.  Come and meet fellow ice enthusiasts, take advantage of store specials and kick off the ice fishing season in style! More store info at  See you there!

  Dec. 8, Saturday      
Ice Fishing 101 with Mike Howe-Mike will cover safety on the ice and the equipment needed to be successful. From selecting a beginner package to the most advanced equipment package available this seminar will give you the confidence and knowledge needed for successful ice fishing. Saturday, 10:00 a.m. Location: Fishing Dept.
Ice Fishing 2013 With Mike Howe; Old School vs. New School-Mike will cover the basics everyone needs to know before hitting the ice, and look at new techniques and equipment. See how far ice fishing has come, and where things are going in the future. Electronics, shelters, clothing and more will be discussed with plenty of demonstrations as well. Saturday, 12:00 p.m. Location: Fishing Dept.
Maximizing Your Ice Fishing Electronics With Mike Howe-Join Mike as he explains how to choose, and use, the right electronics for your Ice Fishing use. Mike will explain why “Flasher” style sonar rules the ice fishing world, and look at some recent technological advances in fishing electronics. Also, new advances in electronics will be discussed; GPS, underwater cameras, critical transducer set-up and care will also be covered. Saturday, 2:00 p.m. Location: Fishing Dept.

First Ice Prep

This weekend’s Arctic blast has got me full speed ahead thinking about my upcoming ice fishing season.  Every year, the new ice fishing season presents us with opportunities to learn new things, overcome past obstacles and just flat get a fresh start on things.

But the season doesn’t start once the ice finally forms on your favorite early ice lake.  In fact, it should have already begun.  What shape is your gear in?  Have you inventoried that mess that you “put away” last year? Did you hose out the sled base on your portable shelter, or are there still dead bait, sawdust and candy wrappers?  Better set it up in the garage and check it out…

How about the auger?  Did you put fuel stabilizer in it and fill the tank?  Or better yet SEF 94, the ethanol free super fuel for your small engines? Wipe the entire unit down with a light coating of oil like Amsoil MP or WD-40? No?  Well, better get busy…drain old fuel, fill with fresh, change the spark plug etc., etc.

Inventory those tackle boxes. Replace those favorite jigs and baits now, while the selection in stores is at its best. Don’t think that hot bait is still going to be on the shelves come mid-February, and they won’t be stocking more until next year! If the hook is bent, or rusty, replace it! Sideline the stuff you haven’t used in a couple of years, and make room for the good stuff.

Now, check and charge batteries, put some fresh line on the reels, get some fresh waxies, maggots or your bait of choice and go hit the lake!  Yes, go now, BEFORE it freezes!

This is the time of year that fish start moving into the places that they will spend most of the hardwater months. They are looking for cover/structure that will provide food and security through the long dark period ahead. AND they are hungry. They know the lean times are ahead, and the ones that have seen a season or three are aware they need to make plans to get through another one.

Find those bigger fish now, and know they will be there when you come back in a month or so. Keep a couple for dinner, but don’t put a hurting on them now, for they might decide this isn’t such a great place to winter.  Examine their bellies to see what the food of choice is and file that away.  And if you have one, get to work with the underwater camera and find more of those choice morsels.

Bloodworms burrowing in the bottom on a mud flat?  Crayfish working a rockpile or gravel area? Small minnows on a weedbed or down timber?  All of this info will help you write that playbook for the first game of the ice fishing season, and help you get a leg up on the competition.

Eatin' good in the neighborhood


This is one of my favorite times of the year.  I look forward to first ice from the day I put the gear away in spring. It’s been too long since I landed a jumbo perch through a hole in the ice, but you know what?  I’m ready…literally .

Join us for the Snappy Sport Senter annual ice season kickoff Saturday November 17th in Kalispell.  65th anniversary specials, seminars all day and a chance to meet and discuss all things ice. Look for seminar schedules here real soon!


Higher Education

In the iconic 1967 movie “The Graduate”, Mr. McGuire pulls Ben aside and says “I have one word for you Ben…Plastics…There’s a great future in plastics…”

Now, I don’t think Mr. McGuire was talking about ice fishing, but he may as well have been, as todays micro plastics have absolutely revolutionized hard water angling. From the tiniest tails to the larger craws and minnows, the injected scents and subtle movements give us an edge that can really take our winter angling to the next level.

“Plastics…are you listening Ben”?

These are a few of my favorite things


“Cool” news!


Hello Fishing Friends,

I just returned from a very special meeting in Minnesota and I am extremely honored to be selected as a Pro Staffer for Ice Force.  What IS Ice Force you say?  Well it is the combination of ice fishing’s most prestigious brands, assembled into one powerhouse company.  Rapala, one of the finest names in all of fishing, has knitted brands like StrikeMaster, Marcum Technologies, Otter Outdoors, Polaris and more into a blanket that covers almost every possible need in the ice fishing world.

Marcum Technologies is leading the way with the most technologically advanced sonars and underwater cameras.  Made in the USA, charging into the digital age and most importantly, listening to fishing professionals and everyday consumers alike.  If you are in the market for an ice fishing sonar or camera, look no further than Marcum Technologies.

StrikeMaster Ice Augers, long the leader in offering the most reliable, easy to use augers on the market.  They were the first to offer a 4 stroke auger, the Strike-Lite. The Solo brand power heads took the market by storm a couple of years ago, with the most advanced two stroke, German engineered engines on the market. Light, powerful and reliable, they are the choice of pro anglers and guides everywhere.  This year, the new Honda powered Strike Lite moves the bar to a new height.  Light weight, clean burning and quiet, it just might be the last auger you will ever buy!

Otter portable shelters, built on the toughest sled base on the market.  The innovative designs coupled with the strongest frames on the market make this shelter almost indestructible. These have no equal on the market today, compare them side by side to any of the other brands on the market and you will choose Otter.

Polaris snowmobiles, quads and side by sides…VMC hooks, Suffix line…the list goes on and on.  Pro anglers and guides, guys and gals who make their living on the water demand the most from their equipment and the brands of Ice Force deliver.  I know…substandard gear doesn’t cut it and has NO place in my boats or ice fishing trailer.  Hey, we’ve all been there…buying and trying things that just don’t cut it.

To be included in the first group of recognized leaders in the field as an Ice Force Pro Staffer is humbling but also something I have worked very hard for. I look forward to representing this group as well as ALL Montana ice anglers in the years to come.  When you see me on the ice this year, feel free to say hi and try out some of this gear.  Come to the in store appearances and seminars and pick my brain.  And by all means share your experiences and likes and dislikes with me.

This ice season, buy with confidence when you see the Ice Force brand. It’s truly the Pro’s choice.



Spent yesterday on the river with Chancy and Clay, doing some whitefish fishing.  The Flathead River has a lot of active fish right now.  We caught Whitefish as well as Lake Trout, Cutthroat Trout, Bull Trout and even a sucker!  This years Spring runoff really changed the channels and river banks, but from a boat, you can access all the good spots!

If you didn’t get enough Lake Superior Whitefish action in the lake this year, give us a call, we would love to share this fishery with you.

We will be at the St. Paul Ice Fishing Show the first weekend in December, we have an awesome booth space and will be promoting A Able ICE fishing Charters and Tours, as well as the Perch Assault Ice Fishing Series AND helping the Kalispell CVB showcase our area.

On the way back from St. Paul, I will be hosting several ice fishing kick off events in Montana. This will be a great chance to meet many folks, represent the companies I Pro Staff for and spread the word about our guided fishing trips and tournaments. I will be on hand conducting several ice fishing seminars, helping you with equipment purchases and just talking ice fishing, especially after just returning from the biggest ice fishing show on earth!

As of now, you can come to three great events.

December 7th-Lewistown Sports in Lewistown, MT (3-7PM)
December 8th-Cabelas in Billings, MT (9AM-6PM)
December 9th-Wholesale Sports in Bozeman, MT (10AM-6PM)

We will be posting more info as it comes available, seminar times etc., but for now, mark your calendars and I hope to see you at one of these events!

Anglers readying for this year’s Fall Mack days should find steady fishing on Flathead Lake now, and continued improvement as the pre spawn and spawn period merge. In fact this weekend should be some great fishing, as several days of a high, steady barometer means the lake trout should be active.
We have been having our best results fishing areas of fairly shallow water, 80-120’ while trolling, on flats that lead to steep drops. The center bar area, from Angel Point south, has been steady, look for areas on the bar where there are subtle depth changes that may not even be apparent on any maps. If not up on the bar, look to the drop offs on either side…although the west side is where I look first.
Trolling Macks Lure Salmon squidders (a hoochie with their awesome Smile Blade) at 1-1.5 mph has been a great choice. In fact, a chartreuse or glow Smile blade in front of any green or white hoochie/squid will catch fish, as long as you keep it “scratching the bottom”. Try one in front of an Ace-Hi fly by Silver Horde, a Pete’s Tackle Mack Fly or any other big trolling fly as well. With the larger (2.8” or 3.3”) Smile Blade, you can eliminate the dodger or flasher once you are on some fish.
For the jiggers, I was in the Painted Rocks area on Monday and there were a LOT of fish suspended, and a lot of bait present as well. Reports of trollers working the Woods Bay area, south of the Sitting Duck, leads me to believe that Lakers will be found feeding near all the areas of steep drops leading to spawning areas. The Delta area still has a lot of bait present, so much in fact your fish finder is black with it at times, but our results there recently have been only so-so.
Most of the fish I have cleaned recently have been filled primarily with smaller whitefish, so matching the color, size and body profile of a Lake Whitefish would be a good start…but as always, be prepared to adapt to what they want. Always a good idea to clean one or two of the first fish you catch to see if and what they are feeding on.
Good luck and good fishing, I’ll see you on the water!
Mike Howe

Heres another GREAT trophy lake trout taken from Montana’s Flathead Lake. If it’s trophy mackinaw you are after, then A Able Fishing Charters and Tours is the outfit for YOU!!! Fall fishing is a great time to go after the big ones and we can take you to them. We will soon be fishing pre-spawn lake trout and that means hungry fish. Call now to arrange your shot at a Flathead Lake Monster!


Big Fish Time!

Changes are underfoot, or under hull might be more appropriate!  As the water in Flathead Lake starts to cool, the lake trout start to feel that change as they get ready for the pre spawn period.  We have been catching more trophy Mackinaw again over the last couple of weeks, as they have definately started to make their move into shallower water.  There is a lot of bait (forage) out there so looking like what they are eating is important.  We clean a LOT of fish and understand their diets…Three of the top five winners in this years Mac Attack tournament were using lures suggested by A Able Charters.  I know, because “I’m not only the Captain, but I’m a customer too”!

Alyssa Ross fishing on her honeymoon!


OK, so it was two weeks ago today when I first cleaned a lake trout with a belly full of perch.  I and others were sure the lake whitefish bite was only days away, but it has not really materialized.  Rumors abound of this guy and that guy catching 20 here and 40 there, but no real bite has materialized.  The perch are still out in the deeper water, still schooled up and still being eaten by the lake trout…

And speaking of lake trout, the bite is still pretty strong for those of us that are out every day and staying on fish.  I have been “rotating crops” as it were, fishing several different areas every other day or so.  This allows small sections of the lake that are holding active fish to “rest” between charters and it has been allowing us to have very productive days on a regular basis.  Of course a fast moving cold front and accompanying winds and swells can throw a monkey wrench at you from time to time, but with stable weather forecast for several days and some strong lunar/solar phases over the next week or so, I see a strong lake trout activity in our future.  And those whitefish?  Well if they show up in the next week or so, I’ll let you know…otherwise, I’ll be making lemonade with the lemons that come my way…Hey, aren’t lemons good on whitefish???