Test the Waters at Deadman’s Basin
Finding the right fishing spot is a matter of experiencing a great number of fishing holes throughout the area. That said, I want to make sure you know of all the places nearby to experience the great fishing we have around here. One place that is close by and has great fishing, but for some reason I don’t get there nearly as much as I should, is Deadman’s Basin. Just over an hour north of here, the basin is easy to get to regardless of the time of year.
Situated just north of the Musselshell River, the basin is indeed intriguing. While not an actual lake, it is a man-made reservoir. The reservoir is supplied with water by a canal that was built to draw water from the Musselshell River. It is a stockpile of water that is used for irrigation during the dry months of the summer. And fortunately for the fishermen in the area, it is stocked with various kinds of fish.
While you can fish from the shore, the best way to experience the area is from a boat. With a boat you can get around the 2000 acre lake quickly, and find the good deep spots where the lunkers are hiding. The most popular fishing is for rainbow trout and brown trout. In fact, I have caught some nice sized rainbows from the boat dock using just worms on a hook. In the winter many people go up to the basin to fish for Kokanee salmon, and there are muskies that have been stocked in the lake. If you do go test the waters, don’t be surprised if you pull some carp out, they are a nuisance and are taking away the food supply from the game fish, so feel free to eliminate them.
Other than fishing, the reservoir is often used for various water sports. It is out of the way and not nearly as popular as reservoirs such as Cooney. Getting a boat onto the lake is easy, and from there water skiing or other sports are prevalent. But be aware, there are hardly any trees around, and really not much other than the lake. So while you could hike and watch for wildlife, it probably shouldn’t be your first choice of activities. If you want to spend the night there is a designated camping area, and a place to park your RV. But don’t expect too many luxuries, it is pretty rustic.
The basin is located mostly in the prairie lands. So when the wind picks up, it really picks up and comes whipping across the lake causing the water to get choppy. In addition to choppy waters, later in the year the water level can get a little low due to irrigation. So it may be best to check into the levels before heading out there. If you do go, make sure to pack all you need. Harlowton is the nearest town, and it is 20 miles away. Be smart and take all your normal water activity precautions.
To get to Deadman’s head north out of Billings on Highway 3 and go through the town of Lavina. At the T in the road, take Highway 12 to the west. Just a couple of miles past Ryegate you will see the sign for Deadman’s Basin (if you get to Shawmut you have gone too far). After turning off the highway there is about a half a mile of dirt road before you hit the water (here is a map). Try to get up there at least once this summer, you will like it.
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