Wild Bill Lake Makes for a Great Family Outing
Are you in search of the best fishing spot close to Billings? That little known getaway that you are sure to catch huge fish, limiting out quickly and then being able to spend the rest of a lazy afternoon throwing back bigger fish than most people could ever dream of catching? If so, Wild Bill Lake is not the destination for you. Sure you will catch a lot of fish, but most of them will barely be bigger than your finger. If you are looking for a great place for an afternoon picnic with the family, however, then Wild Bill Lake is where you want to go.
The lake is located just outside of Red Lodge, and is a mere 50 feet or so from the parking lot to the shore. A well groomed, yet still gravel, trail wraps half way around the lake, and a wheel chair ramp makes sure that even those who have trouble with their mobility can get to the water. There are two fishing docks from which you can cast your line, and just past the second dock the trail is easy to walk on, but not maintained (plenty of foot traffic keeps it clear of growth). The lake is not very deep, and is in fact man-made. There is a picnic area near the parking lot, two bathrooms, and overall the area is a great way to experience what Montana is all about.
Back in the early 1900’s “Wild Bill” Kurtzer built the lake as a tourist attraction. He stocked the lake with whitefish (which fortunately have been replaced with trout), and rented out boats to those who wanted to catch fish. Want to know the rest? The sign at the lake tells you all about it (I took a picture, so you don’t have to make the entire drive just to read the sign).
There is plenty to do at the lake, but it is best to leave the fishing to the young kids. You can enjoy some lunch for at one of the picnic tables, and then grab your poles and head up to the lake. Take worms, cheese, marshmallows, or lures and you will almost certainly catch fish. However, you will want to partake in catch and release since the fish are so small they are not worth keeping and eating. Because you will want to throw them back, I recommend using a barbless hook (or one that you have flattened with pliers). This lake is perfect to take the kids so they will have their first mountain fishing trip. There are no designated camping spots at the lake; if you want to stay overnight you will have to head further down the valley toward Basin Lakes, or to the end of the road.
If you want to get away for an afternoon, Wild Bill lake is a great place to go (you can read about my afternoon on my site). If you want to get out and catch some nice fish and get away from the crowds, Wild Bill Lake is not a great place to go (and oh yes, there will be crowds, especially on weekend days during the summer). Even with the crowds, and the lack of great fish, this is a great little lake that is close to Billings and easy to get there. If you haven’t been up this way, you should stop by at least for a quick walk around the lake. To get there you drive up Ski Run Road as though you were heading to Red Lodge Mountain. But instead of heading up the dirt road, you turn off on the West Fork Road and head into the valley. The lake is a mere three miles and well marked from the road.
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