Three years left on lease; Local club ready to jump in and keep on fishing

Summer means exploring our state, and at Prairie Populist we’re joining the thousands of Montanans visiting the amazing lands, lakes, and historical sites that make up Montana’s state parks. We hope you’ll check back all summer and join us as we explore what these parks mean for the people of our state and how they help make Montana a place unlike any other.

Ackley Lake, State Parks, Montana, Fishing, Fergus County, Lewistown, Public Lands, Camping, Lakes, Trout Fishing, Lake Fishing, Weekend

Even though they hadn’t caught anything, Ted and Terry told us they love fishing because you get to go out and just chat with people.

Ackley Lake, State Parks, Montana, Fishing, Fergus County, Lewistown, Public Lands, Camping, Lakes, Trout Fishing, Lake Fishing, Weekend

Ted and Terry, in front of Ackley Lake

While talking to them we saw plenty of fish jumping at Ackley Lake State Park but all our yapping was probably scaring the fish away.

Ted and Terry live just out of Big Timber, but they don’t have plenty of good fishing around there. So, they come up to Ackley Lake, as well as a few others in the area. But Ackley is one of the favorites. Ted explained it was special because even his Ol’ Lady will come up to fish at Ackley since she likes all the trees surrounding the lake.

This time the Ol’ Lady, as Ted so fondly calls his wife, had packed them a full gallon bag of cookies so that they would not starve, and it was a man’s day out. However, the macho level may have slipped down a little when a snake swam up to us through the water, and Terry made it very clear he was glad Ted was between him and the little monster.

Ackley Lake, State Parks, Montana, Fishing, Fergus County, Lewistown, Public Lands, Camping, Lakes, Trout Fishing, Lake Fishing, Weekend, Flyfishing

Al Eggers

Further down the shoreline a more dedicated angler was just launching his small oar craft onto the water.

“Today is my first day of freedom, and I’m going fishin’,” Al Eggers said sternly.

Al had recently made a full recovery from a knee replacement surgery and was eager to enjoy the calm solitude of fishing Ackley Lake again.

However today, instead of focusing on catching trout, Al was testing a new fly rod that he would later lend to students at Lewistown Junior High where he and a few other community members donate their time to teach the sport of fly fishing.

Ackley Lake is well stocked with fat trout and tiger muskies but started as an agricultural project to provide water for the many farms in the area. Now, there is some dang good fishing and the pond still provides 27 ag operations with water.

But Ackley Lake has not gone without its share of problems. Two years ago, the state park service wanted to drop Ackley Lake as a state park. But Central Montanans love their little lake and did not want to see that happen, so the state ended up signing another five-year lease, of which there are three years left.

Even if Ackley Lake did get dropped, the Ackley Lake Club is there to take over.

“Our budget isn’t that big out here,” Clark Carlson-Thompson, the park manager for Ackley Lake said, “But the club, they’re instrumental.”

Ackley Lake, State Parks, Montana, Fishing, Fergus County, Lewistown, Public Lands, Camping, Lakes, Trout Fishing, Lake Fishing, Weekend, Flyfishing

Clark Carlson-Thompson

Ackley Lake, State Parks, Montana, Fishing, Fergus County, Lewistown, Public Lands, Camping, Lakes, Trout Fishing, Lake Fishing, Weekend, Flyfishing

Lewis Ready

Lewis Ready is from Hobson, which is just a hop, skip and jump from Ackley Lake. He’s part of the Ackley Lake Club and told us the lake feels like his backyard.

“We want to make sure we have access here,” Lewis said about the club. They’re dedicated to making sure people, like Ted and Terry, can continue to come up and try to catch a fish or two.

Additionally, the club is working to add a couple more campsites to the park, and we could see why. Even on a weekday the campground was nearing full. Clark told us that it is one of the few public camp spots in the area, and on weekends it is overflowing with campers and fishers.

Everyone wants to make sure Ackley Lake State Park is maintained as a public use facility. And that part of the state needs to have a place people can boat around and teach the kids how to cast!

Nonetheless, Ackley Lake’s future seems to be floating on a bit of rough water, as no one is quite sure of what’s headed for it around the bend.

Andie Creel

All photos by August Schield.

Feature Photo: Lewis Ready, of the Ackley Lake Club, and Clark Carlson-Thompson, the park manager for Ackley Lake.

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