Trout Creek man dies in ice fishing accident

Feb. 13—A Trout Creek resident has died in an ice fishing accident in Sanders County.

According to the Sanders County Sheriff Shawn Fielders, the body of Jim Chambers was recovered Saturday afternoon by search and rescue crews.

After Chambers didn't return home from fishing Thursday, a search determined he had fallen through the ice and into the river in the Martin Creek area. His belongings were located on and around the ice as well as his vehicle where he parked.

Initial recovery efforts were unsuccessful due to unsafe conditions and the darkness of the night, according to the sheriff's office.

But after Sanders County Search and Rescue and the Flathead County Sheriff Office Specialized Divers teams got involved, Chambers was recovered from the river.

"Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family and friends of Jim," Fielders said in a social media post. "We would like to give a special thank you to Sanders County Search and Rescue and to the Flathead County Sheriff Office Specialized Divers for coming to assist. Without these two agencies coming together this recovery for the family, friends and community would not have been possible. Thank you all for your hard work and dedication."

Ice conditions have been deteriorating since a cold snap and heavy snow fell across northwest Montana nearly a month ago.

The Bull Lake Ice Fishing Derby, scheduled for Feb. 10-11, was cancelled, according to the Halfway House Bar and Grill.

According to a social media post, the event was cancelled due to current conditions and anticipated weather. "We have made the difficult decision to cancel the upcoming Ice fishing tournament. The jackpot will carry over to next year."

But organizers of the Fisher River Valley Fire Rescue Auxiliary's winter ice fishing derby on the Lower Thompson Chain of Lakes this weekend, Feb. 17-18, is still scheduled to occur.

While ice conditions vary across the lakes from 2-3 inches to 8-10 inches, event organizers said colder temperatures at higher elevations have helped.

But they are also telling people that using ATVs and snowmobiles on the ice on the lakes with less ice is, "at your own risk. We are not liable. Thanks from the Fisher River Valley Fire/Rescue Auxiliary and Fire Department.