Fishing in Montana

A trip to Montana’s world-famous fly-fishing rivers is every trout angler’s dream—but the Treasure State also holds other jewels, including epic fishing for walleye, bass, and perch.
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About Montana

If you’ve ever seen the movie A River Runs Through It, you probably already associate the state of Montana with the images of magnificent scenery and huge trout showcased in the movie. For once, reality does not disappoint. Fishing in Montana is a world-class experience, whether you cast your line into a rushing trout stream or a crystal-clear lake. Nearly everywhere you go in the state, the scenery is magnificent, and wildlife is abundant. The word “Montana” comes from the Latin word montanea, meaning “mountainous country.” The state is aptly named. The western half is a jumble of mountain ranges, while the eastern part of the state consists of high plains and badlands interspersed with smaller ranges, so if you want to fish surrounded by mountain scenery, you’ll have many options. The state is drained by thousands of rivers and creeks, with over 450 miles of them categorized as “blue ribbon” trout fisheries. Some of the most famous trout rivers include the Missouri, Bighorn, Yellowstone, Madison, Gallatin, and Stillwater. Montana also has more than 3,000 lakes and reservoirs, most of them offering excellent fishing. Flathead Lake is the largest natural freshwater lake in the western U.S. Whitefish Lake in the Flathead Valley is justifiably famous for its fishery, as are several lakes in Glacier National Park. Man-made reservoirs also offer great angling opportunities, including the largest reservoir in the state, Fort Peck.

Fishing Types

Just about any type of freshwater fishing can be enjoyed in Big Sky Country, including fly fishing, lake, river, and small-stream fishing, bass boating and drift boating, shore fishing, and ice fishing.

Targeted Fish Species

Trout are certainly the most sought-after species by anglers visiting Montana. The state is home to several types, including the Westslope cutthroat, Yellowstone cutthroat, and bull trout, which are all native species. Bull trout and Westslope cutthroat are found in rivers and streams on the west side of the Continental Divide, while Yellowstone cutthroat are found on the east side. Other types of trout have been introduced and are abundant in the state’s rivers, including brook, brown and rainbow trout. Other fish you can catch in the state’s waters include lake trout, mountain whitefish, Arctic grayling, Chinook and Kokanee salmon, largemouth and smallmouth bass, catfish, walleye, sauger, yellow perch, northern pike, tiger muskie, carp, paddlefish, sturgeon, crappie, bluegill, and other types of sunfish.

Fishing Techniques

Fly fishing is the fishing technique most associated with Montana and its world-famous trout rivers, but you can certainly catch Montana trout with spinning tackle as well. Montana’s crystal-clear lakes and reservoirs are dotted with bass boats small and large, and on many lakes, fishermen utilize kayaks and stand-up paddleboards. Montana’s long, cold winters mean lots of opportunities for ice fishing. No wonder they call Montana “The Last Best Place.”