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Fishing in Montana

Discover the Serenity of the Great Outdoors

Does Montana Have Good Fishing?

From cold water to warm water, big prairie rivers to high mountain lakes and fly-fishing to trolling, Montana offers angling opportunities for all to enjoy. Whether you’re seeking solitude, fish for the supper table or the trophy of a lifetime, you can find it here.

Just about every month of the year from April to mid-Nov there is one fishery “peaking” while others are only marginal. One the same day some rivers could be peaking during the PMD hatch while others are still high and dirty with snow melt.

There is a vast diversity of fisheries present (freestone rivers, tail waters, spring creeks, large lakes, alpine lakes, mountain streams, and meadow streams.

In may, Yellowstone river has explosive hatches of baetis, mother’s day caddis and march browns (while higher elevation mountain streams are still closed or snowed in).

Conditions change from year to year based on snowpack levels and temperature. May - July can vary from season to season, but Fall is usually more consistent since there has been more time for the snow to melt. 

Girl in water with a fishing rod

What Part of Montana Has The Best Fishing?

The best time to go fishing depends on your goals. Are you looking to catch as many fish as possible? Find a trophy fish? Or just do some dry fly fishing?

Bannack State Park

Bannack State Park is a National Historic Landmark and the site of Montana's first major gold discovery on July 28, 1862. This strike set off a massive gold rush that swelled Bannack's population to over 3,000 by 1863.

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Beaverhead River

The Beaverhead River is one of the premier brown trout fishing rivers in Montana. The Beaverhead produces more large trout brown trout on a consistent basis than any other river in Montana.

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Delmoe Lake

Delmoe Lake Campground and Picnic area is located 15 miles from Whitehall and Butte in the Whitetail-Pipestone area - a popular destination for OHV riding.

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Elkhorn Mountain

The Elkhorn Mountains are a mountain range in southwestern Montana, part of the Rocky Mountains and are roughly 300,000 acres in size. It is an inactive volcanic mountain range with the highest point being Crow Peak at 9,414 ft, right next to Elkhorn Peak, 9,381 ft.

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Gallatin River

The Gallatin River is a renowned waterway in Montana, widely recognized for its remarkable beauty and adrenaline-pumping whitewater. This river is considered one of the best whitewater runs in the Yellowstone-Teton area, attracting thousands of adventure enthusiasts every year. In June, as snowmelt hits from the mountains, the river becomes even more thrilling, featuring a challenging class IV section called the "Mad Mile." Rafting or kayaking down this stretch of the Gallatin River promises to be an exhilarating experience for any thrill-seeker.

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The Gallatin river on a nice summer day

Headwaters of Missouri

Missouri Headwaters State Park is a public recreation area occupying 535 acres at the site of the official start of the Missouri River. The park offers camping, hiking trails, hunting, and water-related activities.

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Homestake Lake & Pass

Homestake is located in the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest in southwest Montana. This area is for day use picnicking only, which means no overnight camping. A small lake at this site provides fishing. Scenic trails nearby are great for hiking, ATV riding, and motorcycle riding.

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Jefferson River

The "Jeff" is a large river that is formed by the confluence of the Beaverhead and the Bighole in Twin Bridges. The Jefferson is one of the three forks that form the Missouri along with the Madison River and Gallatin River. Fly fishing the Jefferson is never a crowded experience. The river travels through one of Montana's most picturesque valleys.

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Madison River

The Madison River offers an amazing diversity of water and can vary significantly in its character as it travels on its course from Yellowstone National Park to the Missouri River. Different sections of the river offer different habitat, scenery, hatches and fishing techniques. In many ways the Madison feels like a completely different river from one location to the next.

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Ruby River

The Ruby River is a spectacular small river fishery located in the beautiful Ruby Valley. Just 30 minutes from Ennis and and hour from Bozeman, the short commute is worth it to fish the Ruby.

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Tizer Lake

Tizer Lakes is a state fishing access site located in southwest Montana. The lakes are accessible by pack trail, 8 miles from the trailhead. Tent camping is permitted with a 7 day limit, sites are primitive and no drinking water is available. Surrounded by Forest Service lands in Elkhorn Mountains with difficult access.

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Yellowstone National Park

On March 1, 1872, Yellowstone became the first national park for all to enjoy the unique hydrothermal and geologic features. Within Yellowstone's 2.2 million acres, visitors have unparalleled opportunities to observe wildlife in an intact ecosystem, explore geothermal areas that contain about half the world’s active geysers, and view geologic wonders like the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River.

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What do you need to fish in Montana?

In order to enjoy the fishing Montana has to offer, you'll need a valid fishing license for anyone 12 or older. You will need a Conservation & Base Fishing license along with your AISPP.

License TypeResident CostYouth Resident (10-17)Senior Resident (62+)Nonresident
Conservation License$8$4$4$10
Angler Aquatic Invasive Species Prevention Pass (AISPP)$2$7.50
Base Fishing License - Full Season$21$10.50$10.50$100
Short-Term Resident License for 2 Consecutive Calendar Days$5$5$5
1 Day Nonresident License$14
Short-Term Nonresident License for 5 Consecutive Calendar Days$56

Fishing Seasons in Montana

    General Fishing Season

  • Allowed at all hours during open fishing seasons unless otherwise specified in District Exceptions to Standard Regulations
  • Regulations are valid March 1 - Feb 28 the next year

    Western District

  • Rivers & Streams: Open third Saturday in May through November 30, unless otherwise specified in Exceptions to Standard Regulations.
  • Lakes & Reservoirs: Open all year.

    Central District

  • Rivers & Streams: Open all year, unless otherwise specified in Exceptions to Standard Regulations.
  • Lakes & Reservoirs: Open all year.

    Eastern District

  • Rivers & Streams: Open all year.
  • Lakes & Reservoirs: Open all year.


515 N Whitehall St,
Whitehall, MT 59759
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