Fishing Montana

If you have never fished in Montana, whether an avid angler or a newbie, you have not experienced possibly the best freshwater fishing in the world. Anyone that has fished anywhere in Montana will tell you that it is a dream come true. With thousands of miles of rivers, streams, creeks and lakes to fish (in crystal clear water), there is no reason to not go fishing in Montana. 

If there was only one place to recommend fishing in Montana, that would be Yellowstone River. By far, Yellowstone River is considered the best trout fishing river in the world. But, if you’re not into river fishing, other bodies of water, like Lake McDonald, are filled with very healthy populations of cutthroat and some very large lake trout. 

Not to discount the spinning rod anglers out there, but Montana is probably best known for having the best fly fishing in the country, if not the world. Fly fishing in Montana should be on the bucket list for any angler who loves to throw a fly. The Clark River, Butterroot River, Blackfoot River, and of course Yellowstone River are among the best rivers for fly fishing in the United States. Depending on the time of year, some of the rivers have a strong enough trout population to allow allow anglers to catch all-day-long!

For a list of licenses, fees and where to buy, see our Montana Fishing License page.

The locations below are listed alphabetically in the region of the state and just a sampling of the many places to go fishing and some of the species you can catch in Montana. 

Places To Go Fishing In Montana

Northwest Montana

Lake McDonald: At 6,823 acres and a max depth of 472 feet, Lake McDonald is a very sizable body of water in Glacier National Park with plenty of spots to fish. Access is very easy, making it a very popular tourist destination. Fortunately, at over 6,800 surface acres in size, there is plenty of room to get away from all others. The lake has a very healthy population of cutthroat and lake trout. Many anglers will say the best way to catch some of these larger fish is to simply throw out some small dry flies. Shore fishing is also very popular as is wading in certain areas of the lake on the gravel beds.

Popular Species To Catch: Rainbow Trout, Bull Trout, Lake Trout, Whitefish

Two Medicine Lake: At 155 acres in surface area, Two Medicine Lake is not huge, but not small either. It’s big enough to to hold a great brook trout and rainbow trout population. The lake is open from November 15 through September 15, allowing quality fishing time for most of the year. The Upper lake is located in Glacier National Park, roughly 20 miles west of Browning off US Hwy 2 and fishing is freely accessible here. However, the lower half of the lake sits on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation and requires a permit to access. 

Popular Species To Catch: Rainbow Trout, Brook Trout

Central Montana

Smith River: Located south of Great Falls, this is one of the best fishing locations in all of Montana. However, it is only accessible if you are lucky enough to draw a Smith River permit. Drawings for permits are held in February with a limit of 9 float parties allowed to put in on any given day. Most who have been fortunate enough to fish this river say it can be the best flyfishing experiences of your life. The Smith River flows mostly through private property, making shore or wade fishing nearly impossible, unless of course you have permission. That said, the only alternative is by boat. Due to the river requiring a permit for float access, there is very little pressure on the fish. With low pressure comes fantastic fishing specifically for rainbow and brown trout, typically in the 13 – 16 inch range and plenty of them.

Popular Species To Catch: Rainbow Trout, Brown Trout, Brook Trout

Yellowstone River: Nothing else really needs to be said besides…Yellowstone River. Any and all anglers who know anything about flyfishing know about Yellowstone River. It is considered, by a very wide margin, as the best trout fishing river in the world. The biggest reason for it being such a fantastic fishery is the incredible insect hatch that feed the native trout population here each and every year. These are not hatchery-born fish. These are 100% pure Yellowstone River-born fish. Anglers will find and abundance of pools, runs, banks, rapids and riffles to fish in and from. Even the worst fishing days in Yellowstone River far exceed any normal day elsewhere in the world.

Popular Species To Catch: Rainbow Trout, Brown Trout, Brook Trout, Cutthroat Trout

To see the full list of Montana fishing licenses and prices, please visit our Montana Fishing License page.

Many more locations to come. If you have any favorite spots or bodies of water that you think should definitely be on this page, please send us a note. 

Also, if you are a private club or guide service that would like to be featured on any “Places To Fish” page, or other page within the StartFishingToday™ website, let us know.

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