Subscribe for 17¢ / day

Park City angler David Frank caught this 26-inch lake trout while fishing with a minnow near Bug Creek on Fort Peck Reservoir.

Rick Paulsen

If your favorite river is blown out, or a little too high for your comfort level, the Bighorn River may be the answer.

The water clarity is 6 feet, even below Soap Creek, and the flow is stable at 7,500 cfs. Streamers are fishing well and there are still good Baetis hatches on cloudy days.

While the Yellowstone River continues to rise, anglers caught some fat catfish on the lower Yellowstone River last weekend.

Fishing continues to improve throughout Fort Peck Reservoir for most species.

For anglers wanting to fish rivers and streams in the Western District of Montana, the season opens Saturday unless otherwise specified in the Montana Fishing Regulations. In the Central and Eastern districts, rivers and streams are generally open all year unless specified. Lakes and reservoirs are typically open all year statewide. 

Here’s The Gazette’s weekly report:   

Top picks

Beaverhead River — The aquatic worm bite is pretty good. The Mother’s Day caddis hatch is occurring, so Caddis Larvae are a good choice. Tim's Pink Power Pupa is our go-to caddis pattern for nymphing. From Pipe Organ to Grasshopper Creek conditions are good. From Grasshopper down the water is off-color. — Frontier Anglers, Dillon.

Bighorn River — Water conditions continue to greatly improve as Soap Creek has cleared up. Visibility is 6-feet even after Soap Creek dumps in. Flows are still stable at 7,500 cfs with water temps warming up to 41 degrees. Streamer fishing has been exceptionally good as small emerald shiners are being washed over the spillway from the reservoir and are dazed as they are washed into the river. Best streamer patterns have been White/Pearl Zonkers, White Floating Gurglers, and Hot Spot White Buggers (all in size 6). We are still seeing good Baetis hatches on cloudy days with some midges present. For the best opportunities look for areas of slower water. For the midge hatch use a Griffith's Gnat (14-16) trailed with a gray or black Smokejumper (16-18). For Baetis use a Blue Winged Olive Parachute trailed by a Black Baetis Emerger (16-18). Subsurface use an orange or red Wire Worm (4-6) trailed by a beadhead black or red Midge Larvae (both in 16-18). — Bighorn Fly and Tackle Shop, Fort Smith. 

Fort Peck Reservoir, Big Dry Arm — Bass action has picked up. For smallmouth use smaller Rapalas or jig with a minnow. Fly anglers are having fun from a boat in 5 to 10 feet of water for northerns. The lake trout are biting and are running at 20 feet; try UV or orange crankbaits. Walleye anglers are doing well with perch-pattern cranks. — Rock Creek Marina.

Fort Peck Reservoir, Crooked Creek — The walleye bite is on, and anglers are catching fish with jigs and worms or jigs and minnows from boats. Blue and green are good colors. Some are using worm harnesses. Most species seem to be biting. Pike fishing is still awesome from boat and bank. The water clarity is clearing, however, there is a lot of debris floating. — Crooked Creek Marina.

Fort Peck Reservoir, Fourchette Bay — Anglers are boating some big walleyes. Try pulling a worm harness or pitching jigs toward shorelines. Most fish are being caught from Herman's Point to Skibby Bottom. — Westside Sports, Malta.


Ackley Lake — Anglers were catching trout at the spillway. Some are fly fishing with streamers and leeches. Or, try casting Thomas Cyclones. — Sport Center, Lewistown.

Big Hole River — It is off color with two feet of visibility, but fishing well. Flows have been coming down and on Monday were 6,600 cfs. The Mother’s Day caddis hatch is occurring. Try Yuk Bugs, pink San Juan Worms and Girdle Bugs. — Frontier Anglers, Dillon.

Bighorn Lake, Ok-A-Beh — Anglers are catching some smallmouth bass and a few big crappie with minnows. — Pryor Creek Bait Co., Laurel.

Boulder River — The lower river is high and off color. The recent cool weekend has caused a slight drop in the flows making the upper stretch a better option, with better clarity above Natural Bridge. Large dark and golden stoneflies along with San Juan Worms seem to be the best bet. — Sweetcast Angler, Big Timber.

Canyon Ferry Reservoir — Rainbow trout are being caught at Goose Bay and Chinaman’s. Shoreline anglers are having success using worms, spawn sacks or various nymph flies. Boat anglers are catching rainbows trolling worm harnesses and crankbaits near the Silos. A few yellow perch and walleye are being caught on the south end from shore using worms, jigs tipped with worms, and crankbaits. No report for yellow perch and walleye from boat anglers.  The reservoir is very low and boat access is limited. A useful resources for monitoring boat ramp accessibility can be found at: — FWP, Helena.

Cliff and Wade lakes  Cliff and Wade Lakes have had some great midge fishing. Or try stripping a crayfish imitation. Also keep an eye out for early Callibaetis.  Blue Ribbon Flies, West Yellowstone.

Cooney Reservoir — Walleye fishing has been good from shore using crawlers. From boat, try a crawler on a harness. Some reports of nice rainbows (20 inches) out of the Willow Creek and Red Lodge Creek areas off crawlers. Stop in and show off that big fish. — Boyd Store and Trading Post.

Deadman’s Basin — Water levels are high and the shoreline is muddy from Musselshell River water being diverted in. Fishing is poor from the bank. — Cozy Corner Bar, Lavina.

Fort Peck Reservoir, dam area — Lake trout are in 25 to 40 feet of water. Pull crankbaits and spoons. Some are having success in deeper water with downriggers. The walleye bite is best with a jig and a minnow from 28 feet up to 15 feet vertical jigging or pitching to the shorelines. A few walleye were caught pulling crankbaits early in the morning in shallow water (6-12 feet). Anglers are catching pike while targeting walleye. If fishing specifically for northerns, bank fish in the Duck Creek and Flat Lake areas with big sucker minnows or smelt. — Lakeridge Lodging & Bait Shop.

Fort Peck Reservoir, Hell Creek — Fishing is slow for walleye. The northerns are starting to bite in 10 to 15 feet of water on minnows when jigging or bottom bouncing. — Hell Creek Marina.

Fresno Reservoir — Anglers are doing well from boats on 14-inch walleye. Use bait rigs or leadhead jigs or bottom bouncers. Worms are the best bait. Below the dam in the river some 14-inch walleye have been caught. — Stromberg Sinclair, Havre.

Gallatin River — The river is running really high and muddy. Lakes or the lower Madison are the better options. — Montana Troutfitters, Bozeman.

Hauser Reservoir — Rainbows are being caught from shore below Canyon Ferry Dam on spawn sacks or jigs and worms. A few still remain around the York Bridge ramp. Rainbows are also being caught around Black Sandy while trolling cowbells. Lake Helena is producing a few small walleye while trolling light-colored crankbaits. — FWP, Helena.

Hebgen Lake — The ice is off and trout fishing is terrific.  The water level is still low with the reservoir about 80 percent full and rising daily, so only small boats and jet boats are getting out on the main body of lake through the low water boat ramp at Kirkwood Marina. Most anglers reported 1.5- to 3-pound trout, averaging about 19-21 inches in length. Casting with worms or streamers in black with red or olive with white is effective. Fish are biting all around the lake, but you can find a lot of hungry fish in the coves. — Kirkwood Marina.

Holter Reservoir — A few rainbows are being caught from shore around all the boat ramps while using egg patterns or Woolly Buggers, but most have moved offshore. Boat anglers are finding rainbows while trolling silver or perch crankbaits or cowbells along the shorelines throughout the reservoir. Perch and walleye action is slow. — FWP, Helena.

Madison RiverLower — Cold, rainy days put a halt on the Mother’s Day caddis hatch. However, as the temperatures warm, they should return in good numbers. These caddis hatch all day and lay eggs in the evening. As such the fishing is best in the evenings when they lay their eggs. On cooler, cloudy days, look to the soft water. There will be fish up eating blue-winged olives in the afternoons. On sunny days, pupa and emerger caddis patterns are going to fish better. Fish are being caught in a variety of places. A number of them have moved closer to the bank or behind a rock, but you can also find fish hiding in the weedbeds. Try swinging a streamer. There is some color coming out of Cherry Creek, but not bad enough to make the right bank unfishable. Keep an eye out for big mayflies. There have been a few drakes out and about over the last few warm evenings. — Montana Troutfitters, Bozeman.

Madison River, Upper — There is good visibility in the upper river, decreasing with every tributary. Cabin and Beaver creeks are pumping mud as well as the West Fork. Below the West Fork, the water is dirty for half of the river. Fishing has been solid on the upper river. Nymphing bigger rubber legs and worms along with smaller Pheasant Tail droppers has been a great way to pick up fish. When the afternoon clouds role in, the streamer and dry fly bite have been great. The fish are looking up in the soft pockets for BWOs and some midges. A Purple Haze (16) is a great way to pick up these trout. Streamer fishing has been best with bigger articulated style patterns. Black, white, or gold have all been great choices. — Montana Troutfitters, Bozeman.

Martinsdale Reservoir — It is full and anglers are doing well trolling cowbells from the boat. Shore action is good, too. Bair Reservoir is full. — Ray’s Sport and Western Wear, Harlowton.

Missouri River, below Holter — The flow was 13,200 cfs and water temps were 50 degrees as of Monday. Streamers and nymphs can be used from the dam to Craig. Below, there is not enough visibility and one has to nymph. Use Wire Worms and Hot Bead Scuds. — Montana Fly Goods, Helena.

Missouri River, Fred Robinson Bridge — Anglers are catching catfish using setlines or rods with cutbait or minnows. Paddlefish action is not hot and heavy, but it is steady. Sauger and walleye action is slow. A few sauger were caught by anglers targeting catfish. — Sport Center, Lewistown. Editor’s note: As of May 9, there were 77 harvested paddlefish according to FWP biologist Cody Nagel, who noted some harvest-only tag anglers don’t harvest the first paddlefish they snag. The season started May 1. As of May 9 the catch rate is on par with the past couple of seasons, even with the higher water. The fish are pushing farther upstream than normal this year. The season runs through June 15.

Nelson Reservoir — Fishing is starting to pick up as the water warms. Walleyes and the the occasional northern are being caught in 6 to 15 feet of water pulling worm harnesses or jigging minnows. Look for gravel shorelines. — Westside Sports, Malta.

Rock Creek — It has dropped by over a third from last week, but even at 200 cfs it remains sketchy to wade. This time of year it can be beneficial to try to fish one of the three tributaries of Rock Creek. Though these tributaries will also be fast and high, they will still be easier to navigate. If you can get to a pool, there will be a bunch of trout sitting in that pool. On the tributaries, recommended nymph patterns include Copper John in red, Montana Prince in blue, San Juan Worms, North Fork Specials or smaller Girdle Bugs. Should an angler want to fish some top water action, a tan Caddis, Royal Wulff, Royal Trude or Purple Haze (14-16) is likely all you would need. — East Rosebud Fly Shop, Billings.

Spring Creek — It is high and muddy, and fishing pressure is light. — Sport Center, Lewistown.

Stillwater River — After spiking considerably over the weekend, flows dropped and clarity improved. That’s liable to change with a few days of warmer temps. As of Monday we’re in a window where there may be a day or two of recovery for fishable conditions, but the river could just as easily totally blow out and high runoff ensue. If the lower river is off color, consider wade fishing the upper river above Absarokee. Caddis are still showing up, and there has been some success on a green or olive pupa or emerger (14-16). Nymphing is always a good bet with black, brown and coffee rubber leg patterns like Girdle Bugs and Pat’s Rubber Legs, as well as similar stonefly patterns along with a beadhead trailer fly like a Prince Nymph, Hare’s Ear, Batman or Pheasant Tail. As flows climb and get off color, a San Juan Worm, rubber leg, or black Bugger on the edge is a good pattern. In off-color water, use a color contrast of darker patterns like black Buggers or the Grinch either dead drifted or stripped. At some point the river is likely to run high and off color, and it will be best to just stay away from it in those conditions and look for smaller tributaries, tailwaters and lakes.  — Stillwater Anglers, Columbus.

Tongue River Reservoir — Fishing is starting to pickup. For walleye, some anglers have caught their limit jigging or bottom bouncing with a minnow. The bass are in the shallows. Spoons or crankbaits are working for northerns. Crappie are hitting jigs and tails. On the river below the dam catfish are biting. Water levels are coming up, but the clarity is good. — Tongue River Marina.

Yellowstone River, Columbus — Running high and off color through Columbus. There may be some occasional fluctuations, but runoff is likely here to stay and at some point the cottonwood hatch will get going and the river will be extremely hazardous. Unless one can find a safe spot to use some garden tackle, it’s best just to stay away. — Stillwater Anglers, Columbus.

Yellowstone River, Huntley — The blowout brought some nice catfish out over the weekend. The average is still in the 5-pound range, with plenty in the 9-pound class being caught. Current breaks, such as downed timber, backwaters or rocks, seem to be key. Cut sucker and chubs are baits of choice. —

Yellowstone River, Livingston — This river is on the rise, already approaching 20,000 cfs, and becoming too dangerous to float. — Montana Troutfitters, Bozeman.


Bighorn Lake, Horseshoe Bend — Smaller Flicker Shads worked for smallmouth bass for shore anglers. — Rocky Mountain Discount Sports, Cody.

Bighorn River, Thermopolis — The flow is 2,250 cfs. Anglers are fishing below the spillway at Boysen for walleye. Use soft baits like Mister Twisters and jig heads. Along the river through town use spinners or worms for trout. There are a lot of BWO hatches in the afternoon, so dry fly anglers could have luck. In the morning, use San Juan Worms, black Zebra Midges or Ray Charles. — White Horse Country Store & Canyon Sporting Goods, Thermopolis.

Buffalo Bill Reservoir — Anglers are catching walleye and avidly targeting them because if one catches a walleye in Buffalo Bill, by law an angler has to immediately kill it. The water is muddy all over the South Fork side. Most anglers are boat fishing and launching 16-foot boats. — Rocky Mountain Discount Sports, Cody.

Cody-area lakes — Freestone rivers and streams in northwest Wyoming are blown out and still rising. Lakes, ponds and reservoirs are all fishing well with scuds, leeches, aquatic worms, midge pupae, midge adults and damsel fly nymph imitations. Water temps are in the mid 40s at most of the high desert lakes in Park County. On bigger bodies of water, like Boysen and Buffalo Bill, boaters have done best trolling spoons, crawler harnesses and/or spinners. Some are using downriggers at Buffalo Bill for lake trout. — North Fork Anglers, Cody.

Deaver Reservoir — Walleye are biting yellow grub jigs with an orange belly, jig tails or worms at night after dark. The walleye are generally between 16 to 22 inches. The biggest one reported last week was 24 inches. — Rocky Mountain Discount Sports, Cody.

Lake DeSmet — A 13-pound lake trout was caught this week on worms trolling from the boat. Another option is to troll with Rapalas for lake trout. A few rainbows are being caught, with most of them being from shore. Some of the rainbows are measuring 18-inches. — The Lake Stop, Buffalo.  

Ten Sleep Creek — It is high and murky and would be hard to fish. — White Horse Country Store & Canyon Sporting Goods, Thermopolis.

Yellowstone National Park — The season begins May 26. The waters in the Firehole, Gibbon and Madison are now high and off color. We will be watching these rivers closely before the opener to give anglers an idea of what to expect. — Blue Ribbon Flies, West Yellowstone.