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Fishing report: Bighorn River still fishing great, anglers at Canyon Ferry finding walleyes and rainbows
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FISHING REPORT

Fishing report: Bighorn River still fishing great, anglers at Canyon Ferry finding walleyes and rainbows

Walleye

Ryan Bobowiec caught this 11-pound, 31-inch walleye while fishing a Shad Rap at Fort Peck Reservoir's Big Dry Arm last month.

BILLINGS — It's going to feel a lot like summer this week, which should help to warm water temperatures and trigger fishing at reservoirs across the region. 

With the warmer weather, runoff may increase as well due to mountain snowmelt. If hoping to fish on a river, one may want to explore tailwaters, tributaries or smaller streams.

Two top places to fish last week were the Bighorn River, where flows are low and clear, and Canyon Ferry Reservoir, where an angler can get into trout and walleyes.

Here's the weekly fishing report: 

Top picks

Bighorn River — Fishing remains great. Flows are low and clear and fish are starting to shift into the shallower shelves and riffles. Small baetis nymphs like LBF, Quills and JuJu Baetis are working well, and we are still picking up a good amount of fish on Sowbugs. There is still some dry fly fishing with BWOs, but it's beginning to taper off. — Bighorn Angler, Fort Smith. 

Canyon Ferry Reservoir — Walleye fishing is picking up with a number caught on the south end of the reservoir around the ponds and Duck Creek. Rainbows are being picked up in these areas as well, plus around Confederate and Hole in the Wall. Both walleyes and rainbows are being caught on bottom bouncers with a worm or crankbaits, mostly between 10 and 20 feet of water. A few rainbows are being picked up on the north end as well on flies or worms. — FWP, Helena.

Hauser Reservoir — Boat anglers fishing for rainbows around White Sandy, Black Sandy, and the dam are finding fish. Trolling various crankbaits and cowbells tipped with crawlers is working. Most walleyes have been showing up in Lake Helena and a few in the Causeway arm. Try trolling firetiger, blue, purple, or chartreuse crankbaits. A few walleyes and an occasional perch are being picked up while pulling bottom bouncers with crawler harnesses or vertical jigging. — FWP, Helena.

Hebgen Lake — Anglers are doing well trolling with Rapalas or spoons. Trolling cowbells trailed by a crawler harness, Rapala or spoon is also effective. Jigging with crawlers at depths of 15 to 20 feet is also producing trout. Rainbow is a good pattern. On the opposite end of the dam water levels are low so boaters should be careful. — Kirkwood Resort & Marina.

Swan Lake — The lake is muddy from runoff but fishing seems to be consistently good for lake trout. The lake trout are more aggressive than the Flathead Lake mackinaw so use Twister Tails and tubes. Flat jigs, Lead-A-Gators, or Rattle-D-Zastors will work. Try a fly above the jig. The fish are a lot shallower, at 50 to 80 feet. — Zimmer Bait and Tackle, Pablo.

Montana

Ackley Lake — Anglers are catching tiger muskies with cut bait. There are some rainbows being reeled in. — Sport Center, Lewistown.

Beaver Lake — The perch bite is picking up. Small Sago’s Scuds with a jig are producing yellow perch. — Snappy’s, Kalispell.

Beaverhead River — The river is fishing well. Flows are starting to increase. Sowbugs, midges, and small baetis patterns are all catching fish. At Poindexter Slough fishing is a little tougher, and the water is still a little off-color, but clarity is improving. — Frontier Anglers, Dillon.

Big Hole River — We are starting to see caddis throughout the day. Most of the good dry fly fishing is in the morning and evening. Stonefly nymphs are working well, which is a hint salmonflies are just around the corner. — Sunrise Fly Shop, Melrose.

Bighorn Lake, Ok-A-Beh — Bass are starting to hit top-water presentations, such as poppers, which is a lot of fun. Some trout, with a few big browns and the occasional rainbow, were also caught. Try trolling crankbaits. Walleye fishing is quiet. Some anglers are getting into crappies; the key is locating them. — Scheels, Billings.

Bitterroot River — Fishable, but big and off-color. All the fish will be in the side channels. Nymphing San Juans and big stonefly nymphs are your best bet. Dead drifting or jigging streamers is another way to get into fish. Be careful as the water is big. If new to rowing, don’t go. — Grizzly Hackle Fly Shop, Missoula.

Blackfoot River — Big and muddy. There are better options. — Grizzly Hackle Fly Shop, Missoula.

Blanchard Lake — Fishing is great for crappie. Try 3 to 9 feet of water. White and chartreuse are good colors. — Snappy’s, Kalispell.

Boulder River — Expect high water and considerable coloration as the snowmelt increases as temperatures rise. Fish the slow, deep edges with a heavy, short nymph rig. Try Pat's Rubberlegs, Prince Nymphs and San Juan Worms. — Sweetcast Angler, Big Timber.

Clark Fork River, Missoula  Big and muddy. Runoff is still going. — Grizzly Hackle Fly Shop, Missoula.

Cooney Reservoir — Fishing slowed down because of the colder water. The bite should pick back up with the warmer days. Trout anglers did the best. From shore, they had success with worms and a marshmallow or PowerBait. Trolling cowbells with a Wedding Ring tipped with a worm worked. The walleye bite was slow to nonexistent. Some perch came out of the Willow Creek bay. A ¼ ounce yellow jig tipped with a worm was productive for perch. Another group did well on the north shore with slip bobbers and leeches. — Cooney State Park.

Deadman’s Basin — Quite a few anglers stopped in to purchase worms and went to either the basin, Ackley or Fort Peck. Those heading to Ackley were hoping to catch tiger muskies. — Cozy Corner Bar, Lavina.

Flathead Lake (North) — Fishing is slow for lake trout. There was a high-pressure system last week, which could have been the cause. — Zimmer Bait and Tackle, Pablo.

Flathead Lake (South) — Fishing was generally slow. If a person hits the shallower holes, they might have better success. Fishing has picked up off the docks in Polson, with a variety of species being caught including perch, smallmouth bass, lake whitefish, lake trout and northern pikeminnows. Anglers are also catching suckers, which they can use for cut bait. Sausage is the go-to bait, except for smallmouth bass. For bass, use crawlers, Rooster Tails and Wacky setups. Children can use maggots to target suckers and northern pikeminnows. — Zimmer Bait and Tackle, Pablo.

Flathead River, above the lake — The river is fast and muddy and hard to fish. Runoff will probably last at least another two weeks. Zimmer Bait and Tackle, Pablo.

Flathead River, below Kerr Dam — It is producing smallmouth bass in the backwaters. The bass are running 2 to 5 pounds. Use a crawler below a bobber. There is the possibility of also catching pike. Zimmer Bait and Tackle, Pablo.

Flathead River sloughs — At Fennon and Church, largemouth bass, pike, crappie and perch are biting. The sloughs aren’t as muddy as the river, but are murky. Zimmer Bait and Tackle, Pablo.

Fort Peck Reservoir, Big Dry Arm — With the nicer weather walleyes and northern pike are becoming more active. Anglers are catching fat walleyes vertical jigging with a minnow. Some large walleyes and pike have been caught at depths of 35 feet. The bite should move shallower as the weather warms. — Rock Creek Marina.

Fort Peck Reservoir, Crooked Creek — Some anglers are having luck and others aren’t. The ones having luck are reeling in crappie, walleyes, drum and catfish. The fish seem to be deep; anywhere from 20 to 32 feet. The bigger walleye seem to be in 22 to 25 feet of water. Try pulling crankbaits in silver or purple. — Crooked Creek Marina.

Fort Peck Reservoir, dam area — Anglers are catching some lake trout, and overall fishing is good. There are smallmouth being caught in the Duck Creek area. Pitch jigs and minnows or cast crankbaits to rock piles. Northern pike fishing is decent pulling crankbaits or casting spoons to the shorelines. Walleye fishing is fair on this end of the lake. There are a few fish being caught in 15- to 35-feet of water with jigs and minnows or jigs and plastics vertical jigging. A few guys are finding walleyes with crawler harnesses. — Lakeridge Lodging & Bait Shop.

Fort Peck Reservoir, Hell Creek — Most anglers are running west toward Bone Trail and chasing walleyes with jigs and minnows. Bass are being caught along with walleyes. The northerns are hitting crankbaits at depths of 10 to 15 feet. — Hell Creek Marina.

Fresno Reservoir — No reports on Fresno. Beaver Creek Reservoir is fishing well for walleyes and northerns. Try jigging. — Stromberg Sinclair, Havre.

Gallatin River — High and muddy; best to hit the tailwaters till summer. If you get the itch to fish the Gallatin, take your worms and black Rubberlegs. — Montana Troutfitters, Bozeman.

Georgetown Lake — The lake is fishing well. Try slowly stripping leeches. Check the regulations for the closure on the southeast shoreline. — Flint Creek Outdoors, Philipsburg.

Glacier National Park — Anglers need to check park regulations concerning boat regs. Remember, you can’t use bait in the park. Check the park’s website about information for the new entry reservation ticket system for Going-to-the-Sun Road. Full runoff is in effect and that usually continues until the July Fourth weekend. The backcountry lakes aren’t easily accessible. Lake McDonald is fishing well for lure or fly anglers. Leeches, Parachute Adams and Black Flying Ants will work. Avalanche Lake is fishing well for 10- to 14-inch cutthroats. Try Egg-Sucking Leeches, Royal Coachman and Renegades. On the East side, lower Two Medicine Lake is fishable with Egg-Sucking Leeches, Prince Nymphs and Black Flying Ants. Lake Sherburne is a good option for pike anglers. Always check for trail closures because of bear activity before planning a trip, and have a second plan. Always carry bear spray and be bear aware. — Arends Fly Shop, Columbia Falls.

Holter Reservoir — Boat anglers are having success for rainbows while trolling silver or perch crankbaits or cowbells tipped with crawlers. The lower end of the reservoir around the Boat Loft or in the Black Beach to Split Rock area has been popular for rainbow action. A few rainbows are also being caught mid-reservoir around Cottonwood Creek. Anglers targeting rainbows around the Gates of the Mountains are having success using nymphs or Woolly Worms. A few walleyes have been picked up recently while pitching jigs to shore in shallow water. Perch are being caught around boat docks and shallow weed beds using small jigs. — FWP, Helena.

Kootenai River — The river is clear and fishable. Flows will be decreasing from Libby Dam throughout the week, so conditions and the fishing will improve. Hatches were midges, BWOs, March browns, early caddis and little stoneflies. Patterns to use are: Zebra Midge, Parachute Adams, Purple Haze, Bugmeister, olive Sparkle Dun, purple Chubby, BH Prince, soft SJ Worm, BH Pheasant Tail, BH Rubber-legged Stonefly, big streamers in white, pink and olive, Circus Peanut, black Conehead Buggers. — Linehan Outfitting, Troy.

Lake Frances — It is a fair bite on walleyes with jigs and leeches using slip bobbers. — Roberts Bait & Tackle, Great Falls.

Lake Koocanusa — Rainbow fishing remains productive. Kokanee action is picking up as the weather warms. Green Wedding Rings with a silver flasher are working. — Koocanusa Resort and Marina, Libby.

Lake Mary Ronan — Perch fishing should be steadily improving, however, people are finding kokanee but not finding many perch. Kokanee fishing will be more and more an early morning, late evening and into the night event. Anglers should be aware there is a developing pike fishery. — Zimmer Bait and Tackle, Pablo.

Lake Rogers — On Highway 2, west of Kalispell, anglers are catching grayling and cutthroat. — Zimmer Bait and Tackle, Pablo.

Madison RiverLower — Flows have been a wild card, but fishing has still been good. If flows bump more than 500 cfs it can make it tough fishing. There are still some caddis around. On calm days we have been seeing a variety of bugs. Caddis, baetis, March browns, yellow Sallies and stoneflies are all on the menu. The dry fly bite has been a little inconsistent. If you can get a day on the river that is overcast, the dry fly bite can be very productive. Double nymph rigs have been the best way to get the numbers, typically consisting of Worms, Crayfish, Zirdle Bugs, soft hackles, Lil Spankers, and Dirty Birds. Try fishing the weed beds if you’re not getting fish along the banks. — Montana Troutfitters, Bozeman.

Madison River, Upper —  The upper has been fishing great overall. The West Fork has been pumping mud. Before the cold snap there was a good number of caddis and March browns. Once temps come up a little more we will see them again. Until then, BWOs are on the menu. Small and flashy is the name of the game if nymphing. Green Machines, $3 Dips, Purple Deaths, Worms, Shop Vacs, black & brown Rubberlegs and your favorite Caddis Pupa are all good bets. You can also have some success dead drifting a Sculpin under a bobber. Dry fly fishing has been good if you stay late in the day. An Elk Hair Caddis trailed behind a Purple Haze has been our go-to when fish are eating on top. We have had good reports of anglers doing well on BWOs near Raynolds and Three Dollar bridge when there are some clouds and low wind. There has been some fish coming to streamers; cloudy days have been better. Streamer color has been variable, but typically black, olive and white are favorites. We have had reports of anglers getting better streamer action near Lyons Bridge and below. In between the lakes will have some deep snow in spots but you can get in easily below the dam. The sweet spot seems to be the Three Dollar area with excellent streamer, dry and nymph opportunities. — Montana Troutfitters, Bozeman.

Marias River — A few shovelnose sturgeon are being picked up and the occasional pallid sturgeon, which have to be released. Anglers are also catching catfish. Walleye, sauger and smallmouth bass fishing is slow. Crawlers are working for all species. — Roberts Bait & Tackle, Great Falls.

Martinsdale Reservoir — The reservoir is fishing well from boats and the bank. The best fishing is in the late evenings or early mornings. — Mint Bar, Martinsdale.

Missouri River, below Holter — Now that all the tributaries are starting to drop it is fishing well. Anglers are mainly nymphing with Green Machines (16-18), PMD patterns, Scuds and Tailwater Sowbugs. A Pill Popper (16-18) will work. Baetis nymphs are also working. For dry flies we are still seeing baetis and PMDs on the surface, along with a few caddis. Try an Extended Body Baetis (14-18), Quigley Film Critic (16-18) in PMD and baetis patterns. For caddis, try Corn Fed Caddis (14-16) and a Double Duck Caddis (14-16). Purple Para Wulff will work when mayflies come off. — Montana Fly Goods, Helena.

Missouri River, Fred Robinson Bridge — Anglers are catching paddlefish and catfish. — Sport Center, Lewistown.

Noxon Rapids Reservoir — There are boaters out, but exercise caution as the water is high and dirty with debris. — Lakeside Motel and Resort.

Pablo Reservoir — Fishing with large Yamamoto worms seems to be a consistent way to catch bass. For pike, light spoons and smelt are good options. Use dark colors for bass and brighter colors for pike. — Zimmer Bait and Tackle, Pablo.

Rock Creek (East) — The creek is running high with water clarity staying good for at least the next couple days. Fish are looking up and moving out of their winter holding spots and into undercut banks or riffles. With the water being high do not be afraid to fish big dries; Stimulators and Super Beetles have been working. Nymphing has been good, especially on hopper-dropper rigs. Run a Trina's Montana Prince (14). This time of year look up to the West Fork for some relief from high, dirty water. Dries: Stimulator in orange (10), Purple Mini Hot Garcia (16), Parachute Adams (16-18). Nymphs: Trina's Montana Prince - black (14), BH Rubberleg Prince (14), Trinas Jig Head Girdle Bug - black. Streamers: Complex Twist Bugger, Crystal Flash Bugger and Slump Buster all in black. — East Rosebud Fly Shop, Red Lodge.

Rock Creek (West) — It is big. The upper end is fishable and we should start to see salmonflies on the lower end with the warmer weather. Stick with big salmonfly nymphs and San Juans fished anywhere the water slows down. Be careful out there. — Grizzly Hackle Fly Shop, Missoula.

Spring Creek — It is clear and fishing well. — Sport Center, Lewistown.

Stillwater River — Runoff is hitting hard right now, Wading is not advised. It is time to break out those attractor patterns such as Stimulators (12), Silverman's Para-Crystal Stimulator in purple and Sparkle Stone in black. The upper section of the Stillwater above Nye should have some cleaner, more manageable water, fish close to the bank as the water will be calmer holding more fish that will be on the feed. Another option to look at this time of year is West Rosebud Creek, where the water will be much more manageable to wade and stay clearer through runoff. Dries: Keller’s Rocky Mountain Mint (14), black Elk Hair Caddis (14-16), Carlson's Purple Craze (16-18). Nymphs: Trina's Montana Prince - black (12-14), Sparkle Stone - black (8), BH Holo Batman (14). Streamers: Complex Twist Bugger - black, Articulated Sparkle Minnow in black, Tungsten Thin Mint. — East Rosebud Fly Shop, Columbus.

Thompson River — Hatches have started to show up. Nymphs are still productive in the fast waters. — Snappy’s, Kalispell.

Tiber Reservoir — Fishing was a little tough over the weekend, but there were several people who caught some walleyes. Try jigging. White is a good color. Some are bottom bouncing. Minnows are the best bait. — Ru’s Tiber Marina.

Tongue River Reservoir — The crappie bite is just starting. Worms or minnows are a good bait. There have been some smallmouth bass caught in the shallows on the south end. Seasoned walleye anglers are having success. — Tongue River Marina.

Yellowstone River, Huntley — The river has come down a little, but is still muddy. Catfish continue to hit on cut bait and seem to be in the backwaters. — Huntley Bait and Tackle.

Yellowstone River: Intake — As of Saturday there were 273 paddlefish caught for the season with the biggest a 96-pounder and the smallest 19 pounds. — Intake Paddlefishing/Yellowstone Caviar Facebook site.

Yellowstone River, Livingston — Most likely gone until July. — Montana Troutfitters, Bozeman.

Yellowstone River, Miles City — The river is starting to rise and get dirty. Fishing is generally slow, but a few catfish and sturgeon have been caught. — Red Rock Sporting Goods, Miles City.

Wyoming

Bighorn Lake, Horseshoe Bend — Water levels are coming up slowly. Last week a lot of channel catfish ranging from 2 to 7 pounds were caught using minnows and cut bait in the south narrows area. Smallmouth bass have been biting spinners and jigs. Crappie fishing has been slow so far. — Horseshoe Bend Marina.

Bighorn River, Thermopolis — Fishing really well. Water temps are still a little cool. Midges, Yum Yum Sowbugs, Pheasant Tails and Snowshoe Baetis are working. One can also use Scuds or San Juan Worms. Hothead Leeches are a good choice. Baetis are coming off in the afternoon when there is cloud cover. — North Fork Anglers, Cody.

Boysen Reservoir — Fishing was slow for all species over the weekend. — Boysen Marina.

Buffalo Bill Reservoir — There is a lot of color in the water due to runoff. Also watch for debris. Be aware of the north end closures. The best fishable water would be on the east side of the lake. — North Fork Anglers, Cody.

Clarks Fork — It is blown out. — North Fork Anglers, Cody.

Cody-area lakes — Lake fishing is a good bet. Damselflies will work, as will Chironomids. Leeches and Seal Buggers will produce. — North Fork Anglers, Cody.

Lake DeSmet — The biggest fish of the month contest for May so far has been a brown trout that was 9 pounds, 12 ounces and 27 inches long caught by 12-year-old Levi Halverson. Anglers did well at the derby with a lot of tagged fish caught. Salmon fishing is starting to improve. — The Lake Stop, Buffalo.  

Lower Shoshone — It is little off-color but fishable. Black Caddis is an option. Scuds and San Juan Worms will also work. If there is cloud cover, there may be hatches. — North Fork Anglers, Cody.

North Fork of the Shoshone — It is blown out. — North Fork Anglers, Cody.

South Fork of the Shoshone — Over the weekend it was barely fishable. Run bigger, darker flies.  — North Fork Anglers, Cody.

Upper and Lower Sunshine Reservoirs — Fishing is OK. A lot of people were out boating, fishing and camping for Memorial Day weekend. — Wea Market, Meeteetse.

Yellowstone National Park — If fishing the Firehole make sure to have Sparkle Dun PMDs (16-18), Sparkle Dun Baetis (18-20) and White Miller Razor Caddis (14-16) for dry flies. If you're fishing soft hackles, make sure you have Micro Beeleys (16), Ephemerella Emergers (16), Hot Spot Soft Hackles in mint and orange (16) and Nick's Soft Hackle Caddis (16). If looking to do a little streamer fishing, the Firehole also lends itself well to this method. Try a white Sculpzilla or Sparring Partner. On the Madison, be on the lookout for baetis, PMDs and caddis. It may still be just a bit early but also keep an eye out for stoneflies. Swinging soft hackles and nymphing should also be productive. Be prepared with the same flies as listed for the Firehole, along with a few stonefly imitations like a Chubby Chernobyl and a black Rubberlegs (6-8). The Gibbon is also a great option to check out and the sections below the falls should fish well. General attractors such as Royal Trudes (16) and Wulffs will also work. Streamers can also be productive here, with olive/white and black Prospectors being great choices. — Blue Ribbon Flies, West Yellowstone.

Email Gazette Sports Editor John Letasky at john.letasky@406mtsports.com or follow him on Twitter at @GazSportsJohnL

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