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Fishing report: Enjoy free fishing over Father's Day weekend

Fishing report: Enjoy free fishing over Father's Day weekend

Bobby Cremer

Billings angler Bobby Cremer was fishing at Rock Creek on Fort Peck Reservoir recently when he caught this monster 32-inch walleye. Because he was fishing alone he had a hard time netting the big fish, which is on its way to the taxidermist to be mounted.

BILLINGS — According to Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks, fishing is free over Father’s Day weekend, June 20-21. 

On Saturday and Sunday, people can fish without a license but must still follow all fishing rules and regulations. For any further questions on regulations and recreation safety, please visit the MFWP website at .

The wind hampered fishing conditions last week. This week’s forecast suggests conditions should get a little better and fishing should improve.

The annual Pikemasters Tournament was held over the weekend at Fort Peck Reservoir in the Big Dry Arm area, and the turnout was fine despite the wind.

Glacier National Park entered into the first phase of opening the park gates for recreation. Reports suggest a large influx of travelers will visit the newly opened destination. Anglers looking for a good spot may wait a bit until things settle down.

The Upper Madison is my pick of the week for some great consistent fishing. Whether you are nymphing or streaming, the river has been producing on a variety of different feeds.

Top picks

Canyon Ferry Reservoir — A few rainbows are being caught throughout the reservoir while trolling cowbells or crankbaits 20-feet deep in 40- to 50-feet of water. The walleye bite is starting to take off with a number of fish being caught between the Silos and Ponds while using bottom bouncers with a worm or leech in 10 to 15 feet of water. Walleye are also being caught between Duck Creek and Avalanche and from Hole in the Wall to White Earth. Pitching chartreuse or silver jigs into shore has also been working. Bowfishing for carp is still providing a lot of action throughout the reservoir. — FWP, Helena.

Fort Peck Reservoir, Big Dry Arm — The fishing conditions suffered from the wind this past weekend. A lot of little northerns were caught bottom bouncing with minnows and leeches. Anglers have been throwing crankbaits. Orange has been the hot color. A 41-inch northern was caught at the tournament. Winners of the annual Montana Pikemasters Tournament were: First place, Henry Meyers and Jamie Wygle, 77.7 pounds; second place, Trevor Kleppelid and Brayden Rowland, 68.9 pounds; third Place, Chris Kwasney and Blake Kwasney 60.9 pounds. — Rock Creek Marina.

Hauser Reservoir —The rainbow bite was pretty good this last weekend. A few have been picked up by boat anglers trolling cowbells and Wedding Rings around Black Sandy, York Bridge and Devil’s Elbow. The recent winds have kept most boaters off Lake Helena, however, walleye anglers are catching a few in the late evening hours from shore at the Causeway with slip bobbers and leeches or floating jigs. Trolling bottom bouncers and crawler harnesses and perch crankbaits in the Causeway Arm is producing a few walleye as well. — FWP, Helena.

Madison River, Upper — The upper is in great condition running around 2,300 cfs. The water is still slightly swift for wading so be careful. Fish have lots of food options right now; this is the time of year when it pays off to switch up flies often until you find what they are keying in on. Nymphing has been the most productive way to get into fish and the dry fly fishing hasn't quite popped yet. Stonefly nymphs, worms, caddis larvae, baetis, soft hackles and larger mayfly attractors are all working subsurface. Don't be afraid to experiment with more weight if you aren't getting into fish. An extra split shot can often be the difference between simply fishing, and catching fish.  If it stays calm out while you are on the river you will likely see some fish eating dries in soft water. Streamer fishing seems to be getting better daily and some big fish are certainly looking for a big meal. White still seems to be the hot color. This is going to be the place to be for a few weeks. Don't tread on redds! Varney Bridge is open to traffic. — Montana Troutfitters, Bozeman.

Missouri River, below Holter — This river is fishing well.  Right now we are seeing good dry fly fishing below Craig with caddis, BWO, March browns and even a few skwalas hanging around. Come prepared with an assortment of dries like X-Caddis, BWO Flash Cripples, P-Hazes and Adams. Nymphing up by the dam and really the whole river has been good. Mayfly nymphs are starting to be an option, but your standard sowbugs and scuds have been the best. Streamer fishing this week should be great with the clouds all week. Smaller streamers like Jewel Thief’s, Baby Gongas, Mason’s Juniors, Laser Legals, Mini Dungeons, Complex Buggers and Woolly Buggers. — Grizzly Hackle Fly Shop, Missoula.


Ackley Lake  —  The lake had a fishing tournament this past weekend and the muskie action was slow. — Sport Center, Lewistown.

Beaverhead River — The river is clicking along, producing plus sized fish every day. Sowbugs, Barr’s emergers, Spanish Bullets and San Juan Worms are all producing. If you are not catching fish, change flies frequently. The fish change their mind everyday about their preferred bug depending upon mood and where you happen to be on the river. Within two weeks we should see the start of heavy PMDs and Yellow Sally hatches. — Frontier Anglers, Dillon.

Big Hole River — Last week's blast of precipitation blew the river up fast, but it has fallen just as quickly. An immense number of salmonflies have popped from Brown’s Bridge upstream to Wise River. The fishing for several days to a week will be as good as it gets when the clouds are around and really good when the sun is shining. The river has dropped fast and the plethora of other bugs will follow the salmon flies. — Frontier Anglers, Dillon.

Bighorn Lake, Ok-A-Beh — Fly fishermen have been having a good time catching a few carp as the bite is decent. The smallmouth bass bite has been great using poppers as well as small white streamers (imitate white shiners or smaller baitfish). The lake is slowly filling up and crystal clear. — Bighorn Angler, Fort Smith.

Bighorn River — The fishing has been picking up. The rainbows are just starting to finish up the spawn and getting back on the feed in the main river. Nymphing remains the best bet with small baetis and midge patterns like LBF, Quills, MacGrubers, Zebra Midges and Green Weenies. Dry fly fishing has finished up until the water temps come up and new hatches show up. — Bighorn Angler, Fort Smith.

Bitterroot River­­ — The water has dropped into shape. Although still big, fishing has been good. The upper river has salmonflies, even with the cooler weather. We should also start to see goldens and green drakes up here this week. Flies: Gee’s Supa Salmonfly, Rogue Stones, Water Walkers (salmonflies and goldens), Chubby’s, Dancin Ricky’s, Green Drake Flash Cripples, Green Drake Extended Bodies and P-Hazes. Mid-river to Missoula you will be nymphing, but we will see more bugs out this week. Nymphs: Goldstones (size 20), Tungsten Goldens, Rubberlegs, Prince with a San Jaun or Jig PT (12) off the back. Streamers: Dungeons, Smoke-N-Mirrors, Silvey’s Sculpin, EP Minnows, Mason Juniors and Boogie Men are a good bet. — Grizzly Hackle Fly Shop, Missoula

Blackfoot River — The water keeps dropping and clearing. It is very fishable and we are seeing salmonflies on the lower and mid-river ends. Big salmonflies like Water Walkers, Dancin Ricky’s, Ropgues, cat Pukes, Chubby’s and Bulletheads with a San Juan or Rubberlegs off the back fished tight to the willows. The fish are beginning to key in on the salmonflies. Nymphing streamers like Zonkers, Zirdles or Sparkle Minnows can get you into some fish. — Grizzly Hackle Fly Shop, Missoula

Boulder River — The river is running high and off color. The water flows are continuing to drop as the last of the runoff seems to be occurring. Anglers should fish large nymphs and worm imitations in the deep seams for the best action. Floating and wading should be done cautiously. — Sweetcast Angler, Big Timber.

Clark Fork River, Deer Lodge — Fishing is best using scuds, Pheasant Tails and midges. Good nymphs to use are Ray Charles (16), Sowbugs, Superflash Pheasant Tails (14-18). Streamers to use are Lemon Drop, Sculpzilla and Miller’s Brew Time. Dries to use are Missing Link Caddis (16-18), Purple Haze (16-18), and Rocky Mountain Mint (16-18). — The StoneFly Fly Shop, Butte.

Clark Fork River, Missoula — The river is dropping and starting to look better in clarity. The tributaries are fishing great. — Grizzly Hackle Fly Shop, Missoula

Clark Fork River, St. Regis — Fishing conditions are getting better. The water is still on the drop. Fishing should get better in about a week or so. — Joe Cantrell Outfitting, St. Regis.

Cooney Reservoir — The water temperature is around 60-68 degrees. The recent rain and heavy boat traffic clouded the water slightly. Walleye and perch fishing has remained consistent. Leeches or green jigs are the popular bait this week. Anglers found success trout fishing using worms and bobbers by the dam. — Cooney State Park.

Deadman’s Basin — The big trout is out there somewhere. PowerBait, worms and marshmallow rigs might be the ticket to finding one. — Cozy Corner Bar, Lavina.

Flathead Lake (North) — Anglers are trolling the mud line at the delta for lake trout. — Snappy’s Sport Senter, Kalispell.

Flathead Lake (South) — There are no new reports this week. The launches have been closed and the wind has made fishing difficult. — Snappy’s Sport Senter, Kalispell.

Flathead River — Local fishing restrictions are still in place. The windy conditions has made fishing difficult where it is accessible. — Snappy’s Sport Senter, Kalispell.

Fort Peck Reservoir, Crooked Creek — Overall, bank fishing has been a little slow and boat anglers have been doing fairly well. Shoreline anglers are catching crappie, northerns and catfish using crawlers and smelt. Boaters are doing well pulling crankbaits or bottom bouncing with leeches and crawlers. — Crooked Creek Marina.

Fort Peck Reservoir, dam area — Walleye and northern are 12-25 feet out pulling worm harnesses. Crankbaits have also been producing hefty-sized walleye and northerns. The lake trout are deep, 85-100 feet. Anglers are using spoons. — Lakeridge Lodging & Bait Shop.

Gallatin River — The river is starting to get into shape. The water flows have dropped to 2,500 cfs. The water is still high and off color. There is still no need to wade. The fish will be pushed to the softer water on the banks. Streamers, dark stones and worms are decent option to fish with. Tailwaters and lakes are still your best option to fish for another week or so. — Montana Troutfitters, Bozeman.

Georgetown Lake — Best techniques are stripping leech patterns and dead-drifting chironomids. The southeast shoreline is closed (check regulations). The wind has been picking up midday but calms down in the evenings. — Flint Creek Outdoors, Phillipsburg.

Glacier National Park — The west entrance to the park is open to Avalanche Creek. Expect temporary closures at either Lake McDonald Lodge or the foot of Lake McDonald due to full parking lots and congestion. Non-motorized boats are allowed only. Areas of the North Fork, including the roads to Kintla and Bowman Lakes are open as well. — Glacier National Park Service.

Hebgen Lake — The lake is 93.4% full and has fished well over the past few days. We have seen callibaetis starting to emerge both in the Madison arm and on the main body of the lake. Chironomid fishing has been the most productive method. Sparkle Dun Callibaetis (16), Callibaetis Tilt-Wing Duns (16) and Adams Parawulfs (14) have been very effective. Traffic Light Diawl Bachs (12), Driskill’s Midge (12) and Ice Cream Cones (12) are a few flies fishing well on the subsurface. — Blue Ribbon Flies, West Yellowstone.

Holter Reservoir — The recent winds disrupted most of the fishing over the weekend, however, a few walleyes and perch were caught from the docks at the boat ramps while pitching jigs tipped with crawlers or leeches. A few rainbows are being caught early in the morning while trolling cowbells or Ford Fenders and Wedding Rings between Black Beach and Split Rock. The cowbell tactic is also working in the Canyon around the Mann Gulch area for some nice rainbows. — FWP, Helena.

Kootenai River — The river is in full runoff now. The water is high and heavy and is only going to get higher. The river can be fished decently in the afternoons or try fishing the soft backwater eddies. Anglers may want to try to fish alternative waters right now, such as small streams or lakes. — Kootenai River Outfitters, Troy.

Lake Koocanusa — The fishing has been slower due to the wind. In the morning before 10 a.m., the kokanee fishing has been great. Wedding Rings and Kokanee Killers have been used successfully. Reds and pinks are the hot colors right now. The rainbows are biting on darker colors at about 20-40 feet down. The warmer weather will bring in more kokanee. — Koocanusa Resortand Marina, Libby.

Lake Mary Ronan — Anglers are jigging for kokanee in 30-50 feet of water with Glo Hooks, maggots and white corn. — Snappys Sport Senter, Kalispell.

Madison RiverLower — Although the lower is running high and off color, it is still your best local option if you are trying to fish rivers. The key right now is finding the soft water. Fish will be pushed tight to structure such as the banks, behind boulders and in the slower buckets. Fish are primarily being taken on nymphs and streamers. Crayfish, worms, soft hackles, caddis pupa, and attractor mayfly patterns are working well. Streamer fishing has been decent with not too many numbers but some very quality brown trout hitting the net. Black, white and yellow are the hot colors. In the evenings you'll likely see some caddis and March browns out, but it’s hard to find suitable water for fish to rise with the current flows. If you do see fish rising, trying running a Purple Haze or your favorite caddis dry. — Montana Troutfitters, Bozeman.     

Missouri River, Fred Robinson Bridge — The catfishing has been decent. The bait of choice has been worms, smelt and cut bait. — Sport Center, Lewistown.

Rock Creek (East) — The water flows are down significantly at around 350 cfs near Red Lodge. PMDs and yellow Sallies are hatching in the mid to late afternoons, followed by large caddis hatches in the evenings. The fish have moved out of their winter holding holes and now can be found in shallower waters. They are lurking in undercut banks, near submerged logs and in flat ripple sections. Streamers: Tungsten Thin Mint, Complex Twist Bugger and Yuk Bug. Nymphs: Kyle’s BH Flash Pupa (12-14), Silverman’s BH Epoxy Black Red Tag Sally (14). Dries: Galloup’s Butch Caddis olive (14), Headlight Sally (14), Hemmingways Caddis (20) and Parachute Adams (16). — East Rosebud Fly Shop, Billings.

­Rock Creek (West) —  The creek is really fishing good right now. Salmonflies are up the entire creek and big flies like Water Walkers, Dancin’ Ricky’s, Rogue Stones, Chubby’s and Bulletheads with a San Juan dropper are still getting crushed. We are starting to see goldens and green drakes as well. This week looks like a great drake week. Big P-Hazes, Neversink Drakes, Flash Cripples and emergers fished to sippers will be a ton of fun this week. The creek is still pretty big, but it is dropping into great shape for better wade fishing. Still not easy to get around, but it is still the best wade option right now. — Grizzly Hackle Fly Shop, Missoula

Spring Creek — The water conditions are clear. The nymph and streamer bite is good. The rainbow and brown bite is picking up. If you don’t want to fly fish, anglers can cast Panther Martins. — Sport Center, Lewistown.

Stillwater River — After spiking with the hot weather, the river is once again clearing and ticking downward. Fish a rubberleg pattern like a girdle bug or Pat’s Rubberleg, San Juan worm or dark Woolly Bugger dead drifting with a sink tip line or with enough weight to get it down. Another tactic is to fish a big Chubby with a Girdle Bug or rubber leg pattern on a long dropper. Salmonflies have started to be seen here and there, so start to look to fish them. The major hatch should be going off anytime. Catching the leading edge of it can make for some fantastic fishing. If floating the upper river, clearance on the bridges is tight, particularly with a fishing frame raft. — Stillwater Anglers, Columbus.

Swan Lake — The pike bite has been improving. — Zimmer Tackle, Pablo.

Yellowstone River, Columbus — The river is still running high and off color through Columbus. It’s getting there, but still has a ways to go yet. Give it another week or so. Once it turns blue green in color, it’s time to jump on it. Unless you can find a clearer, safer side channel, it’s best to just stay away from it for a while. Time to fish lakes, ponds, tailwaters, smaller streams and tributaries. — Stillwater Anglers, Columbus.

Yellowstone River, Huntley — The water is still big and dirty. The catfish are still biting very well with minnows, cut bait and shrimp.  — Huntley Bait and Tackle.

Yellowstone River, Livingston — The water flows have come down to 12,800 cfs. The water is still too high, muddy and dangerous. The fishing conditions should shape up here in the next week or so. — Montana Troutfitters, Bozeman.

Yellowstone River, Miles City — The sturgeon have started to bite on worms. The catfish bite has been decent but the water conditions are still very high and fast. — Red Rock Sporting Goods, Miles City.


Beartooth Lakes — The lakes are open and fishing well below 9,000 feet. Dries: Zebra Midges, Bow-tie Midges, Elk-Hair Caddis and Parachute Adams, Royal Wulff. Soft Hackle Nymphs in black, gray and tan are also found successful. Streamers: Woolly Buggers or Slumpbusters. — North Fork Anglers, Cody

Bighorn River, Thermopolis — Nymph and streamer fishing is the name of the game with some dry later in the day on caddis and midges. There are still some rainbows spawning in places. Please leave these fish alone.  Their successful spawn is critical for better fishing in the future. The water flows are at 1,604 cfs. Flies: Nymphs, Zebra midges, San Juan Worms, Yum Yum Scud, Small Pheasant Tails, Scuds, pink Soft Hackle sowbug, Yuk Bugs, Pats Rubberlegs, Jig-head nymphs. Midge pupa, Wire Worm. Streamer patterns: Leeches, Woolly Buggers and Cone-Head Zonkers, Double Bunnies, and Muddler Minnows are also taking trout. The hatches popping right now are caddis and midges. Cicadas and hoppers are getting attention in the Wind River Canyon area. Dries: Griffith’s Gnats, Rojo Midge, Parachute Adams, Hemingway Caddis, Elk-Hair Caddis. — North Fork Anglers, Cody.

Buffalo Bill Reservoir — The southern part of the reservoir is really hitting good. Access this site using the south fork road. Dardevles have been working well. Water conditions are still pretty clear. — Rocky Mountain Discount Sports, Cody.

Clarks Fork — The water flows are coming down and the clarity is improving. Tributaries that are still high and stained are Sunlight, Crandall Lake and Crazy Creeks. Anglers should fish the higher elevation lakes until the runoff is over. — North Fork Anglers, Cody.

Lower Shoshone — Located downstream from Buffalo Bill Dam. The water quality is stained. The water flows are very high due to irrigation demands. The trout are holding on the edges and slower tailouts. Anglers should fish with larger weighted nymphs, trailed by smaller ones under an indicator. The is no dry action as of yet. Streamers: Woolly Buggers, Zonkers and Peanut Envy.  — North Fork Anglers, Cody.

Luce and Hogan  Lakes — The callibaetis and damsel flies are active. Adults, nymphs and cripples of these insects are working well. The best fishing is done before noon or after sunset. — North Fork Anglers, Cody

North Fork of the Shoshone — The water flows are coming down. The cool weather should clear the river this week. There is an annual closure on the North Fork from Buffalo Bill Reservoir west of Newton Creek in the Shoshone National Forest on the North Fork Highway, April 1 – July 1. Fishing has been good above the closure on the upper North Fork. Fish large Pat’s Rubberleg’s (4-10), Prince Nymphs, North Fork Specials, epoxy stones and Girdle Bugs during high water. The hatches are golden stones and caddis. Dry fly action depends on the water clarity. Dries: Stimulators, Chubby Chuck, Horrors and Royal Trudes in sizes 6-12. — North Fork Anglers, Cody.

South Fork of the Shoshone — There is limited access due to private property laws. Do your homework and ask permission. Anglers should hike into the Shoshone National Forrest for the best fishing experience. The water flows are still high and swift at this time. Wading may be difficult. The water clarity is improving. Fish the same flies as recommended for the North Fork of the Shoshone. — North Fork Anglers, Cody.

Upper and Lower Sunshine Reservoirs — Leech patterns have been very effective this time of year. Beadhead nymphs stripped or slow trolled behind a kick boat or float tube also works well. Midges will be out, but the cutthroat have their minds on spawning now. Do not expect much from dry fly or emerger action. On the lower, larger streamers are effective on the splake and tiger trout. In shallower water, leeches, scuds, beadhead nymphs, Zebra midges and wire worms are working well. — North Fork Anglers, Cody.

Yellowstone National Park — Yellowstone River in the Fishing Bridge to Mud Volcano area is still closed until July 15. Yellowstone Lake opened last week. Now, shorelines and bays should be mostly ice free. Lake trout caught must be killed to protect native Yellowstone cutthroat trout. Read the regulations regarding fishing tributaries to Yellowstone Lake. There are many closures or restrictions and cannot be covered in this report. Surface water temps are at 52 degrees. Streamers: Woolly Buggers, Zonkers, Muddlers and typical baitfish or leech imitations along the shore line. Beadhead nymphs (8-12) are working well cast out and stripped back. Prince, black North Fork Specials, Bloody Mary, Gold Ribbed Hares Ear soft hackles and soft hackled or standard Pheasant Tail nymphs also worked this past week. Wear insulation and fish a stout 5-7 weight 9-10 foot fly rod. Floating lines are OK right now since a lot of trout are cruising water that is 1-6 feet deep. On the Madison, Gibbon and Firehole, these waters are open to angling. The water flows are going down now. The rivers are fishing well. BWOs, PMDs and caddis are hatching. Some smaller golden stones are hatching in the late afternoon. Water temps are warming up as the spring runoff recedes. Pack bear spray and mosquito repellent. Note: A valid YNP fishing license is required. North Fork Anglers does sell licenses. — North Fork Anglers, Cody.

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