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Fishing report: Fishing heats up on lower Yellowstone River
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Fishing report: Fishing heats up on lower Yellowstone River

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Governor's Cup Walleye Tournament

Two hundred boats launch in the Fort Peck Marina ahead of tournament time during the 34th annual Montana Governor's Cup Walleye Fishing Tournament on Friday, July 9.

BILLINGS — Fishing on the lower Yellowstone River has kicked in as flows have dropped and the water clarity is decent.

Anglers have been able to reel in sauger, walleyes, smallmouth and catfish.

If the game fish aren’t biting, try bait with the potential to catch an assortment of nongame fish, ranging from small bullheads to large carp that can bend a pole and run with your line with the best of fish.

Here’s this week’s report:

Top picks

Bighorn River — Fishing is picking up a bit on the river. We're seeing more and more PMD nymphs in the system, so the hatch should be going here soon. Water temps remain very cool (mid 40s) and the river is very clear. There is still some moss below Three Mile, but it's clearing up a bit. Carpet Bugs, Ray Charles, Orange Scuds, Wire Worms, Baetis and PMD nymphs are working well.— Bighorn Angler, Fort Smith. 

Boulder River — The Boulder is fishing well with fish still eating Golden Stones, Yellow Sallies, small PMD dries and nymphs. The caddis hatch continues. The flows are getting better every day for the walk/wade fisher. — Sweetcast Angler, Big Timber.

Glacier National Park — The high country lakes are kicking in. Because of the altitude, the water is not warming up in these high country lakes. The fish are hungry and are either spawning or just finished spawning, depending on the lake. Egg-Sucking Leeches (4-8), Renegades (10-12), Royal Coachman (12-14), Parachute Adams and Prince Nymphs will work. Upper Two Medicine Lake, Hidden Lake and Red Eagle Lake are fishing well. Bowman Lake is another option. Bowman Creek is fishing well with Royal Wulff, Royal Coachman and Renegades. On the rivers in the park the evening flies to use are Purple Haze, PMD and Yellow Sallies. Olive Caddis are starting to kick in, as are chartreuse Elk-Hair Caddis. Red Parachute Madam X is another good choice. Anglers can ferry across Middle Two Medicine Lake and have access to Upper Two Medicine, Oldman and Morning Star lakes. From Cut Bank Creek there is an access point into the park. — Arends Fly Shop, Columbia Falls.

Kootenai River — The discharge from Libby Dam was 9,000 cfs and water temperatures were 48 degrees. Hatches are midge, caddis, PMDs and green drakes. Patterns: Zebra Midge, Parachute Adams, Yellow Haze, Parachute PMD, Rosenbauer's Rabbit Foot Emerger, KPPT, Purple Haze, purple Chubby, red Chubby, Bugmeister, X-Caddis, Caddis Pupa, Bloom's Caddis, tan 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 and black conehead Buggers. We recently received news that unless things change dramatically and the Corps of Engineers or Kootenai Tribe need to make a sudden adjustment, flows will remain at 9,000 cfs until around Labor Day. These conditions are a sweet spot, and one of our favorite summer flows. — Linehan Outfitting, Troy.

Yellowstone River, Miles City — The water level is low and the clarity is good. Anglers are catching sauger, walleyes, and some smallmouth bass. Catfish are also biting. People are using plastics, PowerBait and Twisters. Also live bait minnows, crawlers and leeches are working. Crankbaits are also producing at times. — Red Rock Sporting Goods, Miles City.


Beaverhead River — The river is fishing exceptionally well. There have been no slow days. The PMDs and yellow Sallies are out in force. Use PMDs before lunch and Yellow Sallies after and through the afternoon. The evening caddis fishing is great. As mentioned previously, we are seeing a lot of anglers on the river due to many freestone rivers being low, along with high water temperatures that are harmful to trout populations. Please be polite and courteous to fellow anglers. — Frontier Anglers, Dillon.

Big Hole River — Frontier Anglers has discontinued guided trips on the Big Hole and Jefferson rivers until conditions improve. Water levels in southwest Montana are near historic lows, with well above-average temperatures. — Frontier Anglers, Dillon.

Bighorn Lake, Ok-A-Beh — Anglers are catching a lot of smaller bass. The bigger bass are hard to come by. Tube baits and Wacky Rigs would be a good bet. One could try topwater presentations in the mornings. The water is warming up. We haven’t heard of many walleyes or crappie being caught. — Scheels, Billings.

Bitterroot River — It looks like we have another hot week in store. That means get on early and get off early. The mornings have been good with some PMDs and yellow Sallies coming off. A few golden stones are out there still, but not many. A Golden or any foamy-type fly with a dropper has been the go-to prospecting rig. Or try a Plan B, Chubby, Water Walker or Dancing Ricky with a PMD dropper. PMD sippers are most likely what you see rising in the eddies and tail outs. Galloup’s Found Link, CDC Duns, Comparaduns and Brindle Chutes (14-16), as well as Rusty Spinners or PMD Spinners will get the job done. — Grizzly Hackle Fly Shop, Missoula.

Blackfoot River — The Blackfoot has been good in the mornings when the water temps are at their coolest. Get on early and off early. Water temps in the afternoons are great for swimming, but not for fishing. Hopper-dropper fishing has been the go-to right now. Try Dancing Ricky, Chubby, Water Walkers, Plan Bs with a long dropper like a PMD Split Case, Fire Perdigon, Duracell Jig, Jig Prince or PT. PMDs and yellow Sallies are still around. Look for PMDs below riffles, in tail outs and back eddies. — Grizzly Hackle Fly Shop, Missoula.

Blanchard Lake — Largemouth bass have been cooperative when throwing frogs near the lily pads. — Snappy’s, Kalispell.

Canyon Ferry Reservoir — Walleye fishing is good from Confederate to Duck Creek while using crankbaits, from Pond 4 to the river channel on bottom bouncers with red, orange or chartreuse spinners, and off points on the north end while using jigs tipped with a worm. White Earth to Hole in the Wall is also producing a few walleyes and perch. Shore anglers are catching a few walleyes in Beaver Creek Bay near White Earth and around the Silos. A few rainbows are being caught while trolling cowbells or silver spoons on the north end around Cemetery Island. An occasional rainbow is being caught from shore at the Outhouse and Shannon.— FWP, Helena.

Clark Fork River, Missoula   As of Monday the Upper Clark Fork from Rock Creek up to Warm Springs is on hoot owl restrictions. Fishing is closed from 2 p.m. to midnight. Below Rock Creek there are no restrictions. The river is fishing decent. The warm water temps on the lower river are making for tougher fishing. Early mornings have been the best. PMDs are hatching in the morning as well as a few yellow Sallies and golden stones. Hopper-dropper fishing has been good. Pick your favorite foam bug and throw a long PMD dropper under it and you’ll be set. If you’re looking for dry fly action a Brindle Chute, PMD Comparadun, PMD Tilt Wing Dun with a PMD Spinner trailed off the back is a good bet. There is still a tree down below Clinton. — Grizzly Hackle Fly Shop, Missoula.

Cooney Reservoir — Water temperatures have stayed in the low 70s. Anglers have been fishing early in the mornings or nights due to the pleasure boat traffic. The walleye and perch bite remains good. Bottom bouncers with a floating jig tipped with a leech seemed to work well. People are also having luck trolling Rapalas along the weed edges. The trout are biting on gold spinners or yellow PowerBait. — Cooney State Park.

Deadman’s Basin — Fishing is poor, however, anglers are still doing well for largemouth bass at Broadview Pond. At Deadman's, water levels are low and it is difficult to launch bigger boats. — Cozy Corner Bar, Lavina.

Flathead Lake (North) — The reports we are getting haven’t been bright. — Zimmer Bait and Tackle, Pablo.

Flathead Lake (South) — Action has picked up for whitefish. The whitefish are schooled up, and underneath the whitefish are lake trout. A 20-pound lake trout was caught this weekend off of Bird Island. At Rocky Point action is also good for lake trout. As July 21 approaches, usually anglers begin to know if it will be a good year for whitefish or not. All indications are good. In the deep water there are big pods of baitfish. — Zimmer Bait and Tackle, Pablo.

Flathead River, above the lake — The water temperatures are warming and were 67 degrees closer to the lake. Those wanting to fish for trout need to go upstream in search of cooler water temps. — Zimmer Bait and Tackle, Pablo.

Flathead River, below Kerr Dam — Anglers continue to catch some trout, and smallmouth bass fishing is picking up. A few pike have been caught. The most consistent method has been a night crawler in the deeper holes. One can try throwing Rooster Tails and Thomas Cylones. Light spoons are a good choice. — Zimmer Bait and Tackle, Pablo.

Flathead River sloughs — Water temps are really warm so anglers should generally avoid until the fall. If you do want to fish the sloughs, early mornings would be best for bass. — Zimmer Bait and Tackle, Pablo.

Fort Peck Reservoir, dam area — Anglers did well at the Governor’s Cup. The winning weight was 74.47 pounds of walleye for 10 fish over two days. Jason Eggebrecht, of Fort Peck, and Ross Lien, of Glendive, were the winners. Anglers are reporting most action is on bottom bouncers, crankbaits or Shiver Minnows. Smallmouth bass fishing is really good down the Dry Arm. Not many anglers are targeting pike, but walleye anglers are reeling northerns in. Lake trout action is good either jigging or trolling. — Lakeridge Lodging & Bait Shop.

Fort Peck Reservoir, Hell Creek — From Hell Creek west toward Timber Creek the fish are in the shallows. Try pitching jigs or Shiver Minnows. One could try pulling blades or crankbaits. The fish are hanging out at depths of 12 to 14 feet. Bass fishing is on fire all over the reservoir. The bass are at depths of 3 to 16 feet. The northern bite is a little tough. The Hell Creek walleye tourney is July 23-25, based out of the marina. There is room for 100 teams and the field is half full. — Hell Creek Marina.

Gallatin River — A hoot owl on the Gallatin from Highway 84 in Four Corners downstream to the confluence with the Missouri River, as well as a full fishing closure on the East Gallatin River from Penwell Bridge Road downstream to the confluence with the Gallatin River and a hoot owl on the East Gallatin River from the confluence of Bear Creek and Rocky Creek downstream to Penwell Bridge (probably pump the brakes on the East for now). Salmonflies have still been spotted later in the afternoons/evenings in the canyon. Keep your eyes open for caddis and PMDs at various times of the day when conditions are right. We're also starting to see some golden stones and yellow Sallies on the river, and if you're not having success with a Chubby and a dropper maybe consider a terrestrial like an Ant or Hopper. — Montana Troutfitters, Bozeman.

Hauser Reservoir — Walleye fishing has been great. Most walleyes are being picked up in the Causeway arm and in the White Sandy and Black Sandy area. Pitching jigs/vertical jigging in less than 20 feet of water near points has been working. Try green or orange jigs tipped with leeches. Shore anglers are picking up a few walleye and trout from the Causeway Bridge while using floating jigs and leeches/crawlers. A few rainbows are caught early in the morning while trolling silver spoons or cowbells and Wedding Ring combos between White Sandy and York Bridge. — FWP, Helena.

Hebgen Lake — Lake levels are still receding. Fly anglers are doing well with callibaetis-type nymphs and streamers. A Woolly Bugger is a good choice. Spoons are working too. The fish are going deeper as water temps are warming. Those trolling need to get deeper than they have been. Orange and chartreuse are good colors. Big boats over 28 feet might have a problem launching but boats smaller than that are fine. — Kirkwood Resort & Marina.

Holter Reservoir — Perch and walleye fishing has really turned on. Most are being picked up while vertical jigging in the canyon near the Gates of the Mountains and near Cottonwood Creek and other points or weed beds in the middle and lower sections of the reservoir. Perch or green jigs tipped with leeches or crawlers have been working well for perch and walleyes. Some fat rainbows continue to be picked up early in the morning on the lower end of the reservoir. Trolling deep-running crankbaits, silver spoons or cowbells and Wedding Rings tipped with crawlers has been producing a few trout. Shore anglers are still catching an occasional rainbow while casting spoons or spinners or using crawlers on a floating jig. — FWP, Helena.

Lake Frances — Action is very slow. — Roberts Bait & Tackle, Great Falls.

Lake Mary Ronan — Anglers are still catching kokanee. One’s best bet would be nighttime fishing. The perch are in deeper water, from 25 to 40 feet. — Zimmer Bait and Tackle, Pablo.

Little Bitterroot Lake — Kokanee fishing has been consistent while trolling Wedding Rings. — Snappy’s, Kalispell.

Loon Lake, near Ferndale — Rainbows are being caught from the dock with PowerBait. — Snappy’s, Kalispell.

Madison RiverLower — The lower is currently under hoot owl restrictions. If you do decide to fish the lower, go very early in the morning, use barbless hooks, get your fish in as soon as possible and do not take your fish out of the water as this increases mortality. — Montana Troutfitters, Bozeman.

Madison River, Upper — The upper has been fishing great overall. There should still be a few salmonflies up here. We have also been seeing golden stones, caddis and green drakes. Small and flashy is the name of the game if you decide to nymph; 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. There has been some fat fish taking streamers; cloudy days have been better. — Montana Troutfitters, Bozeman.

Marias River — The river is really low and getting lower. Fishing is very slow. — Roberts Bait & Tackle, Great Falls.

Martinsdale Reservoir — One could try and troll Tasmanian Devil lures or Thomas Cyclone spoons. — Scheels, Billings.

McGregor Lake — Anglers are having success on rainbows and smallmouth in the shallows with silver Panther Martin lures. — Snappy’s, Kalispell.

Missouri River, below Holter — The flows were 3,180 cfs on Monday and water temps are 63 in the mornings and 64.5 degrees in the afternoon. Anglers should fish in the mornings and be off the water by 2 p.m. Tricos showed up over the weekend and lots of fish are looking up. Nymphing has been good. — Montana Fly Goods, Helena.

Missouri River, Fort Benton — The bite is generally slow, however, a lot of goldeyes are being caught. — Roberts Bait & Tackle, Great Falls.

Missouri River, Fred Robinson Bridge — It’s been so hot, fishing pressure is light. Pack bug spray if you go. — Roberts Bait & Tackle, Great Falls.

Noxon Rapids Reservoir — Anglers are doing well. In two weeks there will be a bass tournament. It is smoky outside as of Monday. Visibility is good, but the air quality isn’t great. — Lakeside Motel and Resort.

Pablo Reservoir — All of the local reservoirs will be extremely warm. One could try the early morning when fish are the most active. — Zimmer Bait and Tackle, Pablo.

Rock Creek (East) — Flows are running at 231 cfs as of Monday. We are still seeing hatches of mayflies and some caddis. Throughout the day, look to throw more or less hoppers in peach (12), especially if there are no clouds. Flashback pheasant tails and Holcomb's BH Golden Stone have been our hot nymphs. With water low and warm the streamer bite has been absolutely on fire. Try Grinchs and Thin Mints. Also, make sure to bring a thermometer. With all the warm weather in the area lately rivers are slowly starting to heat up. Handling fish at warm temperatures will have a deadly effect on trout. Try to only fish areas with water cooler than 65 degrees. Dries: Pink Pookie, Headlight Caddis (14) in green, Purple Craze (14). Nymphs: Flashback Pheasant Tail (12), BH Caddis Pupa (14). Streamers: Complex Twist Bugger-black, Crystal Flash Bugger in black, Slump Buster-black. — East Rosebud Fly Shop, Red Lodge.

Rock Creek (West) — Rock Creek is fishing well and water temps are staying lower than most places. The afternoons/evenings are still tough to fish, but the mornings to early afternoon have been great. PMDs, Yellow Sallies and attractor dry flies are on the menu. A Brindle Chute, Yellow Stimi, Royal Wulff, P-Haze, and Micro Chubby are good flies to have for dry fly only fishers. If fish aren’t coming up to the dry, put a deep PMD dropper off the back of a bigger foam dry fly. Look for fish in the faster water now. — Grizzly Hackle Fly Shop, Missoula.

Spring Creek — The creek continues to fish well. The little ponds around town are getting pretty mossy to shore fish. East Fork Reservoir is still producing perch. — Sport Center, Lewistown.

Stillwater River — Water levels have gone down considerably. The big surprise is fish have started taking Hoppers. There is a Parachute Hopper that is working really well along with Fat Albert Grasshoppers. However, trout are still hitting Bitch Creeks (8). Morning fishing is the best. The water starts warming up at 11 a.m. and we’d advise to stop fishing then until the sun starts heading down. There is very little snow left in the mountains. — Absarokee Fly Shop, Absarokee.

Swan Lake — Action has picked up with the clearing water. The bite isn’t extremely good, but good enough to give it a try. The best fishing would be early in the morning, but there should be an afternoon bite, too. — Zimmer Bait and Tackle, Pablo.

Tiber Reservoir — Fishing was fantastic over the weekend with several 20-inch walleyes reeled in. Try jigging or bottom bouncing with worms or minnows. — Ru’s Tiber Marina.

Tongue River Reservoir — It’s the recreational time of the year where there are plenty of pleasure boaters. The bass bite is good in the shallows. The bigger bass are in the deeper water around structure. Throw Senkos or Rapalas. Some anglers had success for walleyes in the weed beds, or just outside of the weed beds. Bottom bounce in 20 feet of water with leeches or worms. The crappie bite is still pretty slow. A few nice-sized crappie have been caught, but nobody is limiting out. The northern pike bite is decent with some between 30 to 40 inches being caught. — Tongue River Marina.

Yellowstone River, Big Timber — The Yellowstone is fishing well. Try fishing Golden Stone dries and nymphs as well as Yellow Sallies and Caddisflies. As the water warms in the hot afternoons, be especially careful with fish and try to minimize or eliminate any time out of the water. Try stripping streamers across the riffles; black and yellow Buggers are our favorite. — Sweetcast Angler, Big Timber.

Yellowstone River, Huntley — The river has cleaned up and is dropping. Catfishing is good on minnows, cut bait and crayfish. Sauger, walleyes and bass are hitting jigs, different spoons and crankbaits. — Huntley Bait and Tackle.

Yellowstone River, Livingston — The river has dropped to near 3,910 cfs but couldn't be fishing better. The salmonflies are into Yellowstone Park. The fish in the valley have digested their huge salmonfly meal and are back on the feed. Your best bet would be to toss either a Golden Stone, a Yellow Sally, PMD or Caddis. Depending on the day, there might be a few drakes here and there. Get your fishing in now, the river has been fishing excellent the last couple weeks. — Montana Troutfitters, Bozeman.


Bighorn Lake, Horseshoe Bend — We are hoping the fishing dock will be put in this week at Horseshoe Bend. — Horseshoe Bend Marina.

Bighorn River, Thermopolis — Some anglers are still presenting worms, but there are fly fishers out, too. Most anglers are fishing in the morning before the heat of the day. — White Horse Country Store, Thermopolis.

Clarks Fork — Anglers are catching fair numbers of fish with most action on nymphs. Maybe the evenings would be a good time to try a dry fly when the hatches come off. — North Fork Anglers, Cody.

Cody-area lakes — Hogan and Luce are fishing fairly well. As soon as it gets a little warmer, water temps will be too warm to fish. — North Fork Anglers, Cody.

Lake DeSmet — Walleye and salmon are being caught by boat anglers trolling. Shore anglers are picking up perch and rainbows. Nitro crawlers have been a popular bait. — The Lake Stop, Buffalo.  

Lower Shoshone — For not being clear, the river is fishing really well. Basic nymphs, Parachute Adams, soft hackles, San Juan Worms and Sowbugs will work. — North Fork Anglers, Cody.

North Fork of the Shoshone — Water levels are dropping and flows were at 838 cfs on Monday. The bigger fish will take a dry fly in the evenings. In the day time try a tandem nymph rig or a dry-dropper. — North Fork Anglers, Cody.

South Fork of the Shoshone — The river is dropping rapidly and flowing at 436 cfs on Monday. Dry flies are working. Try red and yellow Humpies, Parachute Adams, Royal Wulff and Royal Trudes. A dry-dropper would work. Try a Chubby Chuck. A hopper-dropper with a nymph a couple feet behind would work. — North Fork Anglers, Cody.

Upper and Lower Sunshine Reservoirs — Anglers are still limiting out on Upper. Action on the lower reservoir is a little slower. Some anglers are trolling with crawlers. Some are using cut bait. Some anglers are still having success from the bank. On the Wood River and Greybull River anglers are fly fishing. — Wea Market, Meeteetse.

Yellowstone National Park — The northeast corner is a great option and Slough, Lamar and Soda Butte are all still fishing well. The Lamar got a little off-color from a storm early in the week but looks to be coming back in shape, but keep an eye on the gauge or give a shout at the shop for current conditions. As far as bugs go, caddis and PMDs should cover a majority of the menu. A tan X Caddis (16) or Missing Link will take care of the caddis, and a PMD Razor May or Sparkle Dun (16) will cover the mayflies. There's a good chance to catch some green drakes popping so take a Green Drake Cripple or two with you, as well. Also, don't be afraid to bust the foam bugs out, those fish seem to have a weakness for anything remotely resembling a hopper, beetle or ant. Some of our favorites are the Stubby Ant (12-14) and a pink Thunder Thighs Hopper (10-14). If you are up for a hike to somewhere a little off the beaten path, check out the Yellowstone River in the Black Canyon. Salmonflies are out in this stretch along with PMDs and caddis, making for some great fishing for 12- to 14-inch cutthroats. Try hiking in at Blacktail Deer Creek, Hellroaring Creek, or walking upstream from the boundary at Gardiner, and be sure to try a big Salmonfly Chubby Chernobyl (8) or orange Sunken Stone. — Blue Ribbon Flies, West Yellowstone.

Email Gazette Sports Editor John Letasky at or follow him on Twitter at @GazSportsJohnL


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