David Frank

Billings angler David Frank caught this 40-inch northern pike while fishing on the Dry Arm at Fort Peck Reservoir recently.

Fishing is heating up at several spots in the region. The timing couldn’t be better as anglers will be out in full force over Memorial Day weekend.

Take your pick, but Cooney, areas of Fort Peck, Holter, Hebgen and Tongue River reservoirs are all fishing well. Or explore Yellowstone National Park, which opens to fishing on Saturday. The Firehole is often a good place to fish on the opener.

Anglers should be aware of a new license they need to purchase, even if they have already bought their season fishing license. Beginning May 19, all anglers in Montana must purchase an Aquatic Invasive Species Prevention Pass under legislation signed last week. The cost is $2 for residents and $15 for nonresidents. 

Here’s this week’s Gazette Fishing Report:

Top picks

Beaverhead River — It is fishing awesome. Above Grasshopper Creek, there is 3-4 feet of visibility. The flow out of the dam was 105 cfs on Monday. Use caddis, Yellow Sally nymphs, San Juan Worms, Pheasant Tail nymphs or green Split Case PMD nymphs. Streamers will work early in the morning, late in the evening or on cloudy days. White Zonkers are a good choice for streamers. — Frontier Anglers, Dillon.

Cooney Reservoir — Fishing was pretty good last week. Walleye were hitting leeches and crawlers from shore. From boat, try trolling Rapalas or a leech or crawler with a worm harness in about 7 to 10 feet of water. Trout have been striking crawlers trolled with cowbells. Most fish being caught have been in the Red Lodge Creek and Willow Creek area, with some being taken in the vicinity of the dam. — Boyd Store and Trading Post.

Fort Peck Reservoir, Big Dry Arm — Walleye fishing is OK, with Shawn Schock of Billings reeling in a 31-inch walleye. Other fat walleye caught included a 9.75-pounder by Ray Reichman, along with a 29 ½-inch fish caught by Austyn Mindt of Sidney. Jig with minnows. Some are bottom bouncing. Fishing has been picking up when it’s not windy. A few northerns have been caught. David Frank of Billings boated a 40-inch pike. — Rock Creek Marina.

Fort Peck Reservoir, Fourchette Bay — Fishing for all species remains steady. Most anglers are jigging a minnow or leech or pulling worm harnesses tipped with a leech or worm for walleye. Throwing spoons into the bays will work for large northerns. — Westside Sports, Malta.

Tongue River Reservoir — Fishing is still decent with a lot of crappie caught. The best methods are a worm harness, tube jigs or a regular jig tipped with a minnow, leech or crawler for crappie. For walleye target between 5 to 15 feet of the water dragging a jig or walleye harness tipped with minnows, worms or leeches. Quite a few northerns have been caught by crappie fishermen, including two 40-inchers last weekend. The bass bite is terrific. Fish structure in 5 to 15 feet of water for largemouth and smallmouth. There is still a lot of water coming in, so the south end is a little muddier. Water is going over the spillway. — Tongue River Marina.


Ackley Lake — Bright-colored spinners and night crawlers from the shore will work. Troll the middle of the lake using jointed No. 7 or No. 9 Rapalas or Flicker Shads in rainbow, shiner or shad patterns for tiger muskies. — Don’s, Lewistown.

Big Hole River — There are caddis coming off. Sculpin patterns will work for streamers. San Juan Worms or rubber-leg stonefly nymphs will also entice trout. — Frontier Anglers, Dillon.

Bighorn River —  The flows were increased by 1,000 cfs this weekend and were 14,024 cfs on Monday. The water temp has risen some to 52.4 degrees. Water clarity is still excellent above Soap Creek at 6-8 feet. Soap Creek is quite muddy, but with the current flows it is having minimal effect. Some anglers are now going from Bighorn to Mallards. Still no top-water activity but nymphing has been good and streamer fishing remains excellent. Any crustacean pattern, such as Firebead Soft Hackle Ray Charles (12-16) or Firebead Soft Hackle Sowbug, in either pink or tan, are working. Trail these behind a wire San Juan Worm (8-10) in either red or orange. Streamer fishing has been phenomenal as emerald shiner minnows are still being washed over the spillway into the river. White Zonkers with pearl or silver bodies and either white or ghost Cousin It's are the top patterns. Visit www.bighornfly.com for recent video footage of water conditions. — Bighorn Fly and Tackle Shop, Fort Smith. 

Bighorn Lake, Ok-A-Beh — The marina opens for the season Friday. Gas and concessions will be available. Some night crawlers will be stocked, but anglers should bring their own the first weekend. Hours will be 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. seven days a week. — Ok-A-Beh Marina.

Boulder River — It’s still flowing at a good clip, although cooler temperatures last week brought this river back to manageable flows. Like most mountain-fed streams, the higher up the clearer the water will be. During runoff, this week might be a window to fish. Nymph and streamer fishing is an angler's best bet. Larger stonefly nymphs (Rubber Legs, San Juan Worms) and larger beadhead Prince Nymphs will produce. Streamer fishing can be effective fishing Sparkle Minnows and black or olive Woolly Buggers. — East Rosebud Fly Shop, Billings.

Canyon Ferry Reservoir — Rainbow trout are being caught throughout the reservoir.  Shoreline anglers are having success at Shannon and Chinamen’s using worms or PowerBait. Boat anglers are having success for trout trolling crankbaits at shallow depths throughout the reservoir. Walleye are being caught mostly on the south end of the reservoir trolling crankbaits or worm harnesses in 10 feet of water or less. Yellow perch are being caught while trolling for walleye.  — FWP, Helena.

Deadman’s Basin — Fishing is OK from shore using traditional methods. Boat fishermen are catching fish, too, but those on shore seem to be having better luck. — Cozy Corner Bar, Lavina.

Fort Peck Reservoir, Crooked Creek — Fishing has been good from shore for pike and good from boat for walleye, bass and crappie. Off the bank, use minnows or smelt. From boat, use bottom bouncers, a worm harness and worms or leeches. Clearer water can be found at the head of the narrows. — Crooked Creek Marina.

Fort Peck Reservoir, dam area — Overall, fishing has been pretty steady. Walleye fishing is not hot and heavy, but they are picking up a few either jigging with a minnow, or presenting a crawler with spinner blades. Lake trout are in 40 feet of water. Use deep-diving crankbaits or spoons. Walleye fishermen are picking up plenty of pike. — Lakeridge Motel and Tackle.

Fort Peck Reservoir, Hell Creek — Fishermen are still catching northern in the Hell Creek area. The pike are in 10 to 15 feet of water. For walleye, fish in the Timber Creek section. Some smallmouth have also been caught around Timber Creek. — Hell Creek Marina.

Gallatin River — The water has started to get brown again, but fish are eating. The Taylor Fork has started to add color. Above here the conditions are very good and the Park section will open on Saturday. The bite on black streamers along the bank has been good. Nymphing has also done well. Try dead drifting a dark Bugger with a golden stone. Caddis are out in the late afternoon. Fish close to the bank in the evening. — Montana Troutfitters, Bozeman.

Hauser Reservoir — Rainbow fishing is slow with a few being caught from shore at the Causeway Bridge and Riverside while using crawlers or marshmallows. Boat anglers are finding a few rainbows while trolling cowbells around White Sandy and Black Sandy and in the Causeway. Walleye are being caught in Lake Helena while using perch-colored crankbaits or bottom bouncers.  A few walleye have been caught from the Causeway Bridge on leeches. A few perch have been caught in Lake Helena. — FWP, Helena.

Hebgen Lake — Fishermen are catching two to four fish apiece over a few hours. Some fishermen who are fishing all day are limiting. The browns and rainbows are between 16 to 23 inches. Use brown, blue or orange streamers. Rapalas are working in shallow water from 3 to 12 feet of water. There is a great midge hatch, so fly patterns resembling darker midges will work. — Kirkwood Marina.

Holter Reservoir — Rainbows are being caught from shore at Gates of the Mountains, Holter Lake Campground and Departure Point while using worms or PowerBait. Boat anglers are finding rainbows while trolling crankbaits or cowbells along the shorelines throughout the reservoir. Perch action is good around the docks, Oxbow Bend and by the clay banks while using a jig and worm in 8 to 10 feet of water. Walleye action is slow with a few being caught while trolling crankbaits in 6 to 10 feet of water. — FWP, Helena.

Madison RiverLower — Still a good choice, but with the ever changing flows there are inconsistent reports. A medium-size fly (Zirdle, Woolly Bugger) followed by a flashy nymph is a good setup. With the cloudiness in the water, the dry-fly bite will be tough. A stimulator or a smaller foam fly might get a curious trout to take a swing. Streamer fishing is a strong option. The banks are flooded and some of the bigger fish will be tucked right up underneath them. — Montana Troutfitters, Bozeman.

Madison River, Upper — We've had reports it’s cleaned up and is fishable all the way down to the lake. Quake Lake isn't dumping any color for now. No reports from anything below Lyons, but fishing has been great above. With the clarity having improved and the recent fishing pressure, a lot of the fish that were along the banks up at the top end of the river have moved back out to the boulders and seams. The best colors have been gray and white along with solid black and bigger has been better. There are a lot of fish that are keyed in on midge nymphs and small mayfly emergers. Dry-fly fishing hasn't been great in the evenings there have been some huge midge hatches.  Griffith’s Gnats and Midge Clusters are always a good choice when there is a big hatch. — Montana Troutfitters, Bozeman.

Martinsdale Reservoir — From shore, anglers are catching trout. They are catching nice-size browns and rainbows. Straight PowerBait or a combination of worms and corn is working. Spawn sacks are also producing. The bite is better from the bank than boat. — Cozy Corner Bar, Lavina.

Missouri River, below Holter — The cfs is 11,100 as of Monday. If one finds rising fish, use a purple para Wulff or a small caddis. Most action is on nymphs. A Two Bit Hooker, or Tailwater Sowbug, are good nymphs, as are scuds and Quasimodo. Red worm patterns are taking fish. For streamers, a Nick’s Perch or olive Thin Mint will work. — Montana Fly Goods, Helena.

Missouri River, Fred Robinson Bridge — It is fishing well. Night crawlers and frozen smelt or frozen herring are working for catfish. Paddlefish anglers are catching fish. — Don’s, Lewistown.

Nelson Reservoir — Pull worm harnesses for walleye. Northern and bass are hitting crankbaits and spoons. Casting jigs toward shore will work for northern and smallmouth as well. Bow fishermen are still fishing for carp. — Westside Sports, Malta.

Rock Creek — It is still in runoff stage. Decreasing flows have brought this stream back to good water clarity, especially just north of Red Lodge. Should an angler decide to fish during the up and down season of runoff, look for holding water. Try nymphing stone flies (Rubber Legs), Girdle Bugs (8) or a standard San Juan Worm for best results. Streamer fishing can be an angler's best technique during runoff. Presentation is less important in higher flows and trout will take a black Bugger even as water fluctuates. — East Rosebud Fly Shop.

Subscribe to Breaking News

* I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy.

Stillwater River — The river spiked with the recent rains and ran off-color, then with cooler weather, flows dropped and clarity improved on the upper river. Full on runoff is due, and with the return of warmer temperatures, is likely here to stay. There might be a spot or two to fish on the upper river or tributaries, but that’s probably it. It’s been tough to move fish with all of the fluctuations in volume, temperature and clarity. If there’s any fishing to be had at all, try dark Buggers, San Juan Worms and rubber-leg nymph patterns like Knotty Girls, Girdle Bugs and Yuk Bugs. — Stillwater Anglers, Columbus.

Spring Creek — It is high and off-color due to recent moisture. Fishing has been quiet. — Don’s, Lewistown.

Yellowstone River, Columbus — It is blown out and unfishable. It will likely gain considerable volume with the return of warmer temperatures. — Stillwater Anglers, Columbus.

Yellowstone River, Huntley — Anglers are still reporting catching catfish in the 3- to 5-pound range. Catfish are still holding off shoreline areas in current breaks. Cut bait or live minnows should do the trick. — TeamMinnowBucket.com.

Yellowstone River, Intake— Paddlefish season ended on the Yellowstone River and lower Missouri downstream of Fort Peck Reservoir Saturday, May 20, at 2 p.m. At Intake, 806 fish were processed. An estimated harvest for the whole fishery is 971 paddlefish in 3.5 days. Catch and release for paddlefish is allowed at the Intake Fishing Access Site through May 30 at 9 p.m. The largest fish processed at Intake was 108 pounds. — FWP, Miles City.

Yellowstone River, Livingston — The river is very dangerous at the current flows and there will be new hazards to avoid after it crested 20,000 cfs last week. The dirty water won't help identifying possible obstructions. — Montana Troutfitters, Bozeman.

Yellowstone River, Miles City — A few catfish are being caught, but fishing is tough as the river continues to rise and remains dirty. — Red Rock Sporting Goods, Miles City.


Bighorn River, Thermopolis — The cfs is 3,200 as of Monday and the flows are high and dirty. Anglers can float below the Wedding of the Waters. Throw San Juan Worms, sowbugs, BWO, streamers and Slump Busters. Always be aware of flows at Eighth Street Bridge. — North Fork Anglers, Cody.

Boysen Reservoir — The water is dirty and levels are low. Anglers can launch boats at the Brannon ramp. — Boysen Lake Marina.

Buffalo Bill Reservoir — Try a No. 2 or No. 3 silver Mepps or a dressed Mepps. Rooster Tails are another option. — North Fork Anglers, Cody.

Clarks Fork — It is still high and muddy with the cfs at 2,070 as of Monday. — North Fork Anglers, Cody.

Cody-area lakes — East and West Newton Lakes are fishing well. Damsel nymphs, Callibaetis soft-hackle, Parachute Adams, leeches, Buggers, Slump Busters and Zonkers will work. Luce and Hogan Reservoirs are fishing well with leeches, Buggers, Slump Busters, Zonkers, Callibaetis and midges. — North Fork Anglers, Cody.

Lake DeSmet — The Buffalo Lions Club Fishing Derby is May 27-29. Fishing has been picking up a little bit, although fishing pressure was light due to the weather over the weekend. From shore, trout are biting worms and marshmallows or PowerBait. The walleye bite is slow. — The Lake Stop, Buffalo.  

Lower Shoshone — It is high and muddy. The cfs is 5,469 as of Monday. Go deep with big nymphs, black North Fork Specials, Bloody Mary, Slump Busters and Double Bunnies. — North Fork Anglers, Cody.

North Fork of the Shoshone — It is off-color, but fishable above Newton Creek. It is closed from Newton Creek to Gibbs Bridge to protect spawning trout until July 1. Halfbacks, black and gold stoneflies, soft-hackles, black and tan North Fork Specials, Prince Nymphs and Bloody Mary will work. — North Fork Anglers, Cody.

Yellowstone National Park — Opening day is Saturday, May 27. The Firehole is the main attraction. Most everything else is still in runoff. The Firehole will probably still be a little high, but fish well on soft hackles, PMDs and caddis. — Blue Ribbon Flies, West Yellowstone.

Subscribe to Breaking News

* I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy.