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The annual salmonfly hatch is kicking into gear

In honor of Father’s Day on Sunday, anglers can fish in Montana for free on June 16-17.

All other fishing rules and regulations apply.

The news of the week is that although not in huge numbers yet, salmonflies are hatching on the Big Hole River.

Another item to note is the paddlefish season on the Yellowstone River and Missouri River downstream from Fort Peck Dam closed on Friday, June 8, at 9 p.m. A Montana FWP release said that on June 6 the estimated paddlefish harvest was 825. The estimate was that by June 8 numbers would approach the harvest target of 1,000 paddlefish. Following the harvest closure, catch-and-release fishing for paddlefish is allowed only at Intake fishing access site for 10 consecutive days, from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily.

Top picks

Canyon Ferry Reservoir — Rainbow trout are being caught throughout the reservoir. Shoreline anglers are having success using spoons, worms, and PowerBait. Boat anglers are doing well trolling spoons and cowbells tipped with a worm. Walleye and yellow perch are being caught throughout the south end and mid reservoir in 15 to 35 feet of water trolling worm harnesses, tipped with worms or leeches, or crankbaits. Walleye and perch are being caught from shore throughout the reservoir using jigs, tipped with worms, or worms and leeches under a bobber in 5 to 30 feet of water. — FWP, Helena.

Cody-area lakes — Freestone rivers are high so fish the lakes. East and West Newton are fishing well with scuds, aquatic worms, midge larvae, Damselfly nymphs and adults, and small streamers. Hogan and Luce are also fishing well with the same patterns with the exception of beetles and fly ants now on the lakes. — North Fork Anglers, Cody.

Fort Peck Reservoir, dam area — The walleye bite is picking up in 5 to 15 feet of water, with some being caught deeper. A jig and minnow is still working, but mainly anglers are gearing up to present night crawlers and leeches. Smile Blade rigs and Slow Death rigs are working best. The northern pike bite is at 10 to 22 feet pulling cranks or spoons. Hammered brass or blue and orange patterns seem to be working best. Jigging for lake trout at 50 to 100 feet is working very well. Pulling spoons off heavy bottom bouncers is also working. Downriggers are working well at 60 to 100 feet pulling flashers and flies, or flashers and Brad's Super Bait Cut Plug. — Lakeridge Lodging & Bait Shop.

Hauser Reservoir — Rainbows are being caught by boat anglers around the Black Sandy and White Sandy area while trolling cowbells 20-feet deep. Rainbows are also being caught below Canyon Ferry Dam on jigs or crankbaits from shore and boat. Walleye are being caught in the Causeway while using bottom bouncers, jigs, leeches or worms. Some walleye are being caught in the slow water below Canyon Ferry Dam. Perch fishing is slow. — FWP, Helena.

Hebgen Lake — Fishing has been great, especially in water less than 30 feet from the bank, and in less than 20 feet of water. Areas adjacent to runoff streams are also still fishing well as many of the streams are flowing longer than usual due to delayed snow melt. Copper and red patterns have generally worked well on a range of tackle, and rainbow streamers are consistently attracting the larger fish landed. Darker patterns in the evenings have been catching big trout. — Kirkwood Marina.


Ackley Lake — Some anglers are having luck for trout. Try casting spoons or spinners from shore or trolling cowbells on leaded line. Most anglers seem to be targeting tiger muskies. The tiger muskies are shallow and cruising the shorelines. Use shallow-running crankbaits in 5 to 10 feet of water. At East Fork Reservoir a few northern pike, smaller perch and 15- to 17-inch rainbow trout have been reeled in. The weeds will start building up soon, so most action would be from boats when that happens. Carter Ponds have been restocked with rainbow trout. At Big Casino Creek Reservoir anglers could try Mister Twister tails or spinner baits for crappie and bass. — Sport Center, Lewistown.

Beaverhead River — Flows and reports are good, so nymph it hard and hold on tight. Scuds and worms are always a good bet, but don't be afraid to swing a small streamer around. — Montana Troutfitters, Bozeman.

Big Hole River — It’s hovering around 5,900 cfs in Melrose. The rain and cold weather have bumped flows slightly and dropped water temps. Salmonflies are here, not in huge numbers yet, and colder weather could slow the hatch. Being first on the river is key for the salmonfly hatch, so get out there soon on the next few warm days, because the hatch will go just as quickly as it comes. Running a dry-dropper rig worked tight to the bank is a great way to find fish. The feeder streams are moving but they are clear. Fishing is getting better and better. The water is clear and instead of getting dirty brown water it will get a deep tea color. Usually this is when you will begin to see the streamer bite pick up. Yellow is a color that shows up well in this water. Tan and gold has also been producing well. A good cast is the key to streamer fishing right now. The fish are tucked into the bushes on the banks. You have to be willing to lose a few flies if you head this direction. With the water on the drop, the fish will start moving back into normal holding lies. Nymphing with stonefly patterns and a worm pattern can sometimes be the setup that will fish all day. Caddis larva and BWO nymphs have been producing. Mother's Day caddis have also been on the move. Find some soft water and bust out the dry fly stick. Be extremely careful as the river is difficult to wade and even more so at such a high flow. If you plan to float the river, make sure you know the stretch. There are a few diversion dams, hydraulics and wave trains in the canyon stretch. Stop by the shop for information on stretches that may be safer options. — Montana Troutfitters, Bozeman.

Bighorn River — Flows were bumped a bit last week and as of Tuesday were in the 12,400 cfs range. Water clarity still remains 6-8 feet before Soap Creek dumps in. The water temperature has jumped to 53 degrees as more water is being released over the spillway. With these increased flows it has brought to an end any significant dry fly fishing. Streamer fishing has been exceptionally good as small emerald shiners are being washed over the spillway. Best streamer patterns have been white/pearl Zonkers, Sherick's Hatchery Smolt, and Foxy Fry (all in size 6). Nymph fishing has been very good as crustaceans are being dislodged with the higher flows. Either orange Bighorn Scuds or tan or pink Soft Hackled Ray Charles (14-16) trailed behind an orange or red Wire Worm (4-6) have been the best bet. — Bighorn Fly and Tackle Shop, Fort Smith. 

Bighorn Lake, Ok-A-Beh — The water is dirty all the way down to the dam. Anglers were catching some bass. A few walleye have been caught in Black Canyon. Use jigs and minnows or worms. — Pryor Creek Bait Co., Laurel.

Boulder River — The river above and below the Natural Bridge is still running high and silty, yet with the cooler weather and lack of precipitation we expect the river to begin dropping and becoming fish-able. As the river begins to clear look to fish Stonefly nymphs and San Juan Worms. As the high flows continue be sure to wade safely. — Sweetcast Angler, Big Timber.

Cooney Reservoir — Some 19-inch plus walleye are being caught from shore by anglers fishing at the dam using a leech off the bottom. For smaller walleye use a half crawler and jig at the Willow and Red Lodge creeks areas. Fishermen’s Point was alright with crawlers from shore or trolling cowbells for trout, but for the most part trout action is slow. — Boyd Store and Trading Post.

Deadman’s Basin — Fishing remains poor from boat and shore. It is still full and the water is murky. Some anglers have had luck at the Broadview Pond for trout and smallmouth using worms and a weight. But, as the temperatures warm it will get mossy. — Cozy Corner Bar, Lavina.

Fort Peck Reservoir, Big Dry Arm — The Pikemasters tourney was last weekend. Cody Strohm and his daughter Kalli, both of Richey, fishing with Todd Klepplid, of Circle, won the tourney with 73 pounds. Crankbaits are the ticket for northerns. While fishing crankbaits for pike, walleye and bass were also hitting. The water is still rising and could come up another 3 feet. With the high levels of water, the key is locating the fish. — Rock Creek Marina.

Fort Peck Reservoir, Crooked Creek — Anglers are catching walleye from boats by jigging with worms. Some were boating all the way to the Narrows and some to Squaw Creek. Bank fishing has slowed down, but some northern pike were still caught using smelt. Catfish are being caught by bank anglers using worms. — Crooked Creek Marina.

Fort Peck Reservoir, Fourchette Bay — The walleye are in 5 to 30 feet of water. The walleye being boated are either small or big. Some nice northerns have been reeled in. — Westside Sports, Malta.

Fort Peck Reservoir, Hell Creek — Fishing was slow over the weekend due to wind. Fishing had been really good for walleye jigging minnows or leeches or bottom bouncing worms. Chartreuse, purple or yellow are good colors. Smallmouth bass are being caught by walleye anglers. Pike fishing is slow. — Hell Creek Marina.

Fresno Reservoir — A few walleye and northerns have been caught on crawlers. Below the spillway anglers are catching walleye and northerns. Use colored marshmallows and crawlers or lures below the spillway. — Stromberg Sinclair, Havre.

Gallatin River — The Gallatin is sort of on the fall and seems to be peaking at a lower and lower level every day. That being said, it is still ripping and is best left to the whitewater enthusiasts for a few more weeks. — Montana Troutfitters, Bozeman.

Holter Reservoir — A few rainbows are being caught from shore at Departure Point while using worms or marshmallows. Boat anglers are finding rainbows while trolling green crankbaits or cowbells in the lower reservoir at 15 to 20 feet deep and in the canyon around Gates of the Mountains. Walleye are being caught while using jigs and worms or leeches in 8 to 15 feet of water. The best walleye action is happening in the lower reservoir and in the canyon around Gates of the Mountains. 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. — FWP, Helena.

Madison RiverLower — The lower has dropped to 3,700 cfs over the past few days and is fishing well. Think big as dark streamers and big nymphs under the indicator are the name of the game. Woolly Buggers, sculpins, and Zurdles will get you into fish. The caddis are back out and about in the evenings, but the bite has been sporadic. Warmer weather should bring better fishing and more caddis appearing. There are a few pods up feeding and they are very willing to eat. A size 16 olive caddis is all that is necessary. There are also substantial amounts of yellow Sallies and golden stones on the lower right now. A Chubby dropper rig will get into a few fish worked tight to the bank during the day. On cooler, cloudy days, look to the soft water for rising fish. On the sunny days, pupa and emerger caddis patterns are going to fish better. Fish are being caught in a variety of places. The weedbed areas usually have slower current, which is a spot to 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 on warm evenings. On cloudy days, try streamers. — Montana Troutfitters, Bozeman.

Madison River, Upper — The river has dropped slightly to 2,170 cfs above the West Fork, which is adding another 1,500 cfs and dirtying up the river. The upper river is experiencing fishable visibility right now, with clarity improving daily. Nymphing big stuff like rubber legs or streamers with smaller nymphs behind will find a few fish. Good patterns are small Pheasant Tails, Lightning Bugs, Prince Nymphs, Hare’s Ears, or RS2. Seek the soft water and work it until you find them. Don't be afraid of small flies in big water. If big stuff is not working, go small. Sometimes, these smaller bugs can be the ticket. Also, don't overlook the water you'd normally wade through. High water can often push fish tight to the banks. We have had a few reports of success throwing streamers shallow up high near Three Dollar Bridge. Be careful, at these flows the low bridges are impassable and there are wave trains throughout the river. — Montana Troutfitters, Bozeman.

Martinsdale Reservoir — Action is good from bank or boat. Bair Reservoir is also fishing well. — Ray’s Sport and Western Wear, Harlowton.

Missouri River, below Holter — The flow is 11,800 cfs and water temps were 59 degrees as of Monday. Most action is on nymphs. Try pink Hot Spots, Tailwater Sowbugs, a Green Machine or a Wire Worm. Baetis are starting to show up. — Montana Fly Goods, Helena.

Missouri River, Fred Robinson Bridge — Catfish action is still strong on cut bait and minnows. Bring your bug spray. — Sport Center, Lewistown.

Nelson Reservoir — A few walleye are being caught and action has been picking up. Try bottom bouncing or jigging with leeches, crawlers or minnows. Some smaller pike are biting. — Westside Sports, Malta.

Rock Creek — It remains in runoff with flows too high and fast to effectively fish a fly. There have been some reports that Rock Creek's three smaller tributaries may have some small patches of clarity and holding water, but be extra cautious as flows remain high and fast throughout this river drainage. Should an angler feel adventurous, hike upstream of the national forest boundaries of the West Fork, Lake Fork, or Main Fork and look for long runs or pools. There will definitely be trout holding in those settings. Recommended nymph patterns during runoff include Copper Johns, varied Prince Nymphs and San Juan Worms. — East Rosebud Fly Shop, Billings. 

Spring Creek — It is still clear. Most action will be on nymphs. Try running some beadhead Pheasant Tails. — Sport Center, Lewistown.

Stillwater River — Flows have been fluctuating in response to weather patterns. When the river is on the drop, although still on the high side and swift, the upper river has generally been clear enough to fish. Fish the very edge seams. Nymphing is likely the best option, with black, brown and coffee rubber leg patterns like Girdle Bugs and Pat’s Rubber Legs, or a San Juan Worm as well as similar colored stonefly patterns along with a beadhead trailer fly like a Prince Nymph, Hare’s Ear, Batman or Pheasant Tail. In off-color water use a color contrast of darker patterns like Black Buggers or the Grinch either dead drifted or stripped. It’s also time to start fishing big dry flies like a Chubby or PMX with a beadhead nymph dropper in the softer inside water. The river will likely continue to fluctuate in response to temperatures and rain events. Look for smaller tributaries, tailwaters and lakes to fish in the meantime. — Stillwater Anglers, Columbus.

Tiber Reservoir — Fishing has been slow. At the walleye tourney last weekend a few big fish were caught but most were on the smaller side. Leeches or crawlers have been the best bait. — Ru’s Tiber Marina.

Tongue River Reservoir — Overall, fishing has been pretty slow. Anglers are catching crappie and walleye with jigs and worms. The walleye are being caught in the weeds and crappie are being reeled in by bank anglers. Bass and northern fishing is quiet. — Tongue River Marina.

Yellowstone River, Columbus — Running extremely high and off-color through Columbus. It’s dangerous and best to stay away from completely. Search out lakes, smaller tributaries and tailwaters until runoff subsides. — Stillwater Anglers, Columbus.

Yellowstone River, Huntley — Try fishing backwaters, tributaries and flooded areas for catfish. Present cut bait or shrimp. —

Yellowstone River, Livingston — With the recent warm temperatures the Yellowstone is on the rise and hovering around 24,000 cfs. This is still not a good direction to head for at least a few more weeks. — Montana Troutfitters, Bozeman.


Beartooth Mountain lakes — Ice is leaving the lakes now and the fishing action is picking up as access to these lakes becomes easier with the lack of snow. — North Fork Anglers, Cody.

Bighorn Lake, Horseshoe Bend — A catfish tournament will be held on Saturday based out of the marina, with first place paying $1,000. Call 406-696-1281 for information. On the southern end of the south narrows, catfish are being caught on worms. Sauger and bass are being caught at the Horseshoe Bend fishing dock. At Crooked Creek Bay crappie are hitting minnows and jigs. By the state line and south there have been some walleye biting. — Horseshoe Bend Marina.

Bighorn River, Thermopolis — The river is very high and swift. Boaters cannot make it under the Sixth Street bridge. Area streams are high and muddy with runoff and rain. Fishing has been slow with most fish being caught against the banks and in the eddies. Sunshine Reservoir has been fishing well using spinners and worms. — White Horse Country Store & Canyon Sporting Goods, Thermopolis.

Boysen Reservoir — The reservoir is a foot over full, but that doesn’t seem to be affecting fishing. We have had reports of walleye, rainbows and browns being caught by boating anglers. Fishing from shore is poor. Worm harnesses and night crawlers are working as well as planer boards with bottom bouncers and Death Roll hooks baited with night crawlers. — Boysen Lake Marina.

Buffalo Bill Reservoir — It is muddy and fishing is slow. — North Fork Anglers, Cody.

Lower Shoshone — Flows are going up to make room in Buffalo Bill. Flows over the weekend were 4,800 cfs. — North Fork Anglers, Cody.

Yellowstone National Park — Salmonflies, golden stones, PMDs and caddis are hatching on the Madison. An Improved Sunken Stone (8) is a good choice. The Madison still has a slight hint of color to it, but it's fishing well. Nymphing is certainly an option here and Rubber Legs, Split-Case PMDs, OCD Caddis and $3 Dips will take fish. The water levels on the Firehole have dropped significantly and the dry fly fishing has picked up. Fish have been taking White Millers and PMDs on the surface and Micro Beeleys, White Miller Soft Hackles, Pheasant Tail Soft Hackles and Peacock & Starling Soft Hackles have all worked well for those who love to swing. White Miller action has been best in the evening hours, and you can expect the PMDs to emerge between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. Also there have been salmonflies in the Firehole Canyon. Try an Improved Sunken Stone (8). — Blue Ribbon Flies, West Yellowstone.

Henry’s Fork of the Snake River (Idaho) — While the Ranch section is closed until June 15, there is some great fishing on other stretches. Salmonflies have made their way up to the Box Canyon and there are still a few around in the Warm River to Ashton section. Along with the big bugs, there are plenty of PMDs, caddis and golden stones out and the fish have been on them. — Blue Ribbon Flies, West Yellowstone.