Fishing Access Sites Glacier National Park & Western Montana

Fishing Access Sites

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Fishing Access

If you are looking for some incredible fishing, than look no further than Western Montana. Our waterways are prime for fly-fishing adventures and easily accessible, from the blue-ribbon waters of the beautiful Bitterroot River to the phenomenal waters on the Middle Fork of the Flathead River. Plus, Glacier Country is home to seasoned fishing outfitters who are ready to help you land your trophy trout. For more information on fly-fishing outfitters, visit our fishing page.

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So as to help you avoid making any mistakes in the state, all visitors should know that Montana law allows the public to make recreational use of rivers and streams between the ordinary high-water marks. Anglers can wade in a stream, walk along the stream bank below the high-water mark, or float fish on any waters large enough to carry a boat. However, the law does not give recreationists the right to enter private lands bordering streams or to cross private lands to gain access to streams.

Fishing Access Sites


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We have rivers a plenty in this corner of the state. Many of them are easily accessible from the road with pull-outs available every couple of miles. With all the rivers, it is possible that getting "burnt-out" could happen to any angler in Montana, yet every morning at the crack of dawn it seems that the fisher population has multiplied over night. This isn't to say that you won't have any space to yourself. Far from it in fact.

This map lists easily accessible fishing access around the state. There are many more sites that one could get to, but often require hiking anywhere from a couple miles to tens of miles. These locations are often times lakes and streams hidden away in one of many National Forests around Glacier Country. For those looking to get in as much fishing as possible, sticking to the locations on this map will help to maximize your fishing experience in Montana.

Techniques and Tackle

In Montana, fishing methods vary with the season, the type of water, and the angler's personal preference. Fly, spin, and bait fishing are all popular techniques, although the use of bait is restricted on some streams. In general, most fly fishers use five-, six-, or seven-weight rods that are 8 1/2- or nine-feet long, while spin and bait fishers favor medium-action rods with six- to 10-pound test line. Ultra light spinning gear is also popular. Wading is the most common technique along streams and rivers. Hip boots are handy on small streams, but chest waders are needed on the large rivers. Felt-soled wading shoes or boots improve traction on slippery stream bottoms.

Float Fishing

Float fishing is increasingly popular on the largest rivers, but some rivers can be dangerous in high water. Inexperienced floaters always should inquire locally about river conditions and possible hazards. The best floating craft are McKenzie-style drift boats or high-quality inflatable rafts with rowing frames.

Motorboats

Motorboats are allowed on most lakes and on some larger rivers; smaller lakes and rivers may have restrictions on motorized water craft. Motorboat operators should always be alert for fast-moving storms and strong winds, especially on large reservoirs such as Fort Peck. All motorboats must have a valid license from Montana or another state or country.

Children under 12 must wear a personal flotation device (PFD) at all times while boating or rafting; adults are encouraged to wear PFDs.

Seasons

In Montana, you can fish year-round, but there are seasonal regulations and water conditions that affect fishing. In general, lakes and larger rivers are open to fishing all year, while smaller tributaries are closed in the winter. Even though spring run-off makes many freestone rivers high and muddy from May until late June, anglers still enjoy good fishing on tailwater fisheries, spring creeks, and some smaller streams. Fly fishers will find most waters in prime condition from late June through October, although March and April can be good before run-off. Winter comes early and stays long in the high country; alpine lake fishing is confined to the summer months. Winter freezes the lakes in December and doesn't let go until March and April. Ice fishing is a popular winter sport.

Fishing Etiquette

When fishing in Montana there are a few moral guidelines that should be observed. Proper fishing etiquette is important to get the most out of the angling experience while preserving and protecting Montana's pristine waters for future generations. Be aware that boat access areas can be busy places; you may wish to fish in a location that is less congested. Do not encroach on another angler's space. Use the "visual rule of crowding" and attempt to keep out of sight of other anglers, if at all possible. Try not to monopolize a good fishing spot on the river. Fish for a while, then move on. Understand that there are going to be instances when the wading angler should yield to floaters, because there is no other channel for the floaters to navigate. When possible, avoid using the streambed as a pathway. This type of foot traffic can cause damage to the fragile aquatic habitat. Anglers should use the shoreline to travel from one point to the other, if doing so doesn't violate trespass laws.

Fish have been moved illegally into over 200 waters statewide. Illegally introduced fish can introduce disease or parasites, impact recreational fisheries or native fish populations, and reduce water quality. Illegal transplants cost you as an angler through increased costs for chemical rehabilitation projects, expanded hatchery programs, lost fishing opportunity, and limits on legal fish introductions. In many cases, the fishery can never be recovered. Help curb this harmful practice by only using live bait fish where legal and safely disposing of unused bait fish. Educate other anglers to never move live fish between waters and report violations by calling 1-800-TIPMONT.

Noxious Weeds

Noxious weeds, including spotted knapweed and leafy spurge infest millions of acres and limit recreational opportunities. They also reduce habitat for fish, wildlife and livestock and choke out native plant species. Be a good land steward and learn to identify noxious weed species and prevent their spread. Please support noxious weed management efforts.

Montana's Trespass Law

Montana's trespass law states that a member of the public has the privilege to enter private land only with the explicit permission of the landowner or his agent, or when the landowner has failed to post a no-trespassing notice . The recreationist is responsible for finding out if private lands are posted. If lands are posted, the recreationist must obtain permission from the landowner before entering them. (Exception: Montana big game hunters must always obtain permission). Recreationists are urged to obtain complete rules about this law from any Fish, Wildlife & Parks office.

Use restrictions at Montana Power Company Dams. In the interest of public health and safety, certain areas above and below all Montana Power Company (MPC) owned and operated dams are closed to the public. These restrictions include areas where no public access is allowed below the ordinary high-water mark and areas of no boating, sailing, floating or swimming. The restricted areas are identified and delineated by signs and/or boat restraining systems. For specific closures, see the current Montana Boating Laws or call MPC's Hydro hotline at 1-800-247-9131 (Montana only).

The Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services has issued advisories for the consumption of fish from certain Montana waters. Fish from some Montana waters contain levels of chemicals that may be harmful to young children, nursing mothers, child-bearing women or persons frequently consuming fish. Information, advice and additional details about fish consumption are available from the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services, Food and Consumer Safety Section, Helena, Montana, 59620; telephone (406)-444-3986.

If You Catch A Tagged Fish

Please report the following information to any Fish, Wildlife & Parks office:

  • the tags number and color
  • the date the fish was caught
  • the fish species
  • the length and weight
  • location of the catch (body of water)
  • if the fish was kept or released; name and address of the angler

To ensure a released fish has the best chance for survival, follow these simple guidelines: Play the fish as rapidly as possible, but not to total exhaustion; keep the fish in water as much as possible when handling and removing hook; remove the hook gently-do not squeeze the fish or put your fingers in its gills; if the fish is deeply hooked, cut the line; do not yank the hook out (fish have a higher survival rate with the hook left in); let the fish regain equilibrium before its released; hold the fish upright in the current facing upstream and mote it slowly back and forth; release the fish in quiet water close to where it was hooked.

Special Advisory- Whirling Disease

Montana's wild and native trout are among the nation's most precious natural resources. Whirling disease, a potentially fatal illness of trout and salmon, has been found in Montana. We need your help to prevent its spread and preserve our fisheries for future generations. The tiny parasite that causes the trout illness can survive within live fish, dead fish, and in water and riverbed mud. It can even survive in dry mud. Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks urges anglers, boaters and others to follow these DOs & DON'Ts:

  • DO remove all mud and aquatic plants from your vehicle, boat, anchor, trailer and axles, waders, boots and fishing gear before departing the fishing access site or boat dock.
  • DO dry your boat and equipment between river trips.
  • DON'T transport fish from one body of water to another.
  • DON'T dispose of fish entrails, skeletal parts, or other by-products in any body of water.
  • DON'T collect sculpins (also known as bullheads) or use sculpins as bait.

Additional Links/Resources

Discover

Fishing Access Spots in Western Montana & Glacier National Park

Western Montana's Glacier Country

News from Glacier National Park: Currently all of the Going-to-the-Sun Road is open for travel.

Bird Woman Falls

An icon in Glacier National Park, Bird Woman Falls is a glistening 492-foot-high waterfall that cascades down the side of Mt. Oberlin. From West Glacier, travel the Going-to-the-Sun Road to Bird Woman Falls Overlook, located on the west side of the Continental Divide.

Trail of the Cedars

This short boardwalk trail (ADA accessible) takes visitors through an old growth cedar forest. It’s also the beginning of the Avalanche Lake Trail (just over two miles long) that leads to Avalanche Lake—one of the most popular day hikes in Glacier National Park. Trail of the Cedars is located about five and a half miles north of Lake McDonald Lodge.

Drive the Going-to-the-Sun Road

If your time in Glacier National Park is limited, one must-see attraction is the Going-to-the-Sun Road. This 50-mile long road takes travelers between St. Mary and West Glacier through the heart of the park, crossing the Continental Divide at Logan Pass. There are numerous pullouts along the road, ideal for taking photographs and enjoying the scenery.

See a Glacier

As you’re traveling the Going-to-the-Sun Road, pull over at Jackson Glacier Overlook (located east of Logan Pass). The overlook offers the best opportunity to see a glacier from the road.

Many Glacier Valley

Home to incredible mountains, active glaciers, abundant wildlife and miles of hiking trails, Many Glacier is located in the northeast section of Glacier National Park. Trails leave from this valley in numerous directions, with popular hiking destinations including Iceberg Lake, Grinnell Lake and Ptarmigan Tunnel.

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