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Best Fishing in Montana

Arielle Sanchez
July 17, 2020

Nothing beats the experience of fishing in Montana. Whether you love fly fishing, fishing from the shore, or hitting the water in a small boat, you'll find a great place to find fish that you can take back to your campsite for lunch or dinner. Many visitors and locals prefer fishing in the Yellowstone River that runs near Billings, but that river is far from your only option. Before you arrive in Billings, you can find out everything you need to know, including the best fishing in Montana spots.

Do You Need a Permit?

Sign that says "Fishing Permit Holders Only"

The Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife & Parks asks that anyone who fishes in the state obtain a permit first. Montana started this program in 2017 as a way to save some of the native fish and to stop the invasive species from taking over the local waters. You need either a conservation license or a fishing license. Some visitors need both types. It only costs $7.50 to get a permit if you're not from Montana and $2 if you're a resident. Children who are 15 or younger can fish without a license. You can go online to fill out an application and get a permit before your trip.

Lake Elmo Fishing

Some anglers claim that the best fishing in Montana is in Lake Elmo. This lake has a long wooden pier that leads out onto the water, which makes it easy for you to find the right spot. Black crappie, brown trout, bluegill, emerald shiner, and largemouth bass are just some of the fish that you might catch. The lake gets stocked with more fish every few days from the late spring through the end of summer to ensure that anglers can always catch something when they visit.

Fishing in Yellowstone River

Yellowstone River

You don't need to visit Yellowstone Park to fish because there is plenty of fish in the nearby river of the same name. With two mountain ranges on either side, the river offers some fantastic views that you can take in while throwing out your line. Rainbow trout, cutthroat, and large brown trout are all standard. In the early summer, the river is the top spot for fly fishing. Though the water turns dark and murky, you can still catch quite a few fish. Several local companies offer fly fishing supplies and tours of the Yellowstone River.

Bighorn River

Bighorne River

As you plan a trip to Billings and do a search for a dude ranch near me, you'll find that some local anglers recommend fishing in the Bighorn River. This river connects to both the Yellowtail Dam and Bighorn Lake. It is a little off the beaten path, which makes it a popular choice for those who want to fish without seeing other anglers nearby. Though the river passes through the Crow Reservation, you don't need to do anything special to fish there. As long as you get a license, you can enjoy the best fishing in Montana with trips to Bighorn River, Yellowstone River, and Lake Elmo.

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