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 which may be harmful to young children, nursing mothers
and childbearing women or persons frequently consuming fish.
Information listing consumption advice and additional details is
available from the Montana Department of Public Health and Human
Services, Helena, MT 59620. Telephone (406) 444-3986. (To General Regulations Contents)
Be aware that boat access areas can be busy places; you may
wish to fish in a location that wouldn't cause congestion.
Don't 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. (To General Regulations Contents)
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.
The tiny parasite that cause 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
DO dry your boat and equipment between river
DON'T transport fish from one body of water to
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.
A State Lands Recreational Use License, which is available
from Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks license agents, is required to
conduct most recreational activities (including hunting and
fishing) on state lands. Pamphlets that provide information
regarding the rules, regulations and restrictions governing these
recreational activities on state lands are available from Montana
Fish, Wildlife & Parks offices and license agents and offices of
the Department of Natural Resources and Conservation. (To General Regulations Contents)
Under the Montana Stream Access Law, rivers and streams
capable of recreational use may be so used by the public up to the
ordinary high water marks. Although Montana law gives
recreationists the right to pursue water-based recreational
activities within the high water marks of rivers and streams, it
does not give recreationists the right to enter posted lands
bordering those streams or to cross private lands to gain access to
The success or failure of the law hinges on the behavior of
landowners and recreationists. We emphasize the need for
cooperation and mutual respect.
Montana's trespass law states that a member of the public has
the privilege to enter or remain on private land by the explicit
permission of the landowner or his agent, or by the failure of the
landowner to post notice denying entry onto the land.
It is the responsibility of the recreationist to determine
whether private lands are posted. If lands are posted, it is the
recreationist's responsibility to obtain permission from landowners
before recreating on these lands. Recreationists are urged to
obtain more detailed information from any Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks office. (To General Regulations Contents)
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 and swimming. The restricted
areas are identified and delineated by signs and/or boat
restraining systems. For specific closures see the current Montana
Boating Regulations or call MPC's Hydro Hotline at 1-800-247-9131
(Montana only) (To General Regulations Contents)
Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks receives federal aid. Under
Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Section 504 of the
Rehabilitation Act of 1973, the federal government prohibits
discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin or
handicap. Anyone believing they have been discriminated against in
any program, activity or facility as described above, or desiring
further information, may write to: Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks, 1420 East Sixth Avenue, Helena, MT 59620; or Office of Equal
Opportunity, U.S. Department of Interior, Washington, D.C. 20240.
By order of the Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks Commission, the
seasons, limits and regulations listed in the 1996-1997 fishing
regulations and those listed herein shall govern the 1996-1997
fishing season. These regulations are valid through February 28,
1998. These regulations were adopted by the Montana Fish, Wildlife
and Parks Commission on November 9, 1995.
These regulations as adopted herein are also proposed to remain
in effect for the 1997 fishing season. They will be formally
adopted, with possible changes, by the Fish, Wildlife and Parks
Commission in the fall of 1996. Any changes will be made available
to the public on an addendum sheet available from all license
agents and at all Fish, Wildlife and Parks' offices. Portions of
the regulations in this document may be changed, or additions may be
made, for the 1997 fishing season. In order to have a complete set
of the current regulations and in order to remain in compliance
with the law, anglers must obtain the fishing regulations addendum
sheet. (To General Regulations Contents)
A fishing license is a permit for the lawful holder thereof
to fish for and possess any fish within the state as authorized by
Montana's fishing regulations. This includes commercial
whitefishing in which case the license must be validated by an
authorized Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks employee. There is no
charge for this validation.
A conservation license is required of both residents and
nonresidents before a fishing license may be purchased.
Licenses are nontransferable and nonrefundable. The license year
runs March 1 through February of the following year.
In order to apply for a Montana resident fishing license, one
must be a legal resident of Montana for a period of six months
immediately prior to making application.
Each resident 15 years of age and older must have a resident
fishing license in order to fish. Residents under the age of 12
need no license to fish but must observe limits and all other
Free fishing permits are available from respective institutions
for patients at veteran's administration hospitals and for
residents of state institutions other than the state
Resident Conservation License - $4.00
Residents 12 through 14 years of age and residents 62
or older need only a conservation license to fish, and to hunt
upland game birds, other than turkeys.
Resident Person With Disability Conservation License - $4.00
Residents who are certified as permanently and
substantially disabled, as designated by rules of the Montana Fish,
Wildlife & Parks, may apply for an annual `Resident Person With
Disability Conservation License' which authorizes fishing, and
hunting of upland game birds, other than turkeys.
All nonresidents 15 years of age and older must have a
fishing license to fish. No nonresident under the age of 15 years
may fish in Montana without having obtained a fishing license
unless the nonresident under the age of 15 years is in the company
of an adult in possession of a valid Montana fishing license. The
limit of fish for the nonresident and the accompanying adult
combined may not exceed the limit for one adult.
A nonresident of any age may purchase a nonresident fishing
license and be entitled to take a legal limit of fish.
Nonresident Conservation License - $5.00
Nonresident Season Fishing License - $45.00
Nonresident Two-Day Fishing License - $10.00
Valid for two consecutive days.
Nonresident Paddlefish Tag - Two for $15.00
Limit of two.
Required for all nonresident paddlefish anglers,
regardless of age, even when accompanied by an adult in possession
of a valid Montana fishing license. (To General Regulations Contents)
Montana state park use, including fishing from waters at a
state park, requires an entrance fee. A state park passport vehicle
sticker is available for $15 from any Montana Fish, Wildlife
& Parks office and most license agents. For the occasional user, a
$3 per vehicle daily entrance charge may be paid at the site you
are visiting. (To General Regulations Contents)
Daily limit shall mean the numbers of fish
that may be legally taken during a calendar day. It is unlawful to
take or possess more than the daily limit of fish unless otherwise
specified under district regulations. "Legally taken" means caught
and killed. Where catch and release is allowed, fish released alive
are not taken.
Possession limit shall mean the number of fish
which may be in one person's possession anytime in any form: fresh,
stored in freezers or lockers, salted, smoked, dried, canned or
Refer to district regulations for respective daily and
A person fishing on a water may posses only the limit allowed
for that water.
Where size limits apply and while a person is on the water and
fishing, all fish in possession must be whole with head, skin, and
fins attached. Only gills and entrails may be removed.
Salmonids (trout, salmon and whitefish) may be dressed and
filleted before transport to a permanent residence, but the entire
skin must be attached to the fillet for identification. For
all non-salmonids, a minimum of one square inch of skin - other
than the belly - must remain attached to each fillet. It is
unlawful to transport dressed fish to a person's residence, unless
those fish can be counted. If the catch is frozen prior to
transportation, each fish or fillet must be packaged so it can be
counted. Two fillets will be counted as one fish.
It is illegal to can fish before taking them to a permanent
residence. Mobile recreational vehicles, travel trailers, or tents
do not qualify as a permanent residence. (To General Regulations Contents)
All dates given are inclusive dates. Where dates specify an
open season, fishing is closed throughout the remainder of the
year. An open season is for all species unless otherwise
specified. (To General Regulations Contents)
All species of the family Salmonidae (chars, trout, salmon,
grayling and whitefish); all species of the genus Stizostedion
(sauger and walleye); all species of the genus Esox (northern pike
and tiger muskellunge); all species of the genus Micropterus
(bass); all species of the genus Polyodon (paddlefish); all species
of the family Acipenseridae (sturgeon); the genus Lota (burbot or
ling); and the species Ictalurus punctatus (channel
catfish). (To General Regulations Contents)
Only a single line with up to two hooks, with or without a
pole, may be used for fishing unless otherwise specified in
district regulations. The pole or line must be hand-held or in
Two poles with up to two (2) hooks per pole, may be used on
lakes and reservoirs in the Central and Eastern Fishing Districts.
Where multiple lines are allowed, the total number of allowable
lines includes hand-held lines, setlines, spears, or other units of
A hook is a single, double, or treble point attached to a
single shank. A lure with multiple hooks is still considered a
These provisions also apply to commercial whitefish fishing as
provided under district regulations.
Setlines may be used on some waters as specified under
district regulations. Unless otherwise specified a setline must be
checked by the owner at least once every 24 hours.
The owner's name and address must be attached to each
Setlines shall not be attached to jugs or other floating
Snagging of fish is unlawful at all times except
paddlefish, chinook salmon, kokanee salmon and nongame fish as
specified under district regulations. Where snagging is allowed,
any number of hooks may be used. Snagging is a technique of angling
in which a hook or hooks are cast, trolled or lowered into the
water and manipulated to imbed the hook or hooks into the body of
the fish. All game fish not legal for snagging that are
incidentally snagged must be released immediately.
Nets and Traps
Landing nets may be used for landing hooked fish.
In Central and Eastern District waters where use of live fish
is allowed for bait,
nongame species (except carp, goldfish, sunfish, bullheads (catfish
family), yellow perch and rainbow smelt) may be taken in the
with seines not to exceed twelve (12) feet in length
and four (4) feet in width, or
with minnow traps not to exceed eighteen (18) inches in length
and ten (10) inches in diameter.
Crayfish for personal consumption may be taken in traps not
to exceed eighteen (18) inches in length and ten (10) inches in
Hoop nets may be used in the Eastern Fishing District > only.
Artificial lures shall include any lure (including flies)
that is man-made in imitation of or as a substitute for natural
bait. Artificial lures do not include fish eggs or other
chemically treated or processed natural baits or any natural or
man-made food, or any man-made lures that have been treated with a
natural or artificial fish attractant or feeding stimulant. (To General Regulations Contents)
Live fish may not be imported into or exported from the
State of Montana except by a permit issued by the Montana Fish,
Wildlife & Parks.
The taking and/or use of sculpins (genus Cottus) as fishing
bait (also known as "bullheads") is prohibited on all waters in the
state, because sculpin may transmit whirling disease.
Live carp, goldfish, sunfish, bullheads (catfish family),
yellow perch and rainbow smelt may not be used for bait at any
location in the state.
Live fish may not be used for bait except as provided under
Bait (Live) as listed in the Central and Eastern District regulations.
Persons fishing in waters closed to the use of live fish for
bait may not have live bait fish in their immediate possession.
Nongame species may be taken for bait only in waters where live
fish are allowed as bait (see Fishing Methods).
No portion of salmonids (trout, salmon, whitefish) except
eggs may be used as bait. All other fish, or parts thereof, may be
used dead as bait if they have their heads and entrails removed, or
if they have been preserved or frozen, except in waters limited to
artificial lures only.
Commercial Bait Fish Seining and Sale of Bait
Nongame bait fish (except carp, goldfish, sunfish, bullhead
(catfish family), yellow perch and rainbow smelt) may be harvested
for commercial purposes in accordance with ARM Section 12.7.201 -
12.7.206. Any individual taking nongame fish for sale or commercial
distribution must possess a commercial bait fish seining license.
Contact your regional Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks office for a
permit and list of waters open to commercial seining.
Live bait fish may not be imported into or exported from the
State of Montana for commercial or other purposes.
Commercial bait regulations are not valid on Indian reservation
waters■for information contact local tribal officials.
Commercial Aquatic Invertebrate Collections
Persons wishing to collect aquatic invertebrates such as
leeches, crayfish, and aquatic insects for sale or commercial
distribution should contact their regional Montana Fish,
Wildlife & Parks office for information. Also see Crayfish and
Mussels. (To General Regulations Contents)
Man-made irrigation canals and ditches are open year round
unless shown otherwise under district regulations. District
standard daily and possession limits for rivers and streams
apply to irrigation canals and ditches. (To General Regulations Contents)
All waters operated by the Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks and
the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as fish hatcheries and rearing
ponds shall be closed to fishing at all times. Water in which the
Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks is operating fish traps and other
special structures shall be closed to fishing as posted. Certain
water-supply lakes, streams, and hazardous areas are closed as
posted. (To General Regulations Contents)
Certain waters on Indian Reservations may have special
rules. Tribal permits may be required. Specific information should
be obtained from reservation headquarters.
The State of Montana and Confederated Salish and Kootenai
Tribes have entered into a cooperative agreement on the Flathead
Reservation. Please check for fishing regulations specific to the
Flathead Reservation. For information call the Montana Fish,
Wildlife & Parks at 752-5501 or the Tribes at 675-2700. (To General Regulations Contents)
Two (2) rods and/or lines may be used to fish through
ice on all lakes, reservoirs, or ponds in the Western and Central
Districts and six (6) rods and/or lines may be used to fish through
ice on lakes, reservoirs, and ponds in the Eastern District. See
Special Regulations for exceptions.
Size of Hole
The maximum size hole that may be cut for ice fishing
is 144 square inches.
There is no limit on the size of hole used for fishing with a
spear or gig.
The following special regulations apply to ice fishing
shelters on the following waters:
- Bearpaw Lake - Georgetown Lake
- Beaver Creek Reservoir - Hauser Lake
- Brown's Lake (near Ovando) - Helena Valley
- Deadmans Basin Reservoir - Lake Frances
- Echo Lake (near Anaconda) - Lake Helena
Shelter definition: Any hut or shelter constructed of
any material except ice or snow.
Shelter identification: Each shelter must be marked with the
owner's name, address, and/or phone number, painted or permanently
affixed to the shelter in legible letters not less than two (2)
inches in height, of contrasting color to the background, and
plainly visible at a distance of 100 feet.
Inspection: Each shelter of closed type construction shall have
a door readily opened from the outside for inspection by an officer
when the shelter is occupied. The door shall not be latched from
Use: It is prohibited for any person to use, fish from or occupy
an ice fishing shelter if the shelter does not conform to the
Daily removal is required on the following
- Brown's Lake (near Ovando) - Echo Lake (near
- Georgetown Lake - Fitzpatrick Lake
- Deadmans Basin - Helena Valley
On Hauser Lake and Lake Helena ice fishing shelters may
not be set on the ice until after sunrise and must be removed from
the area before sunset each day.
Removal after season: The owner of an ice fishing shelter shall
remove the shelter from the area and from public property before it
becomes irretrievable over the ice.
Waste and rubbish disposal: It is the responsibility of the
owner and users of ice fishing shelters to keep the immediate area
around the shelter free from rubbish and trash. Waste material must
be removed when the angler leaves for the day. (To General Regulations Contents)
Crayfish may be taken for personal use with a net or screen
not to exceed four (4) feet in length or width, by hook and line,
or in traps not exceeding 18 inches in length and 10 inches in
width or diameter. Valid fishing license required.
The collection of crayfish for sale or commercial distribution
is limited to fishing bait and requires a permit. Contact a Montana
Fish, Wildlife & Parks office for information. (To General Regulations Contents)
A permit is required to sell whitefish. Contact Montana
Fish, Wildlife & Parks regional office for a permit and a list of
waters open to commercial harvest of whitefish. (To General Regulations Contents)
Anglers and hunters are required to stop as directed at all
designated check stations on their way to and from fishing and
hunting areas, even if there are no fish or game to be
checked. (To General Regulations Contents)
The use of boats is prohibited or restricted on many
waters. A copy of the Boating Laws and Rules is available from any
Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks office.
Notice: When using any form of a raft, boat, or sailboat on
Montana's waters, a personal flotation device (PFD) must be made
available for all persons on board. The PFD must be the
appropriate size, be in good working order and readily available to
each person, and be U.S. Coast Guard approved. Boats 16 feet and
longer must have an additional throwable Type IV PFD on board.
All youth under the age of 12 must wear (securely fastened to
their body) a PFD at all times when in a boat that is less than 26
feet and in motion.
The following is a partial list of rules pertaining to boating
and water safety; other waters may be closed as posted.
To operate upon Montana waters:
Sailboats 12 feet long and longer and all motor boats
(gas and electric) must be properly licensed and numbered with
registration carried on board.
All boats must carry equipment as required by the Montana
Boating Laws and Rules.
Youth 12 years of age and under may not operate a motorboat with
a motor greater than 10 horsepower unless an adult is on board.
Unless an adult is on board, youth 13 and 14 years of age must
possess a Montana motorboat operator's certificate or proof of
completing an approved course in order to operate a motorboat with
a motor greater than 10 horsepower. (To General Regulations Contents)
In accordance with ARM Sec. 12.6.801 (1) The following
waters/areas will be either closed as posted or marked by barrel
booms to the use of all boats or other water craft except in case
of rescue craft or plant maintenance work:
(a) area immediately above and below Canyon Ferry Dam in
Lewis and Clark County;
(b) area immediately above Kerr Dam in Lake County;
(c) a portion of Brown's Lake near Ovando, Powell County, during
the time period beginning April 1 and ending July 15.
All rivers and streams in the following counties
east of the Continental Divide are closed to the use of all boats
propelled by machinery or over 10 horsepower, except for official
Broadwater Missouri downriver from the
Gallatin Missouri downriver from Headwaters State
Park Yellowstone downriver from Highway 89 Bridge,
near mouth of Shields River
The following reservoirs and lakes of the state are
closed to the use of all boats propelled by machinery over 10
horsepower, except for official use:
Beaver Creek Reservoir Hill County
Carpenter (Tetrault) Lake Lincoln County
South Sandstone Reservoir Fallon County
The following waters are limited to manually-operated
boats and boats powered by electric motors, except for official
Castle Rock Reservoir Rosebud County
Crystal Lake Fergus County
Gartside Reservoir Richland County
Regulating Reservoir Lewis & Clark County
Lake Elmo Yellowstone County
The following waters of the state are closed to all
motor-propelled watercraft, except for official use:
Western Fishing District:
Bearmouth rest area pond Granite County
Bitterroot River and Missoula and
tributaries with some Ravalli Counties
exceptions -- Contact
Missoula FWP Headquarters
Blackfoot River Lewis & Clark, Missoula
and Powell Counties
Frenchtown Pond Missoula County
Harpers Lake Missoula County
Lower Clark Fork River Mineral County
from St. Johns FAS to
mouth of Fish Creek
Twin Lakes Ravalli County
Central Fishing District:
Arapooish access area Big Horn County
Big Hole River Silver Bow, Madison, Deer
Lodge, Beaverhead counties
Bighorn River That portion of the Bighorn
River from Afterbay Dam to
the Big Horn Access area, Big
Bozeman Ponds Gallatin County
Forest Lake Meagher County
Park Lake Lewis & Clark County
Missouri River That portion of the Missouri
River from the Burlington
orthern Railway Bridge No.
119.4 at Broadwater Bay in
Great Falls to Black Eagle and
that portion of the Missouri
River from the Warden Bridge
on 10th Avenue South in Great
Falls to the floater take-out
facility constructed near
Oddfellows Park at Broadwater
Bay as posted, Cascade County
Smith River Cascade County
Spring Meadow Lake Lewis & Clark County
Eastern Fishing District:
Bearpaw Lake Hill County (To General Regulations Contents)
To violate any of the regulations listed in this document.
To transport or introduce any fish or viable fish eggs into any
To refuse to show one's license upon demand.
To refuse to show one's fish upon demand.
To loan or transfer your fishing or hunting license or tags to
To sell game fish except as prescribed by Montana Fish,
Wildlife & Parks Commission regulations.
To leave or dump any dead animal, fish, garbage or litter in or
on any state or private property where public recreation is
To use any carbide, lime, giant powder, dynamite, or other
explosive compounds, or any corrosive or narcotic poison or to have
any of the same in one's possession within one hundred (100) feet
of any stream where fish are found, for the purpose of stunning or
To hire or retain an unlicensed outfitter or guide.
It is unlawful to possess or transport live fish away from the body of water in which the fish were taken except for: (1) transportation of fish for valid commercial purposes; (2) for use as live bait subject to any further restrictions imposed by the FWP Commission; and (3) within and along the boundaries of the eastern Montana fishing district. (To General Regulations Contents)
The demand for more and faster information has led Montana
Fish, Wildlife & Parks (FWP) to experiment with a wide selection of
information services and options designed to improve service.
Beginning in 1996, services will include telephone, fax and
computer on-line assistance through free and fee-based information
Our new 1-900-225-5397 information hotline -- a pilot project
FWP has designed in cooperation with a private vendor -- will offer
comprehensive detail to callers on a wide variety of recreation
topics, from hunting opportunities to road conditions. The line
will be operational Monday through Friday from 8:00 A.M. to 5:00
P.M. Mountain Standard Time beginning April 15, 1996. A $1.50 per
minute charge will be assessed and callers must be at least 18
On-Line Computer Bulletin Board
Our free computer on-line information center can be accessed via
computer modem through the State of Montana's Bulletin Board
System. By calling 1-800-962-1729 in Montana, or 1-406-444-5648
from out-of-state, customers can access the latest FWP news and
leave messages with our System Operator.
Fax and Customer Service
Customers can send a fax to FWP at 406-444-4952. Customers can
call 406-444-2535 for general information, and customers seeking
nonresident hunting license information can call 406-444-2950. (To General Regulations Contents)