Don’t screw it up! Montana watersheds are accessible to all anglers, below the high-water mark. Access is also allowed at state Fishing Access sites. Developed areas may have parking, vault toilets, trash receptacles and boat ramps. Other access points may require a walk along a right of way or simply a parking spot by a bridge or riverbank. ￼
Although the Access Law allows anglers to use rivers and watersheds, it does not permit access through private land or roads, without landowner permission. The fishing Access Law does not allow hunting access. Trespassing along watersheds is a common Game Warden ticket. Some anglers venture above the high-water mark, or access waterways across private property.
Many private lands owners, especially new ones, hate the fact that they can’t block all access and share any fishing, boating, or hunting. They want to claim full ownership and control of their little piece of heaven. This selfish attitude reduces access and recreation in many other states.
In Wyoming, some waters allow only a float access. If you step out of the boat, you are trespassing. Other states block the entire watershed and reserve them for landowners or clubs only. If selfish landowners had their way, no one would be allowed any access or opportunity to take advantage of their natural resources.
Leaving trash, cutting fences, vandalizing, or abusing the fishing access privilege only encourages lawmakers to create additional rules and restrictions. People with the most money often control most choices.
The generous Fishing Access law in Montana is a cherished gift. Each year the state adds additional sites and develops or maintains others.
Montana’s Access Law states that a member of the public has the privilege to enter private property only,
With explicit permission from the landowner or their agent.
When the landowner fails to post a no-trespassing notice or mark legal access with 50 square inches of orange.
Fishing is then only allowed below the flood, or high-water mark. This area is often easily visible due to a debris wall. Wood, trash, and other materials stack up at the high-water mark and remain there after the water recedes. These marks are never consistent. Some may be yards from the bank while others may be inches. If you are not sure, avoid the area.
Fish free and follow the laws!