Email us your weekly fishing report to include it in this Montana fishing report compilation before the end of the day on Tuesday of each week here along with your name and website/email address you would like to see listed.
M.G.: Slow as of last weekend
More rainbows are being picked up recently near the shorelines at the Gates of the Mountains and other public access points on the lower end of the reservoir while using pink or yellow ice jigs tipped with crawlers in 4 to 10 feet of water. Perch fishing continues to be great out from the BLM boat ramp, the Prairie Dog Town, Log Gulch, Departure Point and throughout most of the lower end of the reservoir while using Swedish Pimples, Halis or other jigs and maggots near the bottom in 20 to 40 feet of water. A few burbot and northern pike are being caught at the Gates of the mountains area while using larger jigs with crawlers, cut bait or hot dogs. 15 inches of ice has been reported. Chris Hurley, FWP, Helena
J.F.: I have fished that lake [Foy] all the time since 1997. Taken so many rainbow trout out of there and my family eat them. Last year kokanee too. Not muddy nor bad tasting. I love that lake
J.M.: Was there today.. good ice snow covered. Fishing great in morning and slows down about 11 or so
Hell Creek Recreation Information ( March 8, 2023)
J.G.: Getting ready to head home, ice is still good and will be for awhile weather is going to stay below freezing for the next 6 days, two warm days but freezes evey night then the high is 25 again. Tweleve to fifteen days of good ice for sure and then we will have a new forecast. Fishing has been good mostly northerns. Monday was slow but a small front went through should pick up again today.
M.G.: Slow this weekend per my buddy. Four of them up there with tip ups and they caught “a few northerns”. That’s how it was for us a little over a month ago. Real slow. 8 guys, 2 nights, 48 tip ups, 5 northerns averaging 7 lbs or there abouts. Mostly smelt, some medium sized minnows
It has been a chilly February so far with another cold spell coming early next week. Fishing on the Yellowstone has definitely been slow. Midges and streamers have been working during the mid-day window, any earlier or later has been a tough bite. The Spring Creeks have been a better bet, with warmer water and fish looking to eat pretty much all day. Midge hatches have been limited, especially on windy days, but there have been enough around to keep fish interested.
The old rail road bridge just above 89 has finally been removed. As such, FWP has re-opened the section from Mayor’s Landing to Sheep Mountain. If you decide to float, (which we still don’t recommend), be sure to check out both the put in and take out before you set sail, as people have been getting stuck in wind drifts. There are sections of the Yellowstone that still have a lot of ice, it would be prudent to wait another month or so for the ice to melt before floating. Feel free to give us a call for the latest conditions. 406-222-7130.
S.J.: No luck on salmon, and perch are hit or miss
A few rainbows continue to be caught out from Black Sandy and the Causeway area while using pink, green or silver jigs or ice flies tipped with maggots or crawlers in 6 to 10 feet of water. An occasional walleye and burbot is being found in the Causeway Arm while jigging near the bottom during the evening hours. 18 inches of ice has been reported. Chris Hurley, FWP, Helena
Missouri River March Fishing Forecast
Things to think about in March
Day 8 3rd month here on the Missouri River. The Missouri River March Fishing Forecast looks strong. Below average water levels and warming water temps are what we will see this month along with more and more midge flies near the surface.
The weather while unpredictable this year already will grace us with both kinds of days. Good ones and bad ones. The question being which kind of day do we really want. I think both. We do need to add to our snowpack mountainside to insure adequate water flows for the summer. More snow is always better than not enough. We have not had a significant snowpack and/or run-off event in a few years. 2023 will hopefully bring a historic flush to us this spring and early summer. But that is not what the long term forecast holds. But, Mother Nature is an unpredictable creature.
Remember the high water years of ’08-’11? 4 consecutive years of better than average water. While some complain when the water levels are such that the dry fly fishing does not get rolling until late July we here on the Mo plead for that action again. The haters will hate. The hate club complains when we do not have enough water too. They hate on us when the weather is hot mid-summer and the weekend warriors from the region fill our waters with rafts, tubes, and non-fishing recreationalists.
The remainder of us must hope for the best and prepare for the worst. The worst would be a decline in snowpack depth, unseasonably warm days and more importantly nights. Stop. That is the end of that discussion.
The best case scenario is that we continue down this winter road and continue to build the water and snowpack. Cold nights and cooler days will help as well. A normal March would be OK. A wetter than normal March would be real good my friends. As I have commonly asked for here on this Missouri River information blog I suggest we all take part in a rain and snow dance. In the privacy of your own home please. While your wife and kids are out. They already are suspect of your dancing style…
Missouri River March Fishing Forecast
March is the first month of the calendar year that we can expect relatively level or predictable fishing. It is also the first month with enough daily bugs to hopefully find a few rising fish. The nymphing heats up and the streamer fishing can be as good as it gets on any given day.
Missouri River March Hatches
Midges. Maybe an occasional BWO. Skwalas? The game is midges though. Depending on the year, and we don’t know until after it happens, the midge fishing can be damn good. Meaning topwater action. The midge are thick if you dip your flies beneath the surface. The midges have already been present for enough days to get the juices flowing in our resident dry fly gang. We hope that March will bring several days of great action. It’s kinda one of those things or events that you cannot plan for. You just have to be here on the right day, when the planets and moons align.
Nymphing is real good with any number of subsurface patterns. Black is the most popular color but do not forget to include an olive or green midge pattern. Both deep nymphing techniques with some adjustment of distance from bobber to fly, or split. The midge fly is something that may be attached to your rig all month long.
If the month is inordinately warm we will see some BWO’s popping here and there. The water temps would have to move toward 40F and beyond to see more than a few. Don’t hold your breath. But if we see a bundle of them then we are headed the wrong direction as far as weather and precipitation goes.
Skwalas? Oh maybe. Again, the later in the month would be more of a draw. We don’t have a ton of then anyway. But the fish will come to the topwater offer if you trust it for 8 hours a day. You gotta believe.
Missouri River March Weather
The daily air temps are nearly 10 degrees higher than the previous month. The historic precipitation is up as well. March generally brings nearly an inch of rain. And we will take it. How about more than an inch this March. Remember that snow/rain dance you promised to do?
Still prepare for any mountain, Rocky Mountain, conditions when fishing the month of March in Montana. It can change in a heartbeat. Full winter gear should always nearby when fishing the Mo this time of year.
Expect temps in the mid 40’s and some wind. The ubiquitous Montana wind. We have never liked it. But, a necessary evil for sure.
What to expect Fishing the Missouri in March
A crap shoot really. Mostly good with some not so good. If the early winter is any indication the fishing can go ether way during the day. Mostly hit and miss is what we hear from the anglers coming back in and giving us a post battle report.
What we are seeing is that some days the nymphing is good, and others not as good. The streamer fishing has been more consistent…which is the strange part. Usually the other way around.
You can expect the midge to show during the calm afternoons with certainly the late afternoons towards the last light producing a good rise. Stay out late. Get in late and stay the course.
Swing the Fly
Many anglers out and about during this strong Swing Season month. As you know many anglers in the shop daily looking for Trout Spey lines, iMOW tips, and our wide selection of Trout Spey demo rods. And then they are out there swinging through runs. Most are having success bringing a few to hand.
The best time to swing the fly on this river is pre-weed. The weeds get tough as we move into July. So, if you like to toss the two handed rod come on out and get on the water this month. April too. May too. Good action will be had until the aquatic vegetation becomes overwhelming.
Headhunters Fly Shop Heats Up in March!
More anglers appears as the weather continues to become more springlike as the month progresses. Call the shop for details on the guide trips and any questions you may have about specific lodging options. A full day fishing with lunch and drinks. All terminal tackle included. All you need is your new ’23 Montana fishing license and a smile.
2023 Fishing Licenses area on sale at the shop. We have a FWP License machine in the shop for the ease of you, the angler. We can get your license with a paper copy and everything. Headhunters is your One Stop Fly Fishing Spot.
Visit www.craiglodging.com and www.craigtroutcamp.com for the best selection of Missouri River lodging.
Headhunters Fly Shop March ’23
Open daily @ 8am. March is a fun month as we see many summer items coming into the store daily. John tells me that the fly selection is growing weekly. 10’s of 1000’s of 100,000’s of flies have passed in and through the Headhunters front door. Now is the time that the direction will change as they make their way out the door and onto the water.
New stuff from all kinds of vendors including Orvis, Sage, RIO, SIMMS, Skwala, OPST, Galvan, Hatch, Fishpond, Howler Bros, and so many more coming in daily!
Rental boats sitting in the yard until you take them out. Guides at the ready. Shop staff making coffee. All smiles all the way around. See you in Craig, in March!
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Make sure you purchase your 2023 Montana fishing licenses, your 2022 licenses are no longer valid! Mid winter is here in Southern Montana and that means Yellowstone river will be hit or miss. Don’t let that discourage you, if you hit it right you could have a stellar day! Indicator rigs can be effective especially on sunny day, try a bugger followed by your favorite midge pattern. Try stripping streamers on cloudy days and if you’re more into dry fly fishing and see some noses throw baetis and midge cluster dries. Areas of the river with spring creek influence can be a great option right now as there will be warmer water pumping into the colder main river, giving the trout a comfortable place to pod up and look for food. If you plan to fish the Yellowstone, be sure to check FWP’s Restrictions and Closures page for up-to-date information regarding closures.
Suggested Fly Patterns
Parawulf Dennis BWO (16-20), Thorax BWO (18-20), Parachute Adams (14-20), Purple Haze (16-20), Film Critic BWO (16-20), Smoke Jumper (16-20), Extended Body BWO (16-20), Griffith’s Gnat (16-20), UV Sparkle Midge (18-20), Griffiths Gnat (16-20), Buzzball (16-18)
Woolly Bugger (4-12), Mini Dungeon Black/ Natural/ White (6), Complex Twist Bugger (2), Kreelex Minnow (4), Sparkle Minnow (4-8), Double Gonga, Urchin Bugger (4), El Sculpito (2), Sculpzilla (4-8), Sculpinator (4-6)
Pat’s Rubber Legs (6-12), Zirdle Bug (6-12), Woolly Bugger Black/ Olive (4-12), Perdigon (14-18), Pheasant Tail (14-20), Jigster Baetis (14-18), Prince Nymph (10-18), BH Hare’s Ear (12-18), Sisslin’ Hot Spot Squirrel (14-16), Zebra Midge (16-22), San Juan Worm, Matt’s Shagadelic Mop, Hare’s Ear (14-18), Dirty Bird (12-16)
Swan Lake-good numbers of lake, trout, near Highway side, or close to boat launch area. Look for pike on south end 8 to 15 feet of water.
McGregor Lake- ￼ nice rainbows, near fishing access area or west end in 8 to 15 feet of water. Try deeper, or south shore ￼ for lake trout 60 to 80 feet of water.
Bitterroot Lake- salmon fishing good on north and 100 feet of water. Try early mornings.
Dickey Lake- ￼ salmon action slow but nice fish.
Lake Five- ￼ lots of small salmon early morning, few nice perch, and rainbows.
Loon Lake ￼(Ferndale)- good trout, mid lake, try small tube, jigs, or ratso’s. Look for perch, near bottom with small tungsten jigs.
Middle Thompso￼n- few nice salmon up to 16 inches. Perch and Pike have been slow.
Lake Mary Ronan- ￼ good ice 16 inches Dash try perch 30 to 35 feet of water near Camp Tuffit or Mountain Meadows. Look for salmon mid lake 40 feet early morning or at night.
**Don’t forget to get your 2023 Fishing Licenses**
Kokanee action has been great recently while using red, pink, or green ice jigs, Halis or dodgers tipped with red maggots or corn in 30 to 40 feet of water. A few perch are being found while using smaller jigs and maggots near the bottom. 18 inches of ice has been reported. Chris Hurley, FWP, Helena
- Lake Mary Ronan – 14+ inches of ice. Patchy snow on top. Decent perch bite around 30′ deep. Try Tuffit or in front of the lodge.
- Smith Lake – 16+ inches of ice. Lots of smaller pike still being caught using tip-ups.
- Bitterroot Lake – 10+ inches of ice. Good numbers of salmon on the north end. The fish seem to be suspended in about 40′-60′ of water.
- Dickey Lake – 10+ inches of ice. Some good salmon being caught in the early morning around 40′ down. Try using glow Hali’s and Swedish Pimples for best results.
- Ashley Lake – 10+ inches of ice with good numbers of salmon being caught suspended in 30′ of water.
- Swan Lake – 12+ inches of ice. Pike fishing seems to be picking up. Mostly using tip-ups. A few lakers being caught off the highway in 100′ of water.
- Middle Thompson Lake – 12+ inches of ice. We have had a few reports of salmon being caught along with lots of perch and a few pike in the mix as well.
- Whitefish Lake – 12+inches of ice. A few lakers and whitefish being caught around 80′-100′. Try Les Mason or around the State Park.
- Echo Lake – 8+ inches of ice. Good catch all over the lake. Perch, salmon, whitefish, pike, and crappie are all biting right now.
–No new report–
Flows from Libby Dam: 4000cfs
Water temperature at Libby Dam: 42 degrees
Hatches: midge, baetis
patterns: zebra midge, parachute Adams, parachute pmd, Rosenbauer’s olive rabbit foot emerger, purple haze, purple chubby, red chubby, olive sparkle dun,bh prince, soft SJ worm, bh pheasant tail, bh rubber legged stonefly, big streamers in white, pink and olive, circus peanut, black conehead buggers
It’s not quite spring up here in Kootenai River country but we have good news. Flows from Libby Dam have been reduced and will be stable at 4000cfs through the end of March for now. That means there’s some great early season fishing available right now.
Expect more clammy cloudy weather through the weekend and into next week. March continues to come in like a lion and we’ve yet to see the lamb. Rain and snow mix will dominate forecast. Fortunately daytime temps will ooch into the forties which is at least a small sign of spring around here.
At the moment the river is clear and in good shape. Don’t expect much in the way of dry fly fishing and insect activity until we get some substantially warmer daytime temperatures. The water is still cold but trout will start to feed a bit in the coming weeks.
This is always a good time of year for nymphing. With low flows you don’t need a heavy rig. You just need to get the flies down in softer runs and pools where trout are most likely to be holding this time of year. Don’t spend a ton of time fishing fast riffles.
Streamer fishing is also productive this time of year especially since bigger fish will be hungry after laying low for a couple months during the dead of winter. Keep in mind they will not necessarily want to move too fast or too far to get a meal. Get your streamers down and fish them slowly and erratically. Nothing like a wounded minnow to get a big rainbow interested in at least a sniff.
In Boston Red Sox news, it’s PLAY BALL! After several weeks of a lockout the players union owners have finally come to an agreement. Spring training will start immediately and while opening day was and remains delayed until April 7, the season will still be 162 games. For now the Sox have managed to keep essentially the same playoff roster they had last season. Infielders Dalbec, Arroyo, Bogaerts, and Devers are key players. In the outfield Jackie Bradley Jr. has returned to Boston and Kike Hernandez and Verdugo will anchor the deep green. Ace Chris Sale will hopefully be healthy and other starters from last year will hopefully pick up where they left off in October. Go Sox!!!
Give a call anytime if you need more Kootenai River details or information on any of our hunting or fishing adventures. And please check out our e-commerce site for all Linehan Outfitting branded swag and Orvis gear. https://linehan-outfitting.myshopify.com/
We look forward to hearing from you. 406-295-4872
It’s finally above zero! It’s been a wild temperature swing this past week. Winter has reminded us all that there is still a lot of it left this year. Great for skiing, great for next summer’s water, not so great for cabin fever. Ha.
Our snowpack in the area is now officially above 100% in all the drainages affecting us and our little corner of heaven. Across both Montana and Wyoming, the numbers are looking good. Especially after last year, when our snowpack was looking abysmally bad at this point. Things are looking up!
Regarding fishing, this report is also going to be short and sweet. Kind of the pattern for this time of year I suppose. The main issue is the fact that it was so damn cold for most of the week, and now it’s feeling really pretty nice out there. Any new slush, ice, and ice jams is going to be working loose with these higher temps and moving downstream.
We’ve been saying this all winter long, but no trout is worth dying or getting seriously injured for. Be super careful around any kind of ice, slush, or anything else floating down the river. Don’t be a hero, don’t take any chances. There are sure to be some weird ice jams and hazards as things melt and loosen up.
If you are able to find a safe spot to fish, midges are on the menu. Look for them midday, and if you can find a calm spot out of the wind you are likely to see some heads. Dry fly fishing in February? Yes please. Otherwise, fish a midge nymph behind a bigger point fly in the deep, slow water and see what’s happening.
With March on the horizon we’re allllllllmost thinking about more traditional spring hatches and streamer fishing. Not quite yet though. If you are feeling the itch to fish something bigger, swinging streamers wouldn’t be a bad option. Be a lot better option here in a few weeks, just saying.
In the meantime, it’s a great time to tie flies! We’ve got a great selection of basics, essentials, and a few speciality things. Tools, vises, instructional books and the knowledge and stories to boot. Might as well fill some boxes before spring!
Come on down to the shop this week to hear a fish story, share a fish story, and find all the outdoor gear you could want or need – whatever your pursuit is.
Tight lines this week!
Rainbows are being caught around Confederate and from Hole in the Wall to south of the Silos while using pink or orange jigs and worms. Perch and a few walleye are being caught north of the Silos to Hole in the Wall and around Duck Creek on bright colored jigs (white, chartreuse or pink) or lures with maggots or worms. Stay away from the pressure ridges on the south end of the reservoir. There is over 20 inches of ice from the Silos down to the ponds, 18-20 inches of ice around Duck Creek and the north end has 3-5 inches of ice. Troy Humphrey, FWP, Helena
The water on the East is low right now but fishing has been decent when temperatures aren’t brutally cold. Nymphing the deeper runs is definitely the ticket. The trout are highly concentrated in these buckets and not found in the rest of the river so if you aren’t fishing some depth keep moving. Once you find a productive run you can often hook up on multiple fish. Slow stripping streamers can also produce from time to time, especially with a bit of cloud cover. The best nymph patterns include a small San Juan worm trailed by a midge larva, but swinging or nymphing sculpins on slight tension can also move some trout.
The Months Ahead:
The East should continue to improve as temperatures increase. The water on the lower river has more influences from spring creeks and seeps that help to keep sections ice free even during colder weather.
B.N.: I was there on Saturday and came home with 2. It was very slow. We marked fish all day and they would chase our lures but wouldn’t bite. We had a few different kinds of corn and red and white maggots. We threw everything in the tackle box at them. They just weren’t biting for us.
J.H.: Ice is great 10 in, a lot of 7-10 in perch
R.L.: Under York bridge is consistent. Circle hook, smelt off the bottom
M.G.: Hell Creek was slow this weekend. Four people in the group. Mostly tip ups, some jigging. My buddy said they caught a few northerns