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The 4 Best Fish to Catch in Montana This Summer

Written by Crystal
Published: August 26, 2022
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Home to the Rocky Mountains and Yellowstone National Park, Montana is also the perfect place to wet your line. The waters are full of 31 different game species, and some of them peak during the warm summer months. If you want to make so many catches that your arms get tired, you’ll need to know what species to target.

Here are the 4 best fish to catch in Montana this summer.

1. Northern Pike

The northern pike has a long torpedo-shaped body.

Have you ever seen a northern pike before? It has an olive green torpedo-shaped body with a white or yellow underbelly. It also has light spots and a few dark spots on its fins. Now and then, a pike will have a reddish color on its fin. Known for having extra long bodies, their nose closely resembles a shovel.

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Northern pike has a strong fish flavor. However, you can mask it with the right seasonings. Cooking pike with red pepper and Italian herbs and seasonings can help it taste richer. Some anglers think pike tastes like walleye, but you’ll have to decide for yourself. The meat is white and known for having a lot of bones.

Shad, yellow perch, bluegill, and suckers work well as bait. However, you’ll find that northern pike is also willing to take a lot of artificial lures. Some anglers find artificial lures more convenient and less messy. You can try using a pike kit lure set or combine your combination with spinners or spoons. To catch large pike, use a large lure. For a 10-pound pike, an 8-inch lure will work well. Swim the large bait above submerged weed beds, and be ready to retrieve it quickly. Pikes swim in fast spurts, suddenly bursting into action!

2. Walleye

Happy fisherman with walleye fish
Walleye is a popular game fish in Montana.


When finding the best fish to catch in Montana this summer, walleye is an obvious choice. Walleye are a popular sports fish with think long bodies. Because of their colors, sometimes anglers refer to these fish as yellow pickerel or yellow pike. They usually have olive to gold colors and white undersides. Their backs have black bands, and there are 2 dorsal fins. One of the fins is rayed, and one has soft rays. Walleyes jumbo sized mouths are full of razor-sharp teeth. Thanks to their adapted eyesight, they’re comfortable hunting in low-light conditions.

What does walleye taste like? It’s pretty incredible. The meat has a slightly nutty flavor, barely tastes fishy, and offers hints of sweetness. It’s similar to cod but, in a lot of ways better. Cod has a more mild taste and is chunky. Walleye is firmer and yet delicate at the same time. If you’re going to fry up walleye fillets, soak them in buttermilk. The buttermilk will sweeten the meat and make it more delicious.

Start by looking for walleye in shallow waters. Use rip baits, spinnerbaits, and small crankbaits. If you’re not getting any bites, slowly move towards deeper waters. As the water gets deeper, switch up your method. Spoons work the best for walleye feeding in deep waters. Walleyes feed all year long and prefer eating in the morning and at night. They aren’t ambush predators but rather cruise around looking for prey. Walleye eat insects, crustaceans, and minnows. Any lure or bait mimicking their favorite foods will work great!

3. Grass Carp

grass carp
Grass carp have dark brown sides and yellow bellies.

©Vladimir Wrangel/

The grass carp is one of the most popular and best fish to catch in Montana this summer. They’re spread throughout the eastern drainages, with the most significant populations in the reservoirs and lakes. Carp have dark brown sides and yellow bellies. Sometimes referred to as mirror carp, they have large scales with random bare patches. Their bodies are torpedo-shaped, and they don’t have any barbels on their mouths. The lack of barbells is the easiest way to distinguish grass carp from common carp.

Grass carp are good eating and go fast at a fish fry! The meat is smooth instead of flaky, and they don’t have a fishy taste. If you’re not going to fry them up, they taste well baked. First, baste the fillets in lemon butter and cover them with strips of bacon. You’ll have a savory, satiating dish.

Grass carp are strong fish, so you’ll need the right tackle to win the fight. You’ll also want the right type of bait. Unlike all of the other fish on this list, grass carp are omnivores. They eat a diet consisting of aquatic plants, and they love vegetables. Corn, cherry tomatoes, and fresh grass clippings are all great choices. If you’re using corn, put 3-4 kernels on a small look, and get wait for a bite!

4. Trout

Trout in Montana
There are 4 trout species in Montana; cutthroat, rainbow, bull, and lake trout.

© Oliveira

Why target one trout when you could go after 4 different species? Montana is home to cutthroat, rainbow, bull, and lake trout! Cutthroat trout have blunt heads and long jaws. They usually don’t grow past 30 inches, and their throat colors differ from rainbow trout. Cutthroat trout have orange, pink, or red lines on their throat. Rainbow trout don’t have throat lines but rather sport a red-pink stripe on their side. Bull trout don’t have red colors. Instead, they have yellow, salmon, or orange-colored spots on their back. You can distinguish bulls from lake trout by looking at the tail. Lake trout have a deep fork in their tail and light-colored spots on their body.

If you’ve ever tasted salmon before, you have a good idea of what trout tastes like. Salmon tend to taste sweeter than wild trout, but not by much. As a freshwater fish, trout have a mild flavor that’s not too fishy. Rainbow trout is extra tasty, and there are many fun ways to prepare it. You can eat it hot or cold. Soak the trout in water or buttermilk for one hour to get the best flavors.

Prepare to wake up early for trout fishing. Your best time window will be the first hour after sunrise. Try to get out on the waters after a heavy rain too. The rainfall darkens the water, reduces the light levels, and encourages trout activity. In low light conditions, use large spinners to get the most bites.

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About the Author

Crystal is a curious writer who's always looking to learn more. When she's not out in nature, she's writing about it. Animals, plants, survival tips, and more. It'll be exciting to watch this author grow and learn with her along the way.

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