The 9 Best Fishing Spots in Montana This Summer

Written by Crystal
Updated: June 30, 2023
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Montana offers blue ribbon fly fishing opportunities all summer long.

The abundance of hatches makes it an excellent place for sight fishing trophy trout. Watching the trout strike the surface is an exciting experience. Sometimes they’ll even jump out of the water a few feet; it’s exhilarating!

If you are fishing in Montana, these are the best fishing spots!

From May through August, the favorable conditions attract novice and professional anglers. Where should you visit first?

Here are the 9 best fishing spots in Montana this summer.

1. Yellowstone River

The Yellowstone River has gigantic trout.

© Schofield

Fishing the Yellowstone River in Montana is a wise choice if you want to have it all. The famous river is on our list of the best fishing spots in Montana this summer because it has variety. You’ll have access to gigantic trout, various species, and breathtaking scenery.

The Yellowstone River is a mighty free-flowing river, and it’s one of North America’s most active wild trout fisheries. You can try fishing the headwaters, the Black Canyon, Paradise Valley, and more.

Once most aquatic hatch cycles finish in late July, hopper fishing for trout takes off. The fish are usually slow in the morning. Once things start to warm up and get windy, they become pretty active.

2. Madison River

Madison River in Yellowstone National Park

The Madison River winds through Wyoming and Montana.


It’s no surprise that the Madison River earned a spot on the best fishing spots in Montana this summer. This fishing location has it all. For starters, it’s a headwater for the Missouri River. It’s about 183 miles long and winds through Wyoming and Montana.

You’ll be able to enjoy giant stretches of boulders as well as shallow runs. There are estimated to be about 5,000 trout per mile—fish for mountain white fish, west slope cutthroat trout, and more.

You’ll have plenty of time to reel it in. During July, the average Montana day has 15 hours of light.

3. Gallatin River

Trout in Montana

Man holds a large trout after fishing it in the river.

© Oliveira

Spend the day at a world-class fly fishery when you visit the Gallatin River. Hiring a guide is always a good idea since they’ll be able to help you navigate the blue ribbon waters. The upper reaches flow through a scenic Alpine environment within the Gallatin inside the Gallatin canyon.

If you’ve ever seen the movie “A River Runs Through It,” then you’ve seen the Gallatin River. The picturesque area has crystal clear water and is full of trout. While you might not catch trophy trout like some other rivers, the intimate fishing experience makes it a must-see.

4. Beaverhead River

What Do Trout Eat - Rainbow Trout Bursting from Surface

Beaverhead River has a lot of high-quality rainbow trout.


Enjoy some of Montana’s best brown trout fishing opportunities at Beaverhead River. There’s also high-quality rainbow trout (but no salmon).

Beaverhead is also a spot to come if you’re looking for a challenge. There are twists, turns, and clever trout. That’s right; trout are smart.

In captivity, rainbow trout can anticipate things like feeding time. In the wild, trout rely on their wits to survive. To outsmart them, think out every step before doing anything. It’s like a chess game, but with fish.

5. Blackfoot River

Man Fishes on Blockfoot River in Montana

Fly fishing is popular on the Blackfoot River.


Blackfoot River is sometimes called the Big Black Foot River by locals. This is to help distinguish it from the Little Blackfoot River.

Big Blackfoot River runs 10 miles Northeast of Lincoln. It flows Westward until it enters Clark Fork River just east of Missoula. Here you’ll be able to catch native bull trout, rainbow trout, brown trout, and native west slope cutthroat trout.

6. Bighorn River

Fishing - Holding a Brown Trout

Bighorn is a favorite spot for trophy-sized trout.


Bighorn River has some of the best hatches. The river is famous for producing trophy-sized trout consistently. The popular fishing spot draws anglers from all over the country and worldwide.

After opening to the public in 1981, Bighorn River has impressed anglers season after season. Enjoy public access to the river at three points on the upper 13 miles. You’ll find access at Bighorn Access and Linda Ranch.

You can also wade the waters of the Bighorn; The waters are clear and gentle. Just stay below the high water mark. The bottom of the river is loose and rocky, with a lot of slippery aquatic vegetation. Watch your step!

7. Big Hole River

Big Hole River

©Julie Blackwood/

Diverse, divine, and delightful to look at; welcome to the Big Hole River in Montana. The river has nearly 3,000 fish for every mile of water. You’ll find that trout dominate these waters. Browns and rainbows are abundant. There are also cutthroat and brook trout as well as arctic graylings. There’s a diverse population that’s also abundant. Accessing the water is easy. Take advantage of public access sites at the salmon fly, brown bridge, notch bottom, and high road.

8. Lake Hebgen

Hebgen Lake, Montana, USA

Hebgen Lake is just 15 miles from Yellowstone.


Only 15 miles from Yellowstone, you’ll find Hebgen Lake. The lake is over 16 miles long and covers 6,500 acres. It’s also 4 miles wide at its widest point. That’s a pretty big lake!

Since it’s such a large lake, you can expect windy conditions. Motorized boats will work best when you’re fishing on the lake. If you don’t have a motorized boat, a pontoon or kayak will also work; just get ready to do a good bit of rowing. Whatever you do, avoid float tubes because of the surprise winds.

Rainbow trout and large brown trout are abundant at Lake Hebgen. The average trout size is 16 to 18 for browns and 14 to 16 for rainbows. Other fish you’ll find here include brook trout, west slope cutthroat trout, and white mountain fish.

9. Duck Lake

McGregor Lake

Duck Lake in Montana has 12 acres of surface area.

©Tiffany Sims/

Enjoy shoreline fishing, or take advantage of the public boat launches at Duck Lake. It’s a stunning location.

Duck Lake is 12 acres in size and 15 ft deep. The lake is full of rainbow trout, including jumbo rainbow trout! The jumbo rainbow trout can reach sizes of four to six pounds! The large size is thanks to the Lower Chehalis Basin Task Force.

Other fish species include panfish, largemouth bass, Northern pike, and musky. Bring a Caillou kayak or canoe if you’re on the water. When you’re done fishing, enjoy taking a swim around the beautiful lake. Just watch out for Angus, the angry Montana duck!

Summary of the 9 Best Fishing Spots in Montana This Summer

Here’s a recap of the 9 best summer fishing places in the state of Montana:

1Yellowstone RiverTrout
2Madison RiverTrout, mountain white fish, west slope cutthroat trout
3Gallatin RiverTrout
4Beaverhead RiverRainbow trout, brown trout
5Blackfoot RiverNative bull trout, rainbow trout, brown trout,
native west slope cutthroat trout
6Bighorn RiverTrout
7Big Hole RiverBrown trout, rainbow trout, cutthroat, brook trout, arctic grayling
8Lake HebgenRainbow trout, brown trout, brook trout,
west slope cutthroat trout, white mountain fish
9Duck LakeRainbow trout, panfish, largemouth bass, northern pike, muskie

The photo featured at the top of this post is ©

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About the Author

Crystal is a dedicated writer at A-Z Animals, focusing on topics related to mammals, insects, and travel. With over a decade of experience in the world of research and writing, she also fulfills the role of a skilled video and audio engineer. Residing in sunny Florida, alligators are Crystal's favorite animal.

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