Anglers that enjoy the natural beauties and fish bounty of Montana have to read and follow some fishing regulations. Getting a fishing license is the first step, other statewide regulations are presented below.



When you want to pick a fishing site in the state of Montana, you can choose one of the fishing districts designated by the Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks Commission.

The major regions are Western, Central and Eastern Fishing District. The Continental Divide separates the Western District from the Central one while various roadways are used as a boundary between Central and Eastern District.

Some areas have specific regulations that are different from the standard ones, so you must look up the site to see if it’s listed as an exception.


Special license

Residents and non-residents can acquire a fishing license, but for some methods and species, a special license or permit is required.

Fishing for paddlefish is allowed only when you purchase a paddlefish tag. If you decide to fish for bull trout, you don’t have to pay fees, but you need a bull trout catch card. Only certain areas are open for bull trout fishing, and these are Lake Koocanusa, Hungry Horse Reservoir, and South Fork Flathead River.

Other special permits (tribal permit) could be necessary for fishing on waters found in Indian reservations such as Flathead and Fort Peck reservations.  


Western District regulations

Regulations in this district allow anglers to use one line with 2 hooks when fishing on open water. If you’re on a lake or reservoir, you can use 2 lines with 2 hooks each.

The same regulation is true for ice fishing. In this case, the size of the hole you drill in the ice cannot be bigger than 144 square inches or 12 inches in diameter.

The limit for daily bag and possession of brook trout is 20 fish. For several other trout species except for bull trout, the limit is 5 daily for all lakes, reservoirs, rivers, and streams, but possession limit is twice the daily amount when fishing on lakes and reservoirs. Cutthroat trout have the smallest limit, with 3 fish daily while lake trout can be harvested in the largest amount (20 daily, 40 in possession).

The fishing season on running waters in Western District begins on the third Saturday of May and lasts until November 30. Lakes and reservoirs are open all year round.

Regulations that are mentioned above are also available for anglers that choose the Central district as a fishing destination.


Eastern District regulations

There are a few significant differences in the regulations of these two districts, western and eastern. One of them refers to the number of lines and hooks one can use in running waters. Anglers can use up to 6 lines with 6 hooks per line in the rivers and streams of this district.

Another important change in regulation gives anglers the possibility to use 6 lines with 2 hooks each for ice fishing. Also, there is no size limit for the hole you get to drill in the ice.

Daily limit and possession of trout fish are a bit different from those in the Western District. Daily possession for brook trout is 10 and lake trout limit is reduced to 3.

The general fishing season is opened all year round, but there are exceptions. Medicine Lake, Missouri River, and Fort Peck Reservoir are some of the water bodies with specific regulations when it comes to fishing method and season.   

Other fishing opportunities in the state of Montana concern various game fish species such as bass, burbot, crappie, northern pike, paddlefish, salmon and even sturgeon.

Sturgeon captured in the Western District must be released immediately, but you can harvest up to 5 shovelnose sturgeon per day in the Eastern District.



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