Fishing Report: Bass fishing heats up – Billings Gazette


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Fishing Report: Bass fishing heats up

Missoula angler Jeff Hale caught this 12-pound northern pike on a crankbait while fishing on Fort Peck Reservoir recently.

Brett French

BILLINGS — When one thinks of fishing in Montana, the blue ribbon trout streams often come to mind.Then there’s the walleye fisheries at places such as Fort Peck Reservoir and Canyon Ferry Reservoir.However, there is also good bass fishing to be had, and this past week anglers did well fishing for smallmouth at waters such as Bighorn Lake and Tongue River Reservoir as well as largemouth bass at Noxon Rapids Reservoir.Here’s this week’s fishing report: Top picksBighorn Lake, Ok-A-Beh — Smallmouth fishing is on fire in the mornings until midday. In Black Canyon the action is on top. In the afternoon, try paddle tail swimbaits or crankbaits. White is a good color for paddle tails. Walleye fishing is slow. — Scheels, Billings.Canyon Ferry Reservoir — Walleye fishing produced some action between the Silos and the ponds and around White Earth while trolling purple and silver Rapalas or crankbaits or dragging bottom bouncers with leeches. Rainbows are being picked up in these areas on the same lure and bait combos. A few rainbows are being caught around Shannon from shore and boat on crankbaits or worms. — FWP, Helena.Fort Peck Reservoir, Crooked Creek — It is fishing well. On Friday the walleyes were at depths of 30 feet and anglers were using yellow and orange Lindy Rigs. Some are pulling crankbaits, worm harness or using jigs with minnows, worms or leeches. Northerns were being caught at depths of 6 to 10 feet. A lot of crappie are being caught at Anderson Point, either jigging or pulling worm harnesses. A 21-inch bass was caught at the Narrows. — Crooked Creek Marina.Holter Reservoir — Boat anglers are having success for rainbows throughout the reservoir while trolling silver or perch crankbaits, cowbells and Wedding Rings, Thomas lures or Little Cleos. Shore anglers after rainbows are doing well on the lower end of the reservoir around the boat ramps and near Departure Point while using night crawlers or PowerBait. A few walleyes and perch are being picked up while pitching jigs to shore in shallow water near weed beds. — FWP, Helena.Tongue River Reservoir — The bass bite has been great with lots of smallmouth and a few fat largemouth being caught. The smaller bass can be found in the shallows. We are hoping the crappie will follow to the shallows soon. Walleyes have been caught in 12 to 15 feet of water presenting either jigs or bottom bouncers tipped with leeches, minnows or worms. Anglers have been doing well on northerns using Five of Diamonds or Flicker Shads. — Tongue River Marina.MontanaAckley Lake — A few tiger muskies were caught last week. Most successful anglers were presenting worms from the bank. A few bigger rainbows have been caught, but it’s not a runaway. Some anglers are trolling Flat Fish, or Thomas lures, or sitting on the bank and sinking worms and marshmallows. — Sport Center, Lewistown.Beaver Lake — Fishing well for trout and perch. Panther Martin and Rooster Tails will work for trout. Try jigging or bait with a bobber for perch. — Snappy’s, Kalispell.Beaverhead River — There have been some bigger trout caught recently. To consistently catch fish, fly selection and terminal tackle setup is important. Anglers are catching fish on a variety of San Juan Worms, various Sowbugs, a plethora of midge patterns, and baetis nymphs (16-18). It is always a good idea to change your flies frequently this time of year until you dial in the right bug. Poindexter Slough continues to fish well, and fish counts from this spring show a near record high number of fish 18 inches or larger. The water clarity varies daily. — Frontier Anglers, Dillon.Big Hole River — Tuesday morning some anglers were starting to see salmonfly shucks on the lower river. Fishing was pretty good overall on nymphs. Rubberlegs, Restless Stones and Deep Cleaners are working. For dry flies try Chubbies and Flutter Bugs. — Sunrise Fly Shop, Melrose.Bighorn River — Fishing has been good on the upper stretches. Once you get below Three Mile there’s quite a bit of moss, which is typical of most low water years. Nymphing has been the most productive with small baetis nymphs and midges. We are still seeing really good numbers of big fish this year. — Bighorn Angler, Fort Smith. Bitterroot River — The river is dropping fast. We will be fishing it this week. It’s big and fish will be in the side channels. Nymphing will be the go-to method until it drops into dry fly shape. Try San Juans, Rubberlegs, big Princes, PTs, and Double Bead Stones fished in the drop offs and inside bends of side channels. The West Fork is an option, and we should start to see salmonflies up there soon. Nymphing salmonflies and San Juans is the way to go. — Grizzly Hackle Fly Shop, Missoula.Blackfoot River — The river is big and muddy. For now all the creeks are open and fishable. — Grizzly Hackle Fly Shop, Missoula.Blanchard Lake — Fishing well for crappie. White and chartreuse are good patterns. Most action is jigging or using a bobber and bait. — Snappy’s, Kalispell.Boulder River — The recent high temperatures have blown out the Boulder. High flows should continue throughout the week. Very tough fishing, wait a week or two. — Sweetcast Angler, Big Timber.Clark Fork River, Missoula — Big and muddy. Runoff is still going and this river is the last to come into shape. Tributaries are open and fishing. — Grizzly Hackle Fly Shop, Missoula.Cooney Reservoir — With this week's hot temperatures the water has warmed to the upper 60s to low 70s depending on the time of day. Overall, the water clarity is really good. People are still catching trout all over the reservoir trolling cowbells or small Rapalas. The shore fishing has slowed down a little this week. A few groups started to catch perch with worms or leeches under a bobber. The walleye bite has improved some with the warmer water. Rapalas along the weed edges have been productive on the north shore. — Cooney State Park.Deadman’s Basin — Quite a few people have been pleasure boating, but not too many have been fishing. Anglers are still catching some bass and trout at the Broadview Pond. — Cozy Corner Bar, Lavina.Echo Lake — It fishing well for smallmouth and largemouth bass. Spinner baits or Texas rigs are working. — Snappy’s, Kalispell.Flathead Lake (North) — It is really muddy and fishing is slow. The lake is up to full pool, so it’s easy to get a boat in. — Zimmer Bait and Tackle, Pablo.Flathead Lake (South) — Anglers are doing well off the docks in Polson, mostly for lake trout. Smallmouth, whitefish, a few perch and northern pikeminnows are biting. Anglers might have to sort through some suckers. — Zimmer Bait and Tackle, Pablo.Flathead River, above the lake — Runoff continues. — Zimmer Bait and Tackle, Pablo.Flathead River, below Kerr Dam — It is high, but anglers are catching smallmouth and some pike farther down. Action is slow by the dam. As the water drops the trout will start biting. — Zimmer Bait and Tackle, Pablo.Flathead River sloughs — Anglers should be doing well fishing for crappie, bass, pike and some perch. Target the shallow waters and weed beds. — Zimmer Bait and Tackle, Pablo.Fort Peck Reservoir, Big Dry Arm — Kris Keller and Whit Rush of Wolf Point were the winners of the Rock Creek Walleye Tournament. On the first day the winning duo caught 38.38 pounds of walleye from five fish and 25.4 pounds of walleye the second day for a total of 63.78 pounds. There were tons of pike caught and a lot of smallmouth. The walleye were shallow at depths of 3 to 7 feet. The largest walleye caught at the tourney was 12.7 pounds by Marley Ziegler of Gillette, Wyoming. The Pikemasters tourney is this weekend based out of Rock Creek. — Rock Creek Marina.Fort Peck Reservoir, dam area — Fishing is fair in the Big Dry Arm area. After finding walleyes, try using jigs or crankbaits. Pitching Shiver Minnows has been effective, too. Pike anglers are doing well casting spoons, spinner baits or trolling cranks. Jigging has been effective for lake trout at depths of 60 to 85 feet. On the west arm of the lake toward the Pines, anglers are having success with leeches and bottom bouncers with spinner blades in 7 to 15 feet for walleyes. On the main lake, spinners baits, spoons and pulling crankbaits will work. — Lakeridge Lodging & Bait Shop.Fort Peck Reservoir, Fourchette Bay — No new fishing reports. As far as water clarity, it was dirty over the weekend. — Hardware Hank, Malta.Fort Peck Reservoir, Hell Creek — Fishing is slow. The anglers catching fish are working hard for them. The best tactic for walleyes has been bottom bouncing worms and leeches. The pike aren’t picky. Smallmouth are hitting worms. — Hell Creek Marina.Fresno Reservoir — Fishing is pretty slow at Fresno. At Beaver Creek Reservoir anglers are doing well for walleyes and northerns. At Bearpaw Lake they are doing well for trout. — Stromberg Sinclair, Havre.Gallatin River — The river is high and muddy. It would be best to hit the tailwaters till summer. If you get the itch to fish the Gallatin take your Worms and black Rubberlegs. — Montana Troutfitters, Bozeman.Georgetown Lake — Try slowly stripping leeches to pick up fish. Try an indicator 20 inches above a Chironomid. Drop a Hare’s Ear Nymph (14) about 14 inches below the Chironomid. Check the regulations for the closure on the SE shoreline. The lake is fishing well. We should see a few callibaetis around. Anglers should be able to pick up fish on dries. Try the nymphs if not. — Flint Creek Outdoors, Philipsburg.Glacier National Park — On the west side Bowman Lake is fishing well. You don’t need a park pass to fish it, but you do need to pay a park entrance fee. Bowman Creek is also starting to fish. It is good shore fishing at the lake. Check with the park for boat regulations for Bowman Lake. Lake trout and cutthroats are biting. Anglers are doing well fly fishing with Egg-Sucking Leeches or white Woolly Buggers for lake trout. Black Egg-Sucking Leeches will work for cutthroat. With the predicted wind this week, most action will be on nymphs. Try Renegades, or olive Hare’s Ears. At Avalanche Lake, it is fishing well with Hare’s Ear Nymphs, Renegades and Royal Coachman. Gold Panther Martin lures or a gold or copper Thomas Cyclone will also work. At Lake McDonald, use Egg-Sucking Leeches, Renegades, Prince Nymphs and Parachute Adams. On the east side, middle Two Medicine Lake is fishing well with Egg-Sucking Leeches, Prince Nymphs, Black Parachute, Zebra Midges and Parachute Black Gnats. The Middle Fork and North Fork of the Flathead River are very muddy and in full runoff. — Arends Fly Shop, Columbia Falls.Hauser Reservoir — Shore anglers are finding a few rainbows near Riverside Campground while using night crawlers and marshmallows or PowerBait. Boat anglers fishing for rainbows around White Sandy, Black Sandy, and the dam area are finding some nice fish. Trolling various crankbaits or cowbells tipped with crawlers is working well. The walleye action has been great lately with the warmer temperatures. Most have been showing up in Lake Helena and in the Causeway arm, while shore anglers are picking up a few from the Causeway Bridge while using floating jigs and leeches. Trolling firetiger, blue, purple, or chartreuse crankbaits has been working well for boat anglers, and a few perch are being picked while fishing for walleyes. — FWP, Helena.Hebgen Lake — There were strong winds over the weekend, which kept anglers off the water. Trolling with Rapalas or cowbells and crawlers are good methods. — Kirkwood Resort & Marina.Lake Frances — It is a fair bite on walleyes with jigs and leeches using slip bobbers. — Roberts Bait & Tackle, Great Falls.Lake Mary Ronan — Anglers are catching kokanee but action has slowed down. Perch fishing is slow. At lower Stillwater Lake, north of Kalispell, anglers are catching perch and some small pike. At upper Stillwater Lake anglers are catching lake trout, pike and perch. — Zimmer Bait and Tackle, Pablo.Lake Koocanusa — The heat wave slowed trout fishing for a couple days, but fishing improved when the temperatures turned a little cooler. The trout are running 12 to 23 inches. Blue, light pink and black are good colors. For kokanee, as the water temps warm fishing is slowly picking up. Try running a silver flasher, a Kokanee Killer or Wedding Ring in red, tipped with white corn or maggots. The salmon are down 20 to 40 feet. — Koocanusa Resort and Marina, Libby.Madison River, Lower — Flows have been a wild card, but fishing has still been good. If flows bump more than 500 cfs it can make it tough fishing. There are still some caddis around, however nothing like we saw two weeks ago. If floating, be sure to call a shuttle early. On calm days we have been seeing a variety of bugs. Caddis, baetis, March browns, yellow Sallies and stoneflies are all on the menu. The dry fly bite has been a little inconsistent with changing conditions. If you can get a day on the river that is overcast, the dry fly bite can be very productive. Double nymph rigs have been the best way to get the numbers, typically consisting of Worms, Crayfish, Zirdle Bugs, soft hackles, Lil Spankers, and Dirty Birds. Try fishing the weed beds if you are not getting fish along the banks. — Montana Troutfitters, Bozeman.Madison River, Upper — Fishing great. The West Fork has been pumping mud. Small and flashy is the name of the game if you decide to nymph. Green Machines, $3 Dips, Purple Deaths, Worms, Shop Vacs, black & brown Rubberlegs and your favorite Caddis Pupa are all good bets. You can also have some success dead drifting a Sculpin under a bobber. Dry fly fishing has been good if you stay late in the day. An Elk-Hair Caddis trailed behind a Purple Haze has been our go-to when fish are eating on top. We have had good reports of anglers doing well on BWOs near Raynolds and Three Dollar bridge when there’s some clouds and low wind conditions. There has been some fat fish coming on the streamer recently, cloudy days have been better. Streamer color has been variable, but typically black, olive and white are favorites. We have had reports of anglers getting better streamer eats near Lyons Bridge and below. The sweet spot seems to be the Three Dollar area with excellent streamer, dry and nymph opportunities. — Montana Troutfitters, Bozeman.Marias River — The river is dirty and muddy and fishing is slow. — Roberts Bait & Tackle, Great Falls.Martinsdale Reservoir — Fishing is very slow for bank anglers. — Mint Bar, Martinsdale.Missouri River, below Holter — The flows were at 3,370 cfs on Monday and water temps were 57 degrees. The creeks are clearing up, so the river is as well. There are PMD and caddis just getting started. No real dry fly action yet. — Montana Fly Goods, Helena.Missouri River, Fort Benton — The water is all muddy and fishing is poor. — Roberts Bait & Tackle, Great Falls.Missouri River, Fred Robinson Bridge — Catfish and paddlefish action is good. A few sauger and walleyes are still being caught presenting worms or minnows. The water is pretty muddy. With the warm weather, be sure to pack bug spray and head nets. The paddlefish season runs through June 15. The Lewistown Bowhunter Association is sponsoring a carp shooting tourney at Petrolia Lake June 19. Register that morning at the lake, or call the Sport Center at 406-535-9308. — Sport Center, Lewistown.Nelson Reservoir — Anglers are starting to pick up a few more walleyes and pike. Some of the fish being caught are on the small side, but anglers will catch eating-size fish as well. Anglers are bottom bouncing and pulling crawler harnesses. Casting crankbaits is also effective. The bite is at depths of 5 to 15 feet. — Hardware Hank, Malta.Noxon Rapids Reservoir — The water is chocolate in color and there is some debris. A lot of largemouth bass, including a 19.5 incher, were caught at the recent tourney. Some fat pike have also been boated. — Lakeside Motel and Resort.Pablo Reservoir — Fishing has slowed down. — Zimmer Bait and Tackle, Pablo.Rock Creek (East) — The creek is experiencing peak runoff this week and probably next. Flows are right around 700 cfs. Fishing has been tough, but not impossible. Right now is a good time to fish Chubby Chernobyl in gold or royal (8) on top with a Trina’s Montana Prince in black (10) or Sparkle Stones (8). Look to fish the slack water and some of the river braids of the main channel. Dries: Stimulator-orange (10), Chubby Chernobyls in gold or royal (8), Parachute Adams (16-18). Nymphs: Trina's Montana Prince-black (14), BH Rubberleg Prince (14), Sparkle Stone gold (8). Streamers: Complex Twist Bugger-black, Crystal Flash Bugger in black, Slump Buster-black. — East Rosebud Fly Shop, Red Lodge.Rock Creek (West) — Big but fishable. There were salmonflies out on the lower creek last weekend. Both the adults and nymphs were working. Cat Puke’s, Rogue Stones, Dancing Ricky’s, Sofa Pillows and Chubbies fished tight to the willows were effective. We should see the fish start to really key in on the adults. Nymphing is good with big salmonfly nymphs like Rubberlegs, Yuk Bugs, Bitch Creeks and San Juan Worms. Be careful out there at these levels as floating is dangerous. Wading can be dangerous, too, and most all the fish are against the banks where the water slows down, which means you don’t need to wade all that much. — Grizzly Hackle Fly Shop, Missoula.Spring Creek — The water is clear and fishable. Watch for mayfly and caddis hatches on sunny days. — Sport Center, Lewistown.Stillwater River — 6000 cfs, I repeat 6000 cfs, in other words … she’s gone. Look to fish some of the tributaries, such as East or West Rosebud. Up these canyons you will find smaller more manageable creeks with better water clarity. Attractor patterns such as Swishers PMX, Carlson's Purple Craze and Cochran's Super Wulffs are great ways to get fish to rise. Beneath the surface there is a smorgasbord of mayfly nymphs, caddis pupas and stoneflies. BH Sparkle Pupa-olive, Beadhead Jig Girdle Bugs and Beadhead Iron Mans have been hot patterns. Even with the size of these creeks don’t be afraid to pull some streamers out of the box. Complex Twist Buggers and Slump Busters have been great. Dries: Swishers PMX-orange (12), Carlson's Purple Craze (14-16), Cochran's Super Wulffs-blue (14). Nymphs: BH Sparkle Pupa-olive (14), Beadhead Jig Girdle Bugs-olive and black, Beadhead Iron Mans (14-16). Streamers: Complex Twist Bugger-black, Slump Busters-black, Tungsten Thin Mint. — East Rosebud Fly Shop, Columbus.Thompson River — The river is still a little high, but is fishable. Most action is on nymphs. Try a Copper John or Prince Nymph. — Snappy’s, Kalispell.Swan Lake — The lake is muddy. One could probably still catch lake trout. — Zimmer Bait and Tackle, Pablo.Tiber Reservoir — Over the weekend was a little slow, but anglers were catching a few fish in the shallows at depths of 2 to 8 feet jigging minnows. The Willow Creek Arm is the best spot. The Marias is a little muddy with the runoff. — Ru’s Tiber Marina.Yellowstone River, Huntley — The river is very muddy. Action is slow. A few catfish have been reeled in using cut bait in the backwaters. — Huntley Bait and Tackle.Yellowstone River, Livingston — With flows of 18,200 cfs currently in Livingston and hot weather on the way, runoff is in full swing. Most likely she’s gone till mid-to-late June. — Montana Troutfitters, Bozeman.Yellowstone River, Miles City — Water levels have risen since last week with a lot of water coming down the river. Some anglers did well on catfish with liver and cut bait. People should be able to catch some sturgeon as well. — Red Rock Sporting Goods, Miles City.WyomingBighorn Lake, Horseshoe Bend — Water levels are coming up at Horseshoe Bend and anglers are launching boats. Most anglers are heading toward Barry’s Landing. — Horseshoe Bend Marina.Bighorn River, Thermopolis — The river is really mossy. Those floating the river are having more success than wade anglers. Crawlers would be a good choice. — White Horse Country Store & Canyon Sporting Goods, Thermopolis.Boysen Reservoir — Fishing is fair for walleyes. Minnows are a good bait. Trout fishing has slowed down. — Boysen Marina.Buffalo Bill Reservoir — The reservoir is beginning to turn over due to excessive snowmelt coming in from the North and South Forks of the Shoshone River. Trolling has been the best technique. The reservoir is still closed from Rattlesnake Creek and Sheep Creek to Buffalo Bill State Park. — North Fork Anglers, Cody.Clarks Fork — It is blown out. — North Fork Anglers, Cody.Cody-area lakes — Beck and New Cody are great places to catch perch, crappie, catfish, trout and carp. Bait, lures and wet flies work well on the sunfish in these two lakes. These lakes are located on the south edge of Cody and easily accessible. At East Newton try Callibaetis Mayflies, Damselflies and Caddis in the late evening. Water temperatures are 62 degrees. At West Newton the same hatches and insect activity are occurring here as at East Newton. Water temps are 59 degrees. At Hogan, Callibaetis, damselflies, and terrestrial insects are active. There is some hopper action on top already! At Luce it’s catch and release, flies and lures only. Fishing is good to excellent. Again, mornings and evenings are best due to the bright sunshine. Callibaetis, Damselflies, Ants, Beetles and some Hopper action. — North Fork Anglers, Cody.Lake DeSmet — Quite a few trout have been caught by boat anglers. Try trolling with cowbells and worms. No news on walleyes. — The Lake Stop, Buffalo.  Lower Shoshone — Fishing very well for fly anglers. Small (size 10-20 beadheads) nymphs have been the best flies to use. Streamers are also working. We are not sure if the lower Shoshone will remain clear and fishable all week due to the water conditions behind Buffalo Bill Dam. Once the lake turns over the lower Shoshone will be brown. — North Fork Anglers, Cody.North Fork of the Shoshone — The river is blown out. — North Fork Anglers, Cody.South Fork of the Shoshone — Runoff is in effect. — North Fork Anglers, Cody.Upper and Lower Sunshine Reservoirs — They are both fishing really, really well especially in the early mornings and late evenings from shore. Throughout the day anglers can do well trolling at depths of 20 feet. — Wea Market, Meeteetse.Yellowstone National Park — You'll want to hit the Firehole early in the day. Expect to see white millers. Swinging soft hackles in the riffles will produce fish. This is one of those years where the park opener was as late as it can be, and with the warmer weather our time may be limited this spring on the Firehole. Have Tungsten P.T. Soft Hackles (14-16), Ephemerella Emergers (16), Hot Spot Soft Hackles in mint and orange (16) and Micro Beeleys (16). For dry flies try White Miller Razor Caddis (14-16), PMD Sparkle Duns (16). If you're in the canyon area make sure to have an Improved Sunken Stone (8). Keep an eye out for salmonflies on the Madison in the park as the warm weather has brought these guys out just a tad early. Chubby Chernobyls in royal or purple (10) along with a Sunken Stone (8-10) are good choices. Throwing a dropper such as a Spanish Bullet (16) or black Rubberlegs (10) underneath these larger dries is also a viable plan. The Gibbon River fished well and the water below Gibbon Falls saw a good number of fish coming to the surface with attractors like a Royal Trude (16) and Parachute Adams (16). In the upper meadows of the Gibbon we've had some larger fish caught, mainly on Caddis, so have a few White Miller Razors (16) along with a few Tan Iris Caddis (17). — Blue Ribbon Flies, West Yellowstone.Email Gazette Sports Editor John Letasky at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter at @GazSportsJohnL

Missoula angler Jeff Hale caught this 12-pound northern pike on a crankbait while fishing on Fort Peck Reservoir recently.

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