Fishing report: Hoot owl restrictions enacted on several rivers – Billings Gazette


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Fishing report: Hoot owl restrictions enacted on several rivers

Dve Mosher of Fairfield, California, landed this 31 1/2-inch walleye while fishing on Fort Peck Reservoir in May.

Courtesy photo

BILLINGS — With warm temperatures prompting Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks to enact hoot owl restrictions on six rivers, it would be best to set your alarm clock and be at your favorite fishing hole early in the morning.You are more likely to have better success when it's cool. Another benefit of fishing early is you may cause less stress to the fish if angling on a river. With runoff over, some streams are running at historically low levels.  In addition to hoot owl restrictions mentioned in this report, which means fishing is closed from 2 p.m. to midnight, the Shields River is closed to all angling from the mouth of Rock Creek. The entire Jefferson, Smith River from the confluence of the North and South Fork to Eden Bridge and the Sun River from the mouth of Muddy Creek to the Highway 287 Bridge are under hoot owl restrictions.If you’re having trouble picking a spot there are plenty of rivers, reservoirs and lakes in the region fishing well.Just remember it may be more crowded than usual since Independence Day is Sunday.Here’s the weekly report: Top picksCanyon Ferry Reservoir — Walleye fishing is starting to provide a lot of action, especially along Ponds 1, 2 and 3 in 10 to 15 feet of water. Try using bottom bouncers with yellow, green or chartreuse spinners. Floating jig heads is also producing. Shore anglers are catching walleyes in Beaver Creek Bay near White Earth and around the Silos. Some perch are being picked up on the south end while using jigs and leeches. A few rainbows are being caught while trolling cowbells at least 20 feet deep around the north end of the reservoir. An occasional rainbow is being caught from shore at White Earth. — FWP, Helena.Fort Peck Reservoir, Big Dry Arm — Walleye anglers are doing well fishing south of the marina on the Dry Arm. Bottom bouncing leeches or worms is the ticket. Some anglers were in 23 to 27 feet and hooked into some 28- to 29-inch walleyes north of the marina. Pike are being caught at the same depths. Smallmouth bass fishing is hot. — Rock Creek Marina.Fort Peck Reservoir, Crooked Creek — The crappie bite is really hot right now. The northern bite is hit-and-miss. For walleyes, the action is really good at depths of 7 to 23 feet. Use worm harnesses. Catfish continue to bite for shore anglers. If anglers want to use minnows they need to bring their own as the marina doesn’t have any. Boats are still able to be launched. Use caution when boating until getting into the deeper water. — Crooked Creek Marina.Fort Peck Reservoir, Hell Creek — Action has been good overall. Most anglers are bottom bouncing for walleyes. Most action is on leeches or crawlers. In the mornings the fish are at depths of 8 to 12 feet and in the afternoons they are at depths of 20 to 25 feet. Smallmouth bass fishing is nuts, and the bass are in the shallows. Anglers are doing well on northerns with crankbaits. — Hell Creek Marina.Hebgen Lake — Overall it is fishing well. Fly anglers are doing using nymphs like Pheasant Tails, Ice Cream Cones, and Chironomids. Others are using hardware like Dardevles or Rapalas. Some are trolling cowbells with a Wedding Ring and crawler. The lake is at approximately 90% capacity. — Kirkwood Resort & Marina.MontanaAckley Lake — No new reports on Ackley. Upper Carter Pond is fishing well for rainbows. There have been a couple muskie caught at Casino Creek reservoir. — Sport Center, Lewistown.Beaverhead River — We are seeing PMDs and yellow Sallies. Last week the fish were mostly on a Worm bite with some Sowbugs and small olive mayfly patterns in play. We caught a few fish on dries last week and expect it to be much better by the first week of July. A handful of golden stones are providing a little bit of big bug dry fly fishing from Henneberry downstream to Barrett's. Hoot owl restrictions from the mouth to Laknar Lane Bridge.— Frontier Anglers, Dillon.Big Hole River — Fishing well some days early in the morning, but warm temperatures coupled with historic low flows will make things difficult. This summer is already brutally hot with a lack of water. Lower Big Hole River hoot owl restrictions are in effect from the confluence with the Beaverhead River to Notch Bottom FAS. On the upper Big Hole River there is a full fishing closure from Saginaw Bridge on Skinner Meadow Road to the North Fork Big Hole River. — Frontier Anglers, Dillon.Bighorn Lake, Ok-A-Beh — Anglers could try using top-water poppers for smallmouth bass. Some are also still using paddle tail swimbaits. — Scheels, Billings.Bighorn River — Fishing has been picking up as the rainbows are done with the spawn and back feeding in the main river. There is still a fair amount of moss below Three Mile, but it’s starting to die off a bit. Carpet Bugs, Ray Charles, Cotton Candies, Pheasant Tails and various PMD nymphs are starting to work well. We’re getting closer to dry fly season. — Bighorn Angler, Fort Smith. Bitterroot River — The river is fishing well. We are seeing consistent dry fly fishing. Golden stones, yellow Sallies, green drakes, PMDs and caddis are all on the menu. The bright, sunny days can be tough, but prospecting with a Henry’s Fork Golden, Rogue Golden, Bullethead or Chubby with a Tungsten Sally, Jig PT, Perdigon or Rubberlegs is a good way to get them on sunny days. If you get some clouds the dry fly fishing gets much better. PMDs and a few green drakes are out. Brindlechutes, Tilt Wing Duns, Extended Bodies and Para-Wulffs will do the trick. A Yellow Stimi, Mini’s Hot Garcia, Yellow Humpy or Outrigger Sally are the flies to have for the yellow Sally hatch. — Grizzly Hackle Fly Shop, Missoula.Blackfoot River — The river is fishing great and dry fly fishing is finally consistent. There are some salmonflies still around in sections and having a low riding salmonfly like a Water Walker, Fluttering Stone or Supa G will work better than a high rider. Goldenstones, Yellow Sallies, PMDs, caddis and a few Green Drakes make for some fun dry fly fishing. If they aren’t coming up in the bright sun, throw on a Jig PT, Perdigon or Rubberlegs dropper. — Grizzly Hackle Fly Shop, Missoula.Blanchard Lake — Perch fishing is picking up. Sago's Tackle Scuds/Craws paired with a small glow jig have been producing some eating-size fish. — Snappy’s, Kalispell.Boulder River — Flows are dropping and the river is clearing. With flows much lower than normal, we are seeing early hatches. Look for golden stoneflies, yellow Sallies and PMDs. Try fishing a Golden Stone dry with a Prince Nymph dropper or Yellow Sally nymph dropper, switching to a smaller Yellow Sally dry in the afternoon. — Sweetcast Angler, Big Timber.Clark Fork River, Missoula — There is a tree down just below Clinton across the entire river.  It’s in a sketchy spot and hard to portage around. We suggest staying out of the Clinton to Turah stretch for now until the water drops and it’s safer to get around the tree. The river has dropped into great fishing shape. Caddis, goldens, yellow Sallies, PMDs and a few green drakes are all out. Bright sun makes tough dry fly fishing, but you’ll see some risers out there. PMDs like Tilt Wing Duns, Brindle Chutes, Para-Wulff’s or P-Hazes (16-18) will get those sippers in the eddies. A golden stone dry like a Kurt’s Golden, Rasta Golden, Henry’s Fork Golden with a Perdigon, Jig PT, Jig Prince or Rubberlegs dropper is a great prospecting rig. — Grizzly Hackle Fly Shop, Missoula.Cooney Reservoir — Water temperatures were in the upper 60s to lower 70s. The water clarity is still poor in the Red Lodge and Willow Creek arms. Walleye were active last week; trolling bottom bouncers with worm harnesses or Rapalas worked. Others did well with leeches under slip bobbers. The perch are targeting leeches in the weed beds anywhere from 5 to 20 feet. Trout fishing has slowed with the warmer weather, but a few are still being caught by shore anglers. — Cooney State Park.Deadman’s Basin — Fishing was slow and it was hard to boat over the weekend due to the wind. — Cozy Corner Bar, Lavina.Dickey Lake — The smallmouth bite has been picking up. Small white swim baits and Netbait's Tubes are working. — Snappy’s, Kalispell.Echo Lake — Bass have started to transition into deeper waters. Bigger worms on a shaky head or Texas rig have been producing better fish. — Snappy’s, Kalispell.Flathead Lake (North) — Try trolling a Brad’s Cut Plug for lake trout. Scented bait can be used with the Brad’s Cut Plug. Overall, fishing is pretty slow. — Zimmer Bait and Tackle, Pablo.Flathead Lake (South) — In the Big Arm, specific to the Walstad area, some anglers are getting into perch. The perch are running a little small, but enough 8- to 9-inchers are being caught to have a fish fry. Targets depths of 35 to 40 feet. Cut fish, maggots and crawlers all work, but crawlers seem to be best. In the river area near the Polson Bridge anglers are doing phenomenally well on northern pikeminnows and peamouth (a native minnow which can grow up to 14 inches). — Zimmer Bait and Tackle, Pablo.Flathead River, above the lake — The river should be clearing and there are chances of getting into a variety of fish. Fly anglers can expect to catch some cutthroats and rainbows. With the warmer weather the bugs should be hatching and anglers can use dry flies. — Zimmer Bait and Tackle, Pablo.Flathead River, below Kerr Dam  — The river is still high but dropping and anglers are catching rainbows, smallmouth bass, some large northern pikeminnows and also northern pike. Crawlers are a safe bet. Rooster tail spinners are working for rainbows and smallmouth, along with smelt for pike, and light spoons for a combination of pike and smallmouth bass. — Zimmer Bait and Tackle, Pablo.Flathead River sloughs — With the extremely hot weather, try the early mornings when it is cooler. — Zimmer Bait and Tackle, Pablo.Fort Peck Reservoir, dam area — A lot of little walleyes are being reeled in. Some days action is good and others days it is slow. All in all, the bite is good. Bottom bouncing with a crawler or leech is best for walleyes. Pitch Shiver Minnows or use Lindy Rigs and minnows. For pike, pitch spoons to the shorelines or pull crankbaits. Lake trout are being caught pulling spoons with downriggers or using flashers and flies at depths of 80 to 100 feet. Some are jigging for lake trout in 70 to 90 feet. A few bass are being reeled in by those in search of walleyes. — Lakeridge Lodging & Bait Shop.Fresno Reservoir — Some big walleyes have been caught recently. — Stromberg Sinclair, Havre.Gallatin River — Flows have dropped significantly and the water is moving at 1,330 cfs at Gateway. The color is the perfect green that we love to fish. It is a sign of food still getting stirred into the river. Adult salmonflies are just starting in the canyon and will begin moving upstream. We have heard they are already to Big Sky. It's good to start off with a stonefly nymph dropped under your adult as a lot of fish gorge on the nymphs. Fish have pulled off the banks and moved into the riffles and buckets again now that runoff has subsided. Lots of caddis are coming out of the bushes after dinner. Drakes are flying in places in the valley. These only last for a short time. — Montana Troutfitters, Bozeman.Georgetown Lake — Suggested fly patterns are Damsel nymphs, Chironomids, Hare’s Ear nymphs, Parachute Callibaetis, and Drifter Midges. Water conditions are clear and the water temperature at midday is 65 degrees. Check the regulations for the closure on the south and east shoreline, which is open beginning July 1. — Flint Creek Outdoors, Philipsburg.Glacier National Park — While using Parachute Adams, Zebra Midges, or olive and peacock Elk Hair Caddis, middle Two Medicine Lake is fishing really well. The North Fork and Middle Fork of the Flathead River are clearing and we are using Parachute Purple Haze, Light Cahill, Parachute Adams and orange Stimulators. Fluorescent orange Panther Martin, or a ¼- to 3/8-ounce Thomas Cyclone spoon in gold, copper or fluorescent orange will also work. — Arends Fly Shop, Columbia Falls.Hauser Reservoir — A few rainbows are being picked up while trolling crankbaits or cowbells and Wedding Ring combos around Devil’s Elbow and from Black Sandy to the power lines. Shore anglers are finding a few rainbows near Riverside Campground while using PowerBait or night crawlers and marshmallows. The walleye action continues to be great in Lake Helena, the Causeway arm and in the White Sandy and Black Sandy area. Trolling bottom bouncers or pitching jigs/vertical jigging near points has been producing most walleyes. Smaller jigs are working well for walleyes. Shore anglers are picking up a few walleye from the Causeway Bridge while using floating jigs and leeches during the evening hours. — FWP, Helena.Holter Reservoir — Some rainbows are being caught on the lower end of the reservoir. Trolling silver crankbaits or cowbells and Wedding Rings tipped with crawlers has been working. Shore anglers are picking up an occasional rainbow while casting spoons or spinners or using crawlers on a floating jig, however, most rainbows have moved away from the shore lines with the warmer water temps. A few perch and walleye are being picked up while vertical jigging in the canyon near the Gates of the Mountains and near Cottonwood Creek and other points or weed beds in the middle and lower sections of the reservoir. Various colored ¼-ounce jigs tipped with leeches or crawlers have been working well for perch and walleye. — FWP, Helena.Kootenai River — The Kootenai is in excellent shape and fishing very well. Flows from Libby Dam were 9,000 cfs late last week and the water temperature at Libby Dam was 48 degrees. Hatches were  midge, early caddis, stoneflies, PMDs and green drakes. Patterns to use are Zebra Midge, Parachute Adams, Yellow Haze, Parachute PMD, Rosenbauer's Rabbit Foot Emerger, KPPT, Purple Haze, Bugmeister, olive Sparkle Dun, purple Chubby, BH Prince, soft SJ Worm, BH Pheasant Tail, BH Rubberlegged Stonefly, big streamers in white, pink and olive, Circus Peanut and black Conehead Buggers. We're expecting another drop to around 7,000 cfs for steady summer flows sometime during the first week of July. — Linehan Outfitting, Troy.Lake Frances — Overall, fishing is mediocre. Try crankbaits or a jig and a leech. — Roberts Bait & Tackle, Great Falls.Lake Koocanusa — For rainbow fishing, action has slowed down due to the heat. A few are being reeled in during the mornings. Kokanee fishing is decent. Pink and red Kokanee Killers or wedding rings are producing. Silver flashers or dodgers are the best. The lake is still slowly creeping up, but should level off in a week or two and the kokanee fishing will pick up. — Koocanusa Resort and Marina, Libby.Lake Mary Ronan — Fishing is sporadic; on some days the kokanee fishing is great and then it drops the next day. — Zimmer Bait and Tackle, Pablo.Lower Stillwater Lake — A great option for perch fishing. We are getting reports of some very nice eaters. — Snappy’s, Kalispell.Madison River, Lower — The lower is currently under hoot owl restrictions. Technically, the river will be open to fishing from midnight till 2 p.m. With low flows and extremely hot temperatures it’s probably best to leave this river alone till things cool down in September. — Montana Troutfitters, Bozeman.Madison River, Upper — The upper has been fishing great overall. There should still be a few salmonflies. We have also been seeing golden stones, caddis and green drakes. 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. There has been some fish taking streamers with cloudy days better. We have had reports of anglers getting better streamer action 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 has dropped and cleared up. Anglers are catching catfish and a few sturgeon in the Loma area. — Roberts Bait & Tackle, Great Falls.Martinsdale Reservoir — Fishing is very, very slow. The Musselshell River is muddy and fishing is slow there as well. — Mint Bar, Martinsdale.Missouri River, below Holter — The flows were at 3,150 cfs and water temps were 60 degrees on Monday. There has been quite a bit of traffic. A jigged rainbow Spanish Bullet, jigged Trench and Splitbacks are working. One can use PMDs. Caddis are out in the evening. Try a Corn Fed Caddis. Purple Chubbies and Royal Chubbies are also attracting fish. — Montana Fly Goods, Helena.Missouri River, Fort Benton — The river has cleared up some. The occasional sturgeon and catfish has been caught. — Roberts Bait & Tackle, Great Falls.Missouri River, Fred Robinson Bridge — Catfish action remains good using worms or cut bait.— Sport Center, Lewistown.Nelson Reservoir — The reservoir is rising as water is being let in. — Hardware Hank, Malta.Noxon Rapids Reservoir — Anglers are catching pike and bass. Perch and walleye action is a little slow. — Lakeside Motel and Resort.Pablo Reservoir — All of the local reservoirs, including Kicking Horse and Ninepipe, were fishing well for big largemouth, pike and a few trout in Kicking Horse. A lot of anglers are using topwater frog plugs on one rod in combination with a dark plastic worm on another. — Zimmer Bait and Tackle, Pablo.Rock Creek (East) — The creek was running at 300 cfs on Monday. We are still seeing nightly hatches of caddis and some yellow Sallies around 5 and 6. Throughout the day look to throw golden stone patterns on top and nymphs underneath. Dries: Chubby Chernobyls in gold or royal (8), Headlight Caddis (14) in green, Gould's Half Down Sally (14). Nymphs: BH Rubberleg Prince (14), BH Caddis Pupa (14). Streamers: Complex Twist Bugger-black, Crystal Flash Bugger-black, Slump Buster-black. — East Rosebud Fly Shop, Red Lodge.Rock Creek (West) — Fishing great. Salmonflies are all the way at the very upper end.  Golden stones and yellow Sallies will be on the menu. There are a few PMDs and green drakes out. Have your bug box full of all of these bugs. Caddis are out in the evenings. Golden stones and droppers is a good way to get into fish. Fish tight to the banks. The creek is closed to fishing from boats/vessels July 1-Nov. 30. Then it’s all for wading. — Grizzly Hackle Fly Shop, Missoula.Spring Creek — Continues to fish well, mainly with streamers or nymphs. — Sport Center, Lewistown.Stillwater River — Big talk on the Stillwater is the "big salmonfly hatch" going on. The large critters  have been seen as high as the Moraine Access. However, the catch rate is rather low. Those caught and checked have been stuffed with salmonflies. There have been reports of fish being taken on Purple Haze (12), Gold Ribbed Hare’s Ear (16), and red Copper John. The Bitch Creek (6) was hot earlier and continues to be a good selection dead drifted along the bank. Evening fishing has been best. — Absarokee Fly Shop, Absarokee.Swan Lake — Action should be much improved with clearing water conditions. Target lake trout with jigs and cut bait. — Zimmer Bait and Tackle, Pablo.Tiber Reservoir — Anglers did well fishing for walleyes over the weekend. Anglers are bottom bouncing or jigging using minnows, leeches or worms. Purple has been a good color for bottom bouncing, and so has blue and green, but the walleyes don’t seem too picky. Anglers are boating an occasional northern while walleye fishing. — Ru’s Tiber Marina.Tongue River Reservoir — Anglers are catching some smallmouth bass on tube jigs. Try bottom bouncing for walleyes while slowly trolling crawler harnesses. The walleyes being caught are healthy eating-size fish. Not many crappies have been caught, but the ones being caught are bigger. — Scheels, Billings.Yellowstone River, Big Timber — Fishing well with flows much lower than usual. Fish Golden Stone dries with beadhead Yellow Sally droppers. Fish are also eating Golden Stone nymphs, Copper Johns and smaller beadhead mayfly nymphs. Also, look for egg laying caddis flies during the last hour of daylight. Some very fat fish have been caught on streamers; try a black and yellow Woolly Bugger or a JJ Special. — Sweetcast Angler, Big Timber.Yellowstone River, Huntley — The river is clearing up and anglers are starting to catch bass, sauger and walleyes. Try throwing plastics, lures or using a jig and a minnow. Catfishing remains decent. Minnows or cut bait seem to be working best for catfish. — Huntley Bait and Tackle.Yellowstone River, Livingston — With flows of 5,060 cfs currently in Livingston, the Stone is coming into shape. Nymphing has been the best way to pick up fish; try Golden Stone and Salmonfly nymphs, or Caddis Pupa like a Dirty Bird. Dry fly fishing has been picking up, with Golden Stones, Yellow Sallies and Grey Drakes. Salmonflies have made it up toward Gardiner and almost into the park. — Montana Troutfitters, Bozeman.Yellowstone River, Miles City — Water levels have dropped significantly and we have talked to some anglers catching smallmouth bass and sauger. The bite is still slow. Catfish seem to be biting well, though. — Red Rock Sporting Goods, Miles City.WyomingBighorn Lake, Horseshoe Bend — People have been shore fishing and catching sauger and rainbow trout at Horseshoe Bend. The South Narrows is producing a lot of channel cats. There hasn't been much crappie action this year. Crooked Creek Bay is producing a lot of smallmouth bass, along with the North Narrows above Horseshoe Bend. At Barry’s Landing there are reports of walleye success at day boards 23 and 9. — Horseshoe Bend Marina.Bighorn River, Thermopolis — Anglers are still presenting crawlers. — White Horse Country Store, Thermopolis.Boysen Reservoir — A lot of walleyes were caught during the Wyoming Walleye Stampede. The biggest walleye reeled in was 30 ½ inches. All fish were released. — Boysen Marina.Buffalo Bill Reservoir — Buffalo Bill is clear and fishing well along the shorelines for walleye and trout. The lake trout have been in slightly deeper waters. Buffalo Bill is still closed from the boundary of Sheep and Rattlesnake Creeks until July 15. — North Fork Anglers, Cody.Lake DeSmet — Anglers were catching salmon and walleyes this weekend. Try trolling at depths of 55 feet with golden emerald spoons for salmon. Try trolling with cowbells for walleyes. — The Lake Stop, Buffalo.  North Fork of the Shoshone — Rivers and streams in the Cody area are fishing good to great. Waters are clear, flows are dropping steadily and we have hatches of stoneflies, caddis and some early green drakes in places. We have been using hopper/dropper rigs with good results on the nymph droppers and some action on top. The lower North Fork of the Shoshone closure from Newton Creek to Buffalo Bill State Park’s Gibbs Bridge is in effect until July 1. — North Fork Anglers, Cody.Upper and Lower Sunshine Reservoirs — People are still catching fish from the boat and shore with action better on cloudy days. — Wea Market, Meeteetse.Yellowstone National Park — Keep an eye on the northeast corner of the park. With lower water conditions this year and no precipitation for the last few weeks, we expect that this is going to get going a little earlier than usual. While this is still just a bit of a gamble, making the drive over could be well worth the risk. Grey drakes, stoneflies and PMDs aren't out of the question and you could perhaps see all three coming off this coming week. Lower Slough Creek is probably the best bet, but don't count out the Lamar and Soda Butte, too. — Blue Ribbon Flies, West Yellowstone.Email Gazette Sports Editor John Letasky at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter at @GazSportsJohnL

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