Fishing report: Walleye biting at several area reservoirs – Billings Gazette


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Fishing report: Walleye biting at several area reservoirs

Anglers and pleasure floaters are crowding rivers like the Missouri that are below dams and have avoided restrictions despite the hot, dry weather.

Brett French

BILLINGS — Walleye are active at several reservoirs across the region.Walleye fishing is good at reservoirs such as Canyon Ferry and Hauser and in the Big Dry Arm at Fort Peck.In other developments, there have been reports of some chinook salmon being caught at Fort Peck down the main lake south of the Pines.Overall, fishing is generally best when it’s cooler such as the early morning or evening hours. Be sure to check the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks website for hoot owl closures in the Treasure State.Here’s this week’s fishing report: Top picksBighorn River — Water temps appear to be warming up just a bit more (high 40s/low 50s) as July keeps plugging along. We’re seeing fish starting to move up into some of the faster shelves and more of an abundance of PMD nymphs. There are a handful of PMD adults around and a good number of large Baetis as well. We’re guessing another week or so and we should have the start of summer dry fly fishing. The subsurface nymphing game is the best way to get into fish these days. Wade fishing has been pretty darn good throughout the entire river.  There is still moss below Three Mile, but the summer grass is really starting to grow and help filter it out. Carpet Bugs, Red Bead Rays, Split Case PMDs, Poxyback PMDs, Tungteasers and Black Quills are the goods. We’re seeing a handful of fish looking up, even in the heat of the day with peak water temps. They’re not pushovers, but once some more bugs show up, they might be. There are reports of some fish on hoppers and ants. — Bighorn Angler, Fort Smith. Canyon Ferry Reservoir — The walleye bite is on with reports of good catches around the river mouth and Pond 4, White Earth and Snaggy Bay, and the north end around Court Sheriff and submerged points. Most anglers are using a variety of spinner blades with a bottom bouncer or jigs.  Worms and leeches are working equally well. Shore anglers are catching a few walleyes in Beaver Creek Bay near White Earth and around the Silos. A few rainbows are being caught while trolling cowbells or silver spoons on the north end around Cemetery Island or from White Earth to Hole in the Wall on walleye rigs. An occasional rainbow is being caught from shore at the Outhouse and Shannon.  — FWP, Helena.Fort Peck Reservoir, Big Dry Arm — Fishing is fantastic. Anglers are crushing 28- to 32-inch walleyes. The walleyes are at depths of 17 to 27 feet. Most are bottom bouncing crawlers, but some are using yellow and green crankbaits. By Prairie Dog, some fat smallmouth bass have been biting. Pike have been a nuisance for walleye anglers as they’ve been hard to keep off the lines. — Rock Creek Marina.Glacier National Park — Temperatures are going down to 44 degrees at night, so the high country lakes should be fishing well. The Middle Fork and North Fork of the Flathead River are fishing well on Parachute Purple Haze. Anglers on the North Fork are doing really well with red Humpies and red Parachute Madam X. Black and peacock beetles are producing on the Middle Fork. Elizabeth Lake is fishing really well. Hidden Lake is also fishing well. Pray Lake is another option. Harrison Lake is now accessible and fishing well. Lure anglers are also doing well. — Arends Fly Shop, Columbia Falls.Hauser Reservoir — Walleye action continues to be good. Most walleyes are being picked up in the Causeway arm and in the White Sandy and Black Sandy area. Successful anglers have been pitching jigs/vertical jigging near points in less than 20 feet of water. Green or orange jigs tipped with leeches are working well. Shore anglers are picking up a few walleyes and trout from the Causeway Bridge while using floating jigs and leeches/crawlers. A few rainbows are being picked up early in the morning or late in the evening while trolling silver spoons or cowbells and Wedding Ring combos between Black Sandy and York Bridge. — FWP, Helena.MontanaAckley Lake — Some trout and a few tiger muskies have been reeled in here. East Fork Reservoir is still fishing well for perch with a few pike mixed in. At Petrolia Lake, boats can still be launched but we haven’t heard any recent fishing reports. — Sport Center, Lewistown.Beaverhead River — The flow of 898 cfs at Barretts on Sunday is about 300 cfs above normal, yet still the river is fishing well. A gradual cooling trend this week should help to hold water temperatures at a reasonable level. The river is a little green coming from the reservoir, but it has had no impact on the fishing. The river is fishing well with strong PMD and Yellow Sally hatches. Caddis numbers are increasing in the morning and evening. The Beaverhead is very much a bright spot from an angling perspective in the middle of a historically dry, hot summer. As expected, anglers are flocking to the river and it's important to treat the river, the fish, and other anglers in an ethical and responsible manner. — Frontier Anglers, Dillon.Bighorn Lake, Ok-A-Beh — With the heat, fishing has been pretty tough. One could try throwing top-water poppers for smallmouth or bottom bouncing for walleyes. — Scheels, Billings.Bitterroot River — Get out early and off early is the name of the game right now on all our area rivers.  Fishing has been good, but watch water temps. The lower river is getting up there, so stick with the upper Bitterroot where the water is staying much cooler. There are some Yellow Sallies still around, as well as PMDs. We are starting to see Nocturnal Stones as well as small hoppers, ants and beetles. It’s about terrestrial time so get your box ready with a few. A Chubby, Water Walker, Rogue Stone, Fat Freddy or Plan B with a PMD dropper, 20 Incher or San Juan is a good prospecting rig. PMD spinners are another good option. We are also starting to fish attractor dry flies like Royal Wulff, Stimulators, P-Hazes, Humpies and Hippie Stompers. — Grizzly Hackle Fly Shop, Missoula.Blackfoot River — The Blackfoot has lower water temps than other rivers, but you still need to get on early and off early as the lower Blackfoot water temps are getting up there. Fishing has been good and we are seeing consistent dry fly fishing in the mornings. A few PMDs are around and we are starting to see some Spruce Moths. Hopefully we will get some good Spruce Moth fishing this year. Fish are also eating attractor dries like Hippie Stompers, Royal Wulff, Stimulators, Grumpy Frumpies and Humpies.  A bigger foam bug like a Chubby, Water Walker, Fat Freddy or Plan B with a PMD Dropper, 20 Incher, Jig Prince or San Juan is a good prospecting rig as well. — Grizzly Hackle Fly Shop, Missoula.Boulder River — The Boulder is fishing well, with flows dropping to the point where walk/wade access is good. Fish Golden Stone dries in the morning and switch to smaller Yellow Sally, Caddis and PMD flies later. Try a Pheasant Tail dropper for best action. — Sweetcast Angler, Big Timber.Clark Fork River, Missoula — The Upper Clark Fork from Rock Creek up to Warm Springs is on hoot owl restrictions. Below Rock Creek there are no restrictions as of Monday. The river is fishing, but the water temps are getting up there. We aren’t at hoot owl restrictions point below Rock Creek as of yet, but being done fishing by 2 p.m. is recommended. Fishing early in the morning is what we are normally doing this time of year. PMDs are out in the mornings and we are starting to see some Nocturnal Stones. If you see fish sipping they are eating PMDs, either duns or spinners.  Make sure to have both in your box (14-16).  Fishing a Nocturnal Stone like a Black Chubby, Fat Freddy, Rogue Stone or Water Walker with a PMD nymph dropper has been good. Pink worms are on the menu again.  Attractor dry flies like P-Hazes, Wulff, Hippie Stompers and Micro Chubbies are another good bet. There is still a tree down below Clinton. There is a right channel that you can take around the tree right now, but as the water drops it will get hard to do. — Grizzly Hackle Fly Shop, Missoula.Cooney Reservoir — Water temperatures ranged from 68 to 73 degrees last week. Boating traffic has been pushing anglers off the water around 11 a.m. With the warm water temperature people are fishing deeper. The walleye bite has been late evenings and early mornings. Bottom bouncers with blue worm harnesses have been popular, as well as Rapalas. A few groups found success using jig Raps in 30 feet of water. Trout fishing has been good first thing in the mornings. — Cooney State Park.Deadman’s Basin — Fishing is slow. On the lower Musselshell, anglers are doing well on catfish in the Musselshell to Melstone area. Some of the catfish are approaching 10 pounds. The catfish are averaging 3 to 6 pounds. Late in the evening or early morning are the best times to fish. Anglers are still doing well at Broadview Pond on bass using a green fly that imitates a dragonfly. — Cozy Corner Bar, Lavina.Flathead Lake (North) — Anglers are catching small whitefish. Anglers are jigging for whitefish. Silver and gold are good colors. Red is also a good color. When a lake trout shows up when fishing for whitefish, one can try a tube jig. Bait the jigs with cut bait for lake trout. — Zimmer Bait and Tackle, Pablo.Flathead Lake (South) — North of Bull Island and north of Deadman’s Point are good places for whitefish. Fish at depths of 60 to 70 feet. Try Rattle-D-Zastors with a fly. Maggots are a good bait. If one finds a big school of whitefish, and wants to target lake trout, fish deeper than the whitefish. In East Bay, anglers trolling crankbaits are catching smallmouth bass. Perch fishing has also picked up. The Walstad area is a good area to target for perch and baitfish. — Zimmer Bait and Tackle, Pablo.Flathead River, above the lake — There should be good hatches and fly fishing should be good in the mornings and evenings. — Zimmer Bait and Tackle, Pablo.Flathead River, below Kerr Dam  — Anglers are getting into smallmouth bass. The trout are a little harder to come by. The smallmouth are really aggressive and even taking Thomas Cyclones cast by trout anglers. Crawlers are a good option for smallmouth, as are sinking crankbaits. — Zimmer Bait and Tackle, Pablo.Fort Peck Reservoir, dam area — The heat has slowed down fishing, however fishers are still catching fish. The chinook salmon bite has started. The key is using Brad’s Bait Cups and Beavis flies while downrigging at depths of 50 to 70 feet over 140 feet down the main lake, south of the Pines. Try the Bell Point or Grave Point areas. Sage Creek Point is another good spot. Lake trout action is somewhat slow. Trolling spoons on downriggers has worked the best in the Haxby Point area. Walleye action is slow. You can try and troll crankbaits. Bottom bouncing with a worm or a leech has produced a few walleyes in the Pines. Northerns are being picked up by fishers trolling crankbaits for walleyes. Smallmouth bass fishing is pretty good. — Lakeridge Lodging & Bait Shop.Fort Peck Reservoir, Fourchette Bay — Fishing has been pretty slow for walleyes and northerns. Try depths of 20 to 25 feet and pull crawler harnesses. A few little fish have been caught. — Hardware Hank, Malta.Fort Peck Reservoir, Hell Creek — Fishing is picking up a little bit, but the warm temperatures have pushed the fish deep. Walleyes are being found anywhere from 18 to 35 feet. Try pulling bottom bouncers with leeches or worms. For pike, you can pitch toward the bank or troll crankbaits at depths of 10 to 15 feet. Smallmouth are pushed up to the bank pretty well. Try pitching cranks toward the bank or pitching jigs. — Hell Creek Marina.Fresno Reservoir — Water levels are getting pretty low, however, the reservoir is fishing well for walleyes and northerns. — Stromberg Sinclair, Havre.Gallatin River — A hoot owl on the Gallatin River from Montana Hwy. 84 in Four Corners downstream to the confluence with the Missouri River as well as a full fishing closure on the East Gallatin River from Penwell Bridge Road downstream to the confluence with the Gallatin River and a hoot owl on the East Gallatin River from the confluence of Bear Creek and Rocky Creek downstream to Penwell Bridge (probably pump the brakes on the East for now).  Keep your eyes open for caddis and PMDs at various times of the day when conditions are right. We're seeing some Golden Stones and Yellow Sallies on the river, and if you're not having success with a Chubby and a dropper maybe consider a terrestrial like an ant or hopper. It's a good summer to start carrying a thermometer if you don't have one already. — Montana Troutfitters, Bozeman.Georgetown Lake — Keep the fish wet. Water temps are pretty warm up there. The Damsel hatch is thick and fish are eating them with reckless abandon. Fish a Callibaetis spinner after they stop taking Damsels. The Traveling Sedge is out at dark but the hatch has been very hit or miss this year. — Flint Creek Outdoors, Philipsburg.Hebgen Lake — Lure action has slowed down as the water temps have warmed up and fish have moved deeper. For flies, use Callibaetis nymphs, Pheasant Tails and Woolly Buggers. Water levels are slowly receding. The boat ramp at Kirkwood is still good to go. — Kirkwood Resort & Marina.Holter Reservoir — A few perch and walleyes continue to be picked up. Most are being caught 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. Perch or green colored jigs tipped with leeches or crawlers have been working well for perch and walleyes. Some nice rainbows continue to be picked up early in the morning on the lower end of the reservoir. Trolling silver spoons or cowbells and Wedding Rings tipped with crawlers at least 20 feet down in the water column has been producing a few trout. Some anglers are still catching an occasional rainbow during the late evening hours while using crawlers on a floating jig. — FWP, Helena.Lake Koocanusa — Anglers are catching some kokanee and rainbows. The morning is the best time. Pink maggots are working better than white maggots for kokanee. Silver flashers and silver Wedding Ring Kokanee Killers are working the best. Water levels are raising slowly and almost at full pool. The fish are deeper than normal, so overall silver is working better than brass as it reflects better deeper down. Black and brown colors are working good for rainbows. Morning and evenings are the best time to fish. The bigger rainbows are deep and fishing is slow for them. — Koocanusa Resort and Marina, Libby.Lake Mary Ronan — Perch fishing has picked up. In front of the lodge at the northwest end of the lake is a good spot and in front of the boat ramp at the state park is another good area.— Zimmer Bait and Tackle, Pablo.Madison River, Lower — The lower is currently under hoot owl restrictions. With low flows and extremely hot temps, 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. We have been seeing some Golden Stones up high, but other than that use caddis and PMDs. We are starting to get some on hoppers/terrestrials. Keep an eye out for Nocturnal Stones as they should be out any day now.  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 rubber legs, and your favorite Caddis Pupa are all good bets. You can also have some success dead drifting a sculpin under a bobber. It's crucial that your bugs are getting down fast on the upper. Dry fly fishing has been good early and 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 have been some nice fish coming on the streamer recently and cloudy days have been better overall. Streamer color has been variable lately, but typically black, olive and white are our favorites. We have had reports of anglers getting better streamer action near Lyon Bridge and below. The other sweet spot seems to be the Three Dollar bridge area with excellent streamer, dry and nymph opportunities. — Montana Troutfitters, Bozeman.Martinsdale Reservoir — Fishing has been slow. At Newlan Reservoir, anglers are catching a few fish mainly from the boat. — Mint Bar, Martinsdale.Missouri River, below Holter — The water temps were 64 degrees Monday morning and temps have been reaching 67 degrees in the afternoon on the upper part of the river. On the lower section of the river, water temps are warmer. There are tricos and nymphing is good. There is some hopper action off and on. Anglers need to get on the river early and get off the water early. There has been a lot of fishing pressure on the river. — Montana Fly Goods, Helena.Nelson Reservoir — Anglers are catching some medium-size walleyes pulling crawler harnesses. The water is going down daily because it is being drawn for irrigation. Boats can still be launched as of Monday, but that could change. Anglers are putting boats in at the state park. — Hardware Hank, Malta.Pablo Reservoir — Anglers are using a Gary Yamamoto Senko Baby Bass in 4 to 5 inches for largemouth bass. At Kicking Horse and Ninepipe one could do the same thing. — Zimmer Bait and Tackle, Pablo.Rock Creek (East) — Flows are 176 cfs as of Monday. We are seeing a ton of hatches with caddis, Yellow Sallies and PMDs. Throughout the day, look to throw More or Less Hoppers in peach (12), especially if there are no clouds. Flashback Pheasant Tails have been our hot nymphs. With water low and warm, the streamer bite has been absolutely on fire with Grinchs and Thin Mints. With water being so low and temps rising daily, fish early in the mornings when water temps are a little better. Dries: Pink Pookie, Headlight Caddis (14) in green, Headlight Sally (16). Nymphs: Flashback Pheasant Tail (12), BH Caddis Pupa (14). Streamers: Complex Twist Bugger-black, Crystal Flash Bugger in Black, Slump Buster-black. — East Rosebud Fly Shop, Red Lodge.Rock Creek (West) — The creek is fishing well with early in the morning the best time to fish, especially with dry flies. Attractor dries like Stimulators, Hippie Stompers, Chubby, Royal Wulff and P-Hazes have been good. Dropping a small PMD nymph off the back will double your chances. We are starting to see some Spruce Moths; hopefully we will get a good hatch this year. Make sure to have some in your box. — Grizzly Hackle Fly Shop, Missoula.Spring Creek — The creek is fishing well with some hatches coming off in the afternoons and evenings. — Sport Center, Lewistown.Stillwater River — As of Monday, flows are 720 cfs. Morning hatches include caddis, White Sulphur Duns and PMDs. In the afternoons, hoppers are getting gobbled down by hungry trout. Underneath, Batmans and Flashback Pheasant Tails are getting the job done. The Streamer bite has been hit-or-miss. Most of the fish eating streamers seem to prefer smaller ones like the Grinch, Thin Mints and Slump Busters. The water temps in the afternoon are making trout sluggish. Mornings has been the best time for the bite. Dries: More or Less Hopper (8), Dave’s PMD Emerger (16), Headlight Caddis (12). Nymphs: BH Sparkle Pupa - olive (14), Flashback Pheasant Tails (14), Bead Head Iron Mans (14-16). Streamers:Slump Busters black, Grinch, Thin Mints. —  East Rosebud Fly Shop, Columbus.                                                        Swan Lake — Fishing should pick up in late August when waters begin to cool. — Zimmer Bait and Tackle, Pablo.Tiber Reservoir — Some nice fish were caught at the tourney this weekend. Crawlers seem to be the best bait. Anglers are changing their crawlers often. Successful walleye anglers are sorting through some perch. The best action seems to be in the Marias Arm. — Ru’s Tiber Marina.Tongue River Reservoir — Anglers have been catching a few bass while trolling Rapalas in search of walleyes. Some bass have been caught using Senkos. — Scheels, Billings.Yellowstone River, Big Timber — The river is fishing well with fish taking Golden Stone dries and nymphs, Yellow Sally dries and nymphs, Caddis flies, hoppers and streamers. Water temperatures are continuing to rise, so be extra careful with the fish on the hot afternoons. — Sweetcast Angler, Big Timber.Yellowstone River, Huntley — The river is getting pretty low. The water temperature is about 80 degrees. Fishing has been slow. — Huntley Bait and Tackle.Yellowstone River, Livingston — The river has dropped to flows near 3,000 cfs and fishing well in the mornings and late evenings. The fish in the valley have digested their huge salmonfly meal and are back on the feed. Your best bet would be to toss either a Golden Stone, a Yellow Sally, a PMD or a Caddis. Depending on the day, there might be a few Drakes here and there.  — Montana Troutfitters, Bozeman.Yellowstone River, Miles City — Fishing has been decent. Water levels are still low and anglers in boats need to be careful. The catch consists of some sauger and walleyes. Crankbaits (5-7) have been working well. We haven’t heard much on smallmouth bass. We talked to some anglers that have been catching some, but those caught have not had a lot of size. — Red Rock Sporting Goods, Miles City.WyomingBighorn Lake, Horseshoe Bend —  The sauger have been coming on strong this week in the north narrows at the mouth of the canyon on minnows. Catfish have slowed some with the drop in lake levels around the south narrows. Abercrombie is coming up with a lot of bullheads. It appears that the fishing dock will remain out of the water until the water level comes up, but there is a lot of shore fishing around Horseshoe Bend.— Horseshoe Bend Marina.Bighorn River, Thermopolis — The river is pretty mossy. Anglers have been able to still catch trout on spoons. Wyoming Spoons have been a good choice, either in yellow with the brown bucking horse or brown with the yellow bucking horse. Parachute Adams have been producing. Griffith’s Gnats or olive Humpies are working in the Bighorn Mountains creeks and lakes. — White Horse Country Store, Thermopolis.Boysen Reservoir — The reservoir continues to fish well for walleyes. — Boysen Marina.Buffalo Bill Reservoir — Fishing has improved. Spoons, even some of the larger ones with brighter colors, have been working for browns, rainbows and cutbows. Anglers are either casting and retrieving, or trolling the spoons. — Rocky Mountain Discount Sports, Cody.Lake DeSmet — Fishing has been really good. Anglers are using both purple PowerBait and worms. Quite a few anglers are trolling with cowbells. — The Lake Stop, Buffalo.  Upper and Lower Sunshine Reservoirs — Both reservoirs are pretty low and the fish are concentrated. Some anglers are limiting out. — Wea Market, Meeteetse.Yellowstone National Park — Slough, Lamar and Soda Butte continue to fish well. Water levels are low and reports are that the fish are spooky but not impossible. There have been good hatches of PMDs and caddis, so come prepared with Sparkle Dun PMDs (16) and tan X Caddis in the same size. Midday when the hatches taper off try prospecting good looking lies with Longhorn Beetles or a Thunder Thigh Hopper in tan. The Yellowstone River above the falls has opened. Green Drakes, PMDs and caddis should all be on the menu for the next little while. You may even see a few salmonflies and Golden Stones around, though the peak of those hatches has passed. Green Drake Sparkle Duns, Last Chance Cripple Green Drakes, PMD Sparkle Duns (16) and tan X Caddis (16) should all have a place in your box while heading this way. We wouldn't expect to find solitude on the Yellowstone, but we would expect to have a great day of fishing in a truly special place. — 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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