Montana Articles

Fishing in Montana

You can fish year-round in Montana, but seasonal regulations do exist, and water conditions will affect your success. Generally, lakes and larger rivers can be fished all year, while smaller tributaries are closed in the winter and early spring to allow fish to spawn. Ice fishing is popular in the winter. The lakes are usually frozen from December through at least March. During the spring runoff when many freestone rivers are high and muddy, flyfishermen find luck in the smaller streams and spring creeks. The prime fishing season is from late June through October.

A Montana fishing license is required for all anglers 15 years of age and older. You can purchase a license just about anywhere fishing tackle is sold or from any of the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks offices. Non-residents can purchase licenses in two-day increments or by the season. There are special requirements for youths under 15, residents 62 years of age or older, and for taking paddlefish. Contact Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks for a fishing regulations brochure.

Fishing sites
We have marked over 250 fishing sites on our maps. Each section has a reference chart referring to the numbered sites on the maps. The charts include species available and facilities available. The charts are at the end of each section.

History of Montana

The history of Montana is as remarkable and vast as are its open plains. Ghost towns stand as a reminder of towns once vibrant with life during the mining booms. Stand where General Custer stood; The Little Bighorn Battlefield Monument commemorates the battle of the same name and Custer's Last Stand against the Sioux and Cheyenne Indians. Native American culture is still thriving in Montana with seven different Indian reservations, as well as numerous commemorative state parks and historic sites. Two great rivers, the Missouri and the Yellowstone drain the eastern prairies where dinosaurs once roamed and where Crow, Cheyenne and Blackfeet tribes pursued the worlds largest herd of American bison across the plains.

Tribes of early people first arrived in Montana from Asia about 10,000-15,000 years ago. Around 5,000 B.C., a desert climate in Asia caused game animals and the peoples who relied on them to migrate in search of more habitable conditions. The Shoshone entered Montana in about 1600, shortly after the Crow Indians settled along tributaries of the Yellowstone River. Over a century later, the Blackfeet came to Montana from the north and east in about 1730. Other tribes later found their way to Montana: Sioux, Cheyenne, Salish, and the Kootenai. Cree and Chippewa tribes entered Montana in the 1870s from Canada.

In the early 1800s, rivers provided the pathway into Montana for the first white explorers. Rivers and riverboats remained the only form of transportation linking Montana and the rest of the nation until the 1880s. Trappers and traders also used the rivers as thoroughfares, and forts were erected to support the lavish trapping and trading of beavers pelts. By 1840, prior to the cessation of this beaver trapping era due to the animals near extinction, almost three dozen trading forts had been built. As the population of beavers drastically declined, trade continued in buffalo hides.

Mineral wealth, as well as the development of the railroad, fueled Montana's development in the late 1800s. People flocked to Montana searching for gold, creating instant towns in southwestern Montana. Bannack, Virginia City, and Nevada City all began as gold-rush towns. Other gold strikes and later discoveries of silver sparked similar rushes in Last Chance Gulch (now Helena), Confederate Gulch (Diamond City) and many other boom towns. The railroad arrived serendipitously to haul the mineral riches. The Union Pacific built a spur line north from Utah to Butte in 1881. The Northern Pacific spanned the length of Montana linking Portland and Chicago in 1883 and extending its rails across approximately 17 million acres. The Great Northern stretched its service along the Montana-Canada border, joining Minneapolis and Seattle in 1893. With access to the coastal markets, Montana opened wide its doors for development and immigration.

Towns emerged in river valleys and highways were built on their banks. Dams were built to harness water power and reservoirs soon spanned the state altering Montana's geography. Millions of gallons of water are dammed at Fort Peck Reservoir on the Missouri and in Lake Koocanusa on the Kootenai River. The Great Falls of the Missouri, which required Lewis and Clark twenty-two days to painstakingly portage in 1805, are now a series of hydroelectric dams. Further exploits of the Lewis and Clark expedition in Montana are thoroughly chronicled in actual journals they kept.

Montana became a territory in 1864 and gained its statehood in 1889. Although Montana was, in many ways, detached from the rest of the country in its early years of statehood, the state was able to sustain itself by the diverse and rich resources within its borders. Today those same resources travel the world: cattle grown on Montana ranches may end up on the table of a Japanese restaurant, its coal fuels the cities of the Pacific Coast, its timber is used to erect homes across the country, and Montanas gold becomes circuitry in mainframe computers and spacecraft.

Throughout this site, we have provided you enough history of the area to understand its origins. Much of this is provided through the text of historical markers throughout the state. They tell the story of Montana in a colorful way and do an excellent job of spotlighting the important milestones in Montana history. We have provided some background history on over 300 towns and cities in the state, if nothing more than the origin of the towns name. Quite often, the story of the towns name provides insight into its past.

Lewis and Clark

The Journey West

The Lewis & Clark Expedition left St. Louis in 1804, heading up the Missouri River to explore the unknown Western Territory, calling themselves the Corps of Discovery. The Corp was traveling upstream, moving up to 25 miles a day when the winds and weather permitted. They had already experienced many trials and tribulations throughout their travels through Nebraska, Iowa, South Dakota, North Dakota and into Montana.

When the Corps of Discovery was nearing the spot where the Missouri and the Yellowstone come together, they were forced to stop for several days due to high wind. The group knew they were close to the Yellowstone River, and on April 25, 1805, Meriwether Lewis led a group by foot to the mouth of the Yellowstone to explore the territory that lay ahead. The small group spent the night on the riverbanks and then headed back to meet the others, and the group completed the journey to the Yellowstone the next day.

This was the first time they reached the Yellowstone River, yet the group continued their journey up the Missouri, leaving the exploration of the Yellowstone for their return route. More miles were traveled through Montana by Lewis & Clark, than any other state. This is due to the fact that the group split up, Clark traveling through Bozeman Pass and following the Yellowstone River, while Lewis returned on the Missouri and explored the Marias River.

The Return Trip

On July 3, 1806, on their return, Lewis & Clark decided to split up the group, just south of today's city of Missoula. Clark's team, including Sacajawea and her baby Jean Baptiste, proceeded down the Yellowstone, past Pompeys Pillar, and spent the night of July 27 at Castle Rock by today's Forsyth. The next day they passed Rosebud Creek, spotted numerous herds of Elk, and spent the night of July 29, 1806, on an island just across from the Tongue River by Miles City. Clark observed the abundance of coal in the surrounding hills. On July 30, the group passed through a difficult stretch of river and went by Makoshika State Park. The night of July 31 was spent by present-day Glendive where they reportedly experienced problems with mosquitoes, grizzly bears and spotted numerous bison. They traveled huge distances of up to 60 miles a day during this time until they once again returned to the Missouri River on August 4, 1806, where they met up with Lewis and his party.

Montana Arts and Culture

Montana is brimming with art and literary talent, both past and present day. From pioneers who kept journals and sent letters back east to established novelists who make their home in Montana, the literary tradition is a great source of pride to Montanans. A state that can ll a 1,150 page bestselling anthology with its literature is impressive and bespeaks of a tradition worth noting. The Last Best Place chronicles the literary history of Montana, from Native American stories to modern cowboy poetry.

Art walks and displays are commonplace and rural cafes will often sell local arts and crafts, from homemade pottery to mountain scenes painted on old barn boards. One of the more famous artists is the Montana painter Charlie Russell who began sketching in bars and around campres. His studio in Great Falls is now the Charles Russell Memorial Museum.

Montana Population

People come to Montana to get away from city life, not to find it. A little over 1,000,000 people live in this state, even though it is the fourth largest state area-wise in the U.S. trailing only Alaska, Texas, and California. Montanas largest city, Billings, has only a little over 100,000 residents, translating to six persons per acre of the states 145,556 square miles of land. The entire state of Montana has even been likened to a mid-size American city, each town representing a different neighborhood with a unique personality. Each city and town lends itself to a distinct purpose and all contribute to the diversity that is so harmonious with its terrain.

The contrasting values of independence and neighborliness define the character of a typical Montanan. People here still share stories at cozy roadside saloons as glassy-eyed, stuffed animal heads hover as if monitoring the conversations. And when calling anywhere within Montana you just have to remember one area code, 406, and the entire state is on mountain time.

Montana Quick Facts

Here are a few quick facts about the Treasure State.

Population: (Estimated 2018): 1,062,330

Entered union: November 8, 1889

Capital: Helena

Nickname: Treasure State

Motto: “Oro y Plata”(Gold and Silver)

Bird: Western Meadowlark

Flower: Bitterroot

Song: “Montana”

Stones: Sapphire and Agate

Tree: Ponderosa Pine

Animal: Grizzly Bear

Fish: Blackspotted Cutthroat Trout

Fossil: Maiasaura (Duck-billed Dinosaur)

Land area: 147,046 square miles

Size ranking: 4th

Geographic center: Fergus, 26 miles northeast of Lewistown

Length: 630 miles

Width: 280 miles

Highest point: 12,799 feet (Granite Peak)

Lowest point: 1,820 feet (Kootenai River)

Highest temperature: 117 deg. on July 5, 1937, at Medicine Lake

Lowest temperature: -70 deg. on January 20, 1954, at Rogers Pass