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Fishing in Central Montana

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Belt Creek

Belt Creek winds through the serpentine canyon of Sluice Boxes State Park, 30 miles southeast of Great Falls. From the headwaters at Kings Hill to the mouth at the Missouri River, Belt Creek has gained a reputation for producing above average sized fish. With its healthy populations of rainbow, cutthroat, brook, and brown trout, anglers will not be disappointed. The creek can be fished on most sections fairly well all the way to its confluence with the Missouri River just up river from the Missouri River access called Widow’s Coulee.

Dearborn River

The Dearborn River is a tributary of the Missouri River that is a popular destination for whitewater rafting and fly fishing for rainbow and cutthroat trout. The upper stretch of the river, which lies in the Bob Marshall Wilderness, is only accessible by foot but a heavily used hiking trail parallels the river, allowing for excellent access for anglers. For the lower portion of the river, wade anglers can take a short hike up or down from several access site to allow for solitude and waters that receive little to no fishing pressure.

Holter Lake

Grab your pole for rainbow trout, kokanee salmon, walleye, and perch. This area provides great opportunities for boating, riding, swimming, wildlife observation, hiking, and fishing. Holter offers three sites for camping and day use (Holter Lake, Log Gulch, and Departure Point Recreation sites) includes 140 camping units; 25 day-use units; 3 designated swimming areas and 2 multi-lane boat ramps.

Lower Missouri River

Just 30 minutes northeast from Great Falls is scenic Fort Benton with excellent opportunities and access to fish from the shore or boat for northern pike, walleye, catfish, smallmouth bass, and trout. River fishing is both challenging and pleasurable and this stretch of the Missouri provides fishermen with a variety of potential fish to catch as well as a variety of methods in which to do so.

Marias River

The Marias River, below Tiber Reservoir (also called Lake Elwell), is really off the beaten path. Not many anglers are willing to brave the gumbo-laden roads and two-tracks to get there. But this one is worth a little effort to cast your fly rod. The 12-mile stretch of the Marias River below the dam has some very nice-sized brown trout and rainbows as well. The 5,845-acre Marias River Wildlife Management Area can only be accessed by vehicle on its west side. A parking lot is perched on a bluff above the river. From there, people can hike about a half mile to the tail waters. Otherwise, there is no vehicle access.

Nilan Reservoir

Seven miles west of Augusta on Benchmark Road, the Nilan Reservoir lies in the middle of the beautiful grasslands found to the east of the Rocky Mountain Front. The reservoir offers a great variety to fish: largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, crappie, walleye, catfish, sunfish, perch, walleye, sauger, white bass, and more. Fishing and boating may be enjoyed on the lake with a boat launch provided. Camping is permitted but the facilities are limited to restrooms.

Sun River

The Sun River has excellent fly fishing above Gibson Reservoir, as well as, in the two forks that create the river, the South Fork Sun River and the North Fork Sun River. Both of these forks are located in the Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex so anglers will need to hike to reach these seldom fished waters. An angler who is willing to hike will enjoy a river with low fishing pressure and outstanding scenery in a remote setting. While the fish are not huge in these forks, fly fishing is not difficult, as the rainbows, cutthroats and brook trout will zap most flies thrown their way.

Tiber Reservoir

Just north of Great Falls (about 1.5 hour drive), residents and visitors can enjoy one of the most versatile recreational areas in Montana, Tiber Reservoir-Lake Elwell. The lake provides excellent year-round angling for walleye, northern and sauger pike, native trout, ling, perch, catfish and more. Some may even want to try their hand at bow fishing for carp that often exceed 20 pounds. For boaters and swimmers the area boasts over 178 miles of shore line, a marina, and five well-maintained boat ramps located strategically around the lake. There are also numerous campground areas.

Willow Creek Reservoir

Located about 15 miles southeast of Gibson Dam, the Willow Creek Reservoir offers 11 shoreline miles to fish for rainbow trout and kokanee salmon. Fishing and boating may be enjoyed on the lake with a boat launch provided. Camping is permitted but the facilities are limited to restrooms.