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 Glacier National Park
 Fishing in the Park

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Fishing in Glacier National Park
Introduction / Season
Catch and Possession Limits
Equipment and Bait
Cleaning Fish
Boundary Waters
Fishing Tips
Fishing and Bears

(Fishing information from NPS)

Today the National Park Service is engaged in fisheries research to determine the extent of damage to native fish populations, and to explore possible means for re-establishing native fishes in some waters where they have been eliminated or replaced by hybrid populations. Paramount importance is attached to the goal of ensuring the future survival of Glacier National Park's unique native fishes for the benefit and enjoyment of future generations.

The primary purpose of Glacier National Park is to preserve natural ecosystems for their aesthetic, educational, cultural and scientific values. Fishing is permitted when consistent with preservation or restoration of natural aquatic environments, native fishes, and other aquatic life. Objectives of the management of fish and aquatic environments in the park are:

To encourage appreciation for, and interest in, preservation of native fishes in natural, unspoiled aquatic habitats.

To insure that man’s use of native fishes will not interfere with natural food chain relationships between aquatic organisms, birds, mammals, and other animals.

To provide angling opportunities for wild fish in a natural environment, as part of the visitor’s total park experience.

To maintain natural aquatic environments as they would now exist if modern man had not interfered. It is realized that this goal cannot be completely attained, but it will be approached as nearly as possible. Fish are no longer stocked or planted in park waters.

To fulfill these objectives, certain regulations, guidelines, and courtesies must be followed.

General park season is from the third Saturday in May, through November 30, with some exceptions:

Waterton Lake season, catch and possession limits are the same as set by Canada*

Lower Two Medicine Lake season, catch and possession limits are set by the Blackfeet Nation.*

Lake McDonald and St. Mary Lake are open to lake trout (mackinaw) fishing only from April 1 through December 31.

North and Middle Forks of the Flathead River, see Boundary Rivers section.

*Regulations may change from year to year. Check before fishing these waters.

Catch and Possession Limits
Daily catch and possession limits will not exceed five (5) fish, including no more than: two (2) cutthroat trout, two (2) burbot (ling), two (2) northern pike, two (2) mountain whitefish, five (5) lake whitefish, five (5) kokanee salmon, five (5) brook trout, five (5) grayling, five (5) rainbow trout, five (5) lake trout (mackinaw). EXCEPTION: Fifteen (15) lake trout (mackinaw) are allowed in Kintla Lake; Lake McDonald and Bowman Lakes have NO limit on lake trout. Lake McDonald also has NO limit on lake whitefish.  

Fishing for bull trout is prohibited and any bull trout incidentally caught must be immediately released.

Catch and release fishing only:

Fish caught in Lower McDonald Creek (from the Quarter Circle Bridge and upstream, extending into Lake McDonald for a radius of 300 feet) must be handled carefully and released immediately to the stream/lake. Only artificial flies or lures with a single hook may be used in Lower McDonald Creek. No fish of any species may be in possession at any time along this stream/lake.

Fish caught in Hidden Lake and outlet must be releasted, except when closed for spawning.

Cutthroat trout caught on the North Fork of the Flathead River must be released in accordance with state regulations.

Equipment and Bait
Fishing is allowed by hook and line only. The rod or line must be hand held. The use of artificial lures and flies is strongly recommended. The use of fish or fish parts, including non-preserved fish eggs, of any species is prohibited. No bait, including insects and worms, may be collected inside the park’s boundaries. Do not deposit fish eggs, roe, food, or other substances in waters to attract fish. Fishing with nets, seines, traps, drugs, or explosives is prohibited. Snagging fish in park waters, or from park lands, is prohibited.

Artificial flies or lures with a single hook only: Lower McDonald Creek (catch and release fishing only)

NOTE: The use of all lead associated with fishing is prohibited. This includes weights, lures, jigs, line, etc. The only exception is a fisherman who is using a "downrigger" may use cannon ball lead weights of 2 to 10 pounds on the downrigger cable.

Cleaning Fish
When cleaning fish,use garbage cans where available for entrail disposal. When cleaning fish in the backcountry, puncture the air bladder, and throw entrails into deep water at least 200 feet from the nearest campsite or trail. Do not bury or burn entrails, as they will attract bears.

Consider "catch and release" fishing; otherwise, keep only enough fish for a meal. Be a clean fisherman! Leave nothing behind--except a few footprints.

Boundary Waters
The Middle Fork of the Flathead River is outside of the park, and a Montana State fishing license is required. When fishing from the park lands along the North Fork of the Flathead River, park catch and possession limits, as well as other park fishing regulations are applicable, with the exception of the state regulations pertaining to cutthroat trout.

The following areas are closed to fishing:

Kintla Creek between Kintla Lake and Upper Kintla Lake
Upper Kintla Lake
Bowman Creek above Bowman Lake
Logging Creek between Logging Lake and Grace Lake
Cracker Lake

The following creeks are closed for their entire length:

Ole, Park, Muir, Coal, Nyack, and Fish Creeks. Hidden Lake and outlet creek during cutthroat trout spawning.

Fishing Tips
The success of a fisherman depends on skill, lures used, weather conditions, time of year, whether a boat is used or not, and the body of water fished. The following are some helpful tips:

Waterfalls prevented fish from naturally reaching many streams and lakes, If you are going to fish, check before making a long hike.

Fish usually feed in the early morning and evening.

Lake trout (mackinaw) are in deep water during the hot summer months, and are best caught by trolling.

Fish are on the bottom when the water is high and murky. During this time they feed on materials dislodged from the bottom. Lures that imitate insect larvae are most successful.

Later in the season, when streams are clear, flies are better. The best fly fishing is when a fisherman can match a local insect hatch

Fishing and Bears
Consider yourself lucky to see a black or grizzly bear. But remember...the wilderness is their home. Please be a well-mannered guest. Bears are usually shy; however, make no attempt to approach or startle them. They have been known to attack without warning. When hiking make some noise to alert them of your presence. Never offer food to bears and never get between a sow and cub. As bears have an excellent sense of smell, it is important to avoid the use of odorous food. Backcountry camping regulations require that food, cooking utensils, and food containers be suspended from the designated food hanging device at all times, except mealtimes. If needed, when not in a designated campground, suspend food and cooking utensils at least 10 feet above the ground and 4 feet from any tree trunk. In the absence of trees, store food and cooking gear in approved bear resistant food containers. Never leave food unattended.

Report all bear sightings to a ranger.


  Images and text courtesy of National Park Service.




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