Big bass

Mike Courts, 13, of Columbus, caught this 7.67-pound largemouth bass while throwing crankbaits in 10 feet of water at Tongue River Reservoir in April.

Mother’s Day is Sunday, and if your mother enjoys fishing it might be a perfect weekend to take her out.

So far there has been a window to fish before runoff starts — but eventually that will be closing soon so get your river fishing in now.

With the cool spring weather it’s hard to predict exactly when the Mother’s Day caddis hatch will occur, although many are thinking about it and hoping it occurs before runoff is here to stay.

Walleye fishing is productive at Fort Peck Reservoir in the Crooked Creek section and anglers continue to pick up rainbow trout while bank fishing at several reservoirs and lakes.

Paddlefish season on the Yellowstone River and Missouri River downstream from Fort Peck Dam begins on May 15. 

Here’s The Gazette’s weekly fishing report:  

Top picks

Big Hole River — The river is in great shape and fishing well. The onset of warmer weather should prompt the March Browns followed by the massive Mother’s Day caddis to hatch in the next couple of weeks. Streamer junkies and those willing to dunk San Juan worms below an indicator will find success. Pre-runoff is one of the best windows to fish the river. — Frontier Anglers, Dillon.

Canyon Ferry Reservoir — Rainbow trout are being caught from shore at the Outhouse, Confederate, Chinaman’s, and Kim’s Marina using worms, PowerBait, and fly-fishing using leech or beadheads. Not many boats are out trying for rainbow trout and walleye due to the weather. A few walleye are being caught around Ponds 1 and 2 in less than 15 feet of water on jigs or bottom bouncers with crawler rigs. — FWP, Helena.

Fort Peck Reservoir, Crooked Creek — The winning weight for the Crooked Creek Classic was 72.59 pounds for 10 walleye. Matt Fischer and Ty Hinderager were the winners. Quite a few walleye over 30 inches were caught. The biggest walleye was 33 ¼ inches. Try a jig with a plastic body along the bank and fish up to a depth of 28 feet. Minnows and crawlers have also been effective. Fishing conditions were tough as it was cold, windy and snowy but results were phenomenal. In addition, northern pike, catfish and walleye are being caught by bank anglers using minnows, cut bait or smelt. — Crooked Creek Marina.

Madison RiverLower — The flow dropped slightly and the river is at a good fishable level. The fish are active and fishing is good. The crayfish bite has picked up with fish holding over the weedbeds. Look for fish in the shallow water where there are transitions between the buckets. If you're not picking fish up in the shallows add a bit of weight and begin to dredge the buckets throughout the beds. Make sure to cast above the bucket and allow the crayfish to fall in with a natural dead drift. Fish are also hanging on the banks looking for baetis nymphs and crayfish. As we move into the weekend the water temps will start to get back near 50 degrees. The caddis begin to get active once we see 50 and fully hatch once the water hits 55. — Montana Troutfitters, Bozeman.

Stillwater River — Flows dropped, stabilized and regained clarity, and unless there are heavy rains the river should stay in good shape at least until the weekend. The overcast weather days are perfect conditions for BWOs to come off by late morning. Try a smaller Purple Haze, Parachute Adams, BWO or Smoke Jumper if fishing to rising fish. March Browns are coming off. Dry fly action is more active with cloud cover. If it’s bright and sunny try fishing with a dropper nymph. A March Brown nymph dropped off of a Purple Haze or Parachute Adams will produce. Various baetis and caddis emergers trailed slightly below the surface should also take fish this time of year. The No. 1 dry fly pattern for the March Brown hatch is the Trina’s Carnage Drake March Brown (14). A good dry fly tactic is to fish a tandem rig using a larger spotter dry fly along with a smaller dry fly trailer pattern. Otherwise, nymphing is always a good bet with a Hare’s Ear, Pheasant Tail, Caddis Green Psycho Prince, or red Copper John. A beadhead Prince Nymph is always a good choice. For streamers, darker patterns like black Buggers or the Grinch are good choices. While the water may be too cold to get the full blown hatch going there have been a few caddis appearing. Fish should be active on caddis nymphs. This is likely the last window to fish the river before runoff sets in. — Stillwater Anglers, Columbus.


Ackley Lake — Over the weekend there was snow. A few trout are being caught close to shore. Use streamer flies. A few tiger muskie have been reeled in trolling a Mepps Musky Killer. — Sport Center, Lewistown.

Beaverhead River — We are awaiting opening day on the upper river. On May 18, the river from the dam downstream to Pipe Organ Bridge opens. Abundant flows from Clark Canyon Reservoir the last two winters have increased not only the number of fish but the average size. We are seeing some consistently good fishing below Pipe Organ Bridge with great BWO hatches from midday on. — Frontier Anglers, Dillon.

Bighorn River — Water temps are still well below where they normally are for this time of year, but we don’t have the higher flows (8,000-plus) that occurred the previous few springs, so it’s a bit of a trade-off. Fishing has been a bit off and on. The weather has a big affect on how the fish are behaving. Windy and sunny days have been tough with high pressure, but if you can find a nice calm, cloudy day the fish seem to be more willing to participate. CDC style Baetis patterns like the Cripple Thor, CDC Biot Dun, Smokejumper and Schelle's Cripple are good choices. Subsurface Sowbug patterns are still the most consistent. Try Cotton Candy, Jellybean Sowbug, Pete's Carpet Bug and Eddie Vedders (all in 14-16). — Bighorn Angler, Fort Smith. 

Boulder River — The cool weekend has brought the flow back down and has allowed the river to clear nicely. We’ve finally begun to see rising fish. March Browns are hatching in the afternoon, bringing fish to the surface when the conditions are right. Still looking for BWOs. If they are not on March Browns, fish stonefly nymphs, Pheasant Tail nymphs and worm imitations. Streamers remain effective. — Sweetcast Angler, Big Timber.

Cooney Reservoir — Fishing has been good for walleye. A 31-inch walleye was caught and released. Try jigging. Some are using crawler harnesses. Trout fishing is hit-and-miss. Night crawlers would be a good option. — Cooney State Park.

Deadman’s Basin — Anglers are soaking worms from the bank. — Cozy Corner Bar, Lavina.

Fort Peck Reservoir, Big Dry Arm — When fishing is good, it’s good and when it’s bad, it’s bad. Northern pike, smallmouth and walleye were all caught. Lake trout fishing is spotty. The biggest smallmouth was 4 pounds and the biggest walleye caught was 29 ¾ inches. A 36-inch northern was caught and a 44-inch northern was reported. Fish south toward Nelson Creek. Jig with minnows or plastic for all species. Cast a jig toward shore. The water is a little cold near the marina, but warms to the south. — Rock Creek Marina.

Fort Peck Reservoir, dam area — For lake trout pull trolling weights and spoons at 25 to 35 feet. Use deep-diving crankbaits at Bear Creek, York Island and the face of the dam. A few walleye are being caught with the weather stabilizing. Target Duck Creek and Bear Creek. Either try pitching jigs or using Lindy Rigs. A few northern pike and smallmouth bass are being caught using the same tactics. Bank anglers are reeling in some northern pike and catfish in the Duck Creek and Flat Lake areas. — Lakeridge Lodging & Bait Shop.

Fort Peck Reservoir, Fourchette Bay — Some big fish were caught at the Crooked Creek tournament. Fishing should be turning on. — Westside Sports, Malta.

Fort Peck Reservoir, Hell Creek — Anglers are catching lake trout, northerns and quite a few bass in the weeds. From Hell Creek to Timber Creek in the rock piles and weedbeds, anglers are doing well on bass. For northerns they are part-way back in the bays. Sutherlin, Little Duck, Snow Creek and Hell Creek are good areas for northerns. Most anglers are running toward Duck Creek, the Dry Arm or west to Timber Creek for walleye. A few walleye are being caught in the Hell Creek area, but the water temps are 7 to 8  degrees from a decent bite. — Hell Creek Marina.

Gallatin River — Mother Nature is giving us a window for a short while. It’s come back into shape and has a great color to it. The fishing has been awesome here. If nymphing, keep it simple with a stonefly pattern or Bugger in front of a Pheasant Tail, Hare’s Ear, Copper John or worm. This could be a decent time to bring your streamer game. White/natural patterns could be the ticket, and if that’s not working give olive or black a shot. Even with this window of visibility keep in mind that the further down into the valley you venture, the river becomes muddier and more difficult to manage. — Montana Troutfitters, Bozeman.

Hauser Reservoir — The York Bridge area continues to produce rainbows from shore on leech patterns or egg sacks. A few rainbow are being caught from shore at Black Sandy and Riverside on worms or egg sacks. Rainbow fishing is also good while trolling cowbells or Rapalas around the Causeway and York Bridge. Walleye and perch fishing is slow. — FWP, Helena.

Hebgen Lake — It continues to thaw and we are seeing more and more open water with each passing day. There are several spots which you can fish from the shore, and if you like wading the lake now is the time. — Blue Ribbon Flies, West Yellowstone.

Holter Reservoir — Rainbow are stacked up at the ramps and shore fishing is very good at Gates of the Mountains, Holter Lake Ramp and Log Gulch while using egg patterns or San Juan Worms. Boat anglers are finding rainbows near the surface while trolling cowbells or Rapalas. Walleye and perch fishing is slow. — FWP, Helena.

Madison River, Upper — River conditions have been changing slightly through recent weather and there was a slight drop in flows. You don't need to rush to the river first thing in the morning. Mayflies and midges are the two nymphs to be fishing a bunch. Above the West Fork start to look for heads popping and taking emerging baetis around noon on the slightly cloudy days. It's also still the time of year for winter stones to be active. Big Pheasant Tails or Hare’s Ears fished along the bottom were one of the hot flies over the weekend. — Montana Troutfitters, Bozeman.

Martinsdale Reservoir — It is fishing well. Use PowerBait, night crawlers and spawn sacks. The Musselshell River is down and fishable. It is still off-color. Bigger wet flies and spinners would work. Bait would work with a heavier sinker. — Ray’s Sport and Western Wear, Harlowton.

Missouri River, below Holter — The flow was 10,002 cfs and water temps were 42 degrees on Monday. It is fishing alright with nymphs and streamers. There isn’t any dry fly activity. A wire worm will work along with tailwater scuds, either with a bead or no bead. A Pill Popper is a good tailwater scud to try. — Montana Fly Goods, Helena.

Missouri River, Fred Robinson Bridge — There were 30 paddlefish harvested over the weekend. Catfish action was slow, but they are catching a few. Walleye fishing was slow. The river is high and off-color. Water temps are still cold. — Sport Center, Lewistown.

Nelson Reservoir — The lake is full and the fishing is starting to turn on as water temps warm. Some smallmouth and northern were caught in the shallows. A few walleye were caught on minnows or pulling bottom bouncers with a worm. — Westside Sports, Malta.

Rock Creek — It is fishing well with this week’s cool temperatures. Usually by Mother’s Day the creek is on the rise with the start of runoff, but as of early this week it remains perfect to fish. This could all change in the next 10 days, so go and enjoy. Though there were some improving reports on the dry fly fishing, an angler's best bet continues to be nymph and streamer fishing. Should an angler find the opportunity to fish on top, dry fly patterns to fish are a tan Caddis (14), Midge Clusters (16-18) and BWO (16-18). Nymph fishing continues to be similar to last week’s report. Recommended nymph patterns include San Juan Worms in red, purple or tan (8-10), Caddis Pupa or Caddis Emergers in tan or olive (14-16), Zebra Midges in red or black (16-18), as well standard Hare’s Ears or Pheasant Tails (12-16). Attractor nymphs like red or chartreuse Copper John are tough to beat. The Batman Nymph, Montana Prince in blue as well as varied Psycho Princes and Lightning Bugs (12-16) can fish as well as any “natural” patterns. Stonefly nymphs can be deadly. Those patterns include Rubber Legs, Girdle Bugs, Bitch Creeks, Red Fox Squirrel nymphs and North Fork Specials in black or tan. Streamers continue to be the best way to fish. Use Sparkle Minnows, The Grinch, Krystal Flash Buggers in black or olive as well as the Kelly Galloup patterns. — East Rosebud Fly Shop, Billings.

Ruby River — It’s currently experiencing baetis emergences in the afternoon, and nymph fishing has been productive throughout the day with Shop Vacs and Micro Mayflies. If you are looking anxiously for dry fly fishing you can't go wrong with the Ruby this time of year. Don't hesitate to tie on some midge dries, as well. We like the Scotty's Midge because it is easy to see, and it's nothing short of deadly. — Blue Ribbon Flies, West Yellowstone.

Spring Creek — It is clear and will fish well when temperatures warm. Prince Nymphs would be a good choice. — Sport Center, Lewistown.

Tongue River Reservoir — With last week's cold front the water temp dropped 10 degrees so fishing was slow. People are marking fish all over. The best presentation this time of year is live minnows. — Tongue River Marina.

Yellowstone River, Columbus — Flows dropped and cleared. If there are no heavy rains in the system it should stay clear enough to fish through the weekend. The water temperature is still very cold, but once the day starts to warm up and the sun gets on the water look for midges and BWOs to come off, particularly in slack water sections. Look for March Browns, as well. Overcast days should provide the best conditions for dry fly action. To rising fish try a smaller size Purple Haze or Parachute Adams. Otherwise, if the water is clear enough, fish beadhead mayfly nymph patterns like a Hare’s Ear, Pheasant Tail, or red Copper John. In off-color water nymphing with black, brown and coffee rubber leg patterns like Girdle Bugs and Pat’s Rubber Legs, similar colored stonefly patterns, or a San Juan Worm is likely the best way to go unless there are actively feeding fish. Black and dark streamers like the Grinch or a black Bugger are good, standard options. Once we get into more consistent, warmer weather, runoff will likely be here to stay. It remains to be seen if we’ll see thick caddis before it does. — Stillwater Anglers, Columbus.

Yellowstone River, Huntley — Most anglers are targeting catfish. The catfish being caught are fat. Try liver or shrimp. — Billings Heights Wal-Mart.

Yellowstone River, Livingston — Flows are increasing. The Yellowstone is clear and fishable and a few caddis flies have been seen. The caddis hatch could happen on Mother’s Day this year. Rain is expected this week and could discolor the river. It is fishing well with nymphs and streamers. The snowpack for the Yellowstone is 118 percent. It has been increasing in percentage due to the cold weather. — Dan Bailey’s Fly Shop, Livingston.

Yellowstone River, Miles City — The river is pretty dirty with all the moisture. A few catfish are being caught on crawlers or cut bait. — Red Rock Sporting Goods, Miles City.


Bighorn River, Thermopolis — The flow was 1,500 cfs on Monday. The water is clear. Fishing is hit-or-miss. Ray Charles and streamers will work. Try beadhead nymphs. Below the spillway at Boysen try leadhead jigs with white, yellow or peach Mister Twister tails. YUM CrawBugs or a Storm WildEye Swim Shad will also work. — White Horse Country Store & Canyon Sporting Goods, Thermopolis.

Boysen Reservoir — Fishing has been good with some fat walleye and rainbows being caught by boat and bank anglers. Some of the walleye have been caught in shallow water. Minnows or worms will work. Others are using Rapalas or bright jig heads. For rainbows, toss worms from boat or shore. The marina is open Wednesday through Sunday. — Boysen Lake Marina.

Clarks Fork — The river is fishable from the Montana state line to the lower end of the Clarks Fork Canyon. Cold weather has dropped water temps. Fish nymphs deep. Use midge pupae and larvae, San Juan Worms, black, red and tan North Fork Specials, rubber legs and streamers. — North Fork Anglers, Cody.

Cody-area lakes — Chironomids, Ice Cream Cones, dry midges (22-24) and leech patterns have been working. Callibaetis (speckled duns) are beginning to show now on East Newton, Luce and Hogan. Upper and Lower Sunshine reservoirs and Roach Gulch out of Meeteetse are beginning to fish better. Flies to use are scuds, beadhead nymphs and streamers. Not much dry action yet due to weather over the weekend. — North Fork Anglers, Cody.

Lake DeSmet — Fishing is just starting to pick up with a few rainbow trout coming in. A worm and marshmallow or PowerBait off the bottom from bank would work. From the boat try a crawler harness, or gold, silver or white spoon. — The Lake Stop, Buffalo.  

Lower Shoshone — The flow was increased to 2,000 cfs on Friday. Exercise caution if wading and don’t float low-sided drift boats. Some rapids are filling hard sides with water. Rafts recommended. The trout are hugging the edges due to velocity. Visibility is excellent from below Buffalo Bill Dam down to where Sage Creek hits the lower Shoshone. Fish the pockets and slower water with two-nymph rigs. Black, tan and red bead North Fork Specials (8-14) are hot. Pheasant Tails, fire bead sowbugs, scuds, and streamers have been consistent when fished deep. Some dry action midday to late afternoon on midges and BWOs. The Mother’s Day caddis are about ready to pop.  — North Fork Anglers, Cody.

North Fork of the Shoshone — The flow has dropped dramatically (700 cfs in Wapiti, lower above the closure) since the temps dropped again. The trout are staging, and not everywhere, due to spawning. Darker stonefly patterns are working dropped off a North Fork Special. Prince Nymphs, Bloody Mary, Halfbacks and double beaded stoneflies are also performing. — North Fork Anglers, Cody.

South Fork of the Shoshone — Water quality is excellent. Flows were down to 280 cfs on Monday in the South Fork Valley. Fishing has improved closer to Buffalo Bill Reservoir. There is no spawning closure on the South Fork. Basic beadhead nymphs recommended in sizes 6-12 are good. Dry action was seen over the weekend. Olive Chubby Chucks (10-12) with a dropper nymph is a good setup. Streamers like a Slump Buster or Woolly Bugger are also good bets. — North Fork Anglers, Cody.

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Email Gazette Deputy Sports Editor John Letasky at john.letasky@406mtsports.com or follow him on Twitter at @GazSportsJohnL



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