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Sauger

Billy Carlson from Watford City, North Dakota, landed this healthy 26-inch sauger while fishing Fort Peck Reservoir recently.

Fishing is picking up at Fort Peck Reservoir.

Anglers are doing well in the Big Dry Arm and Crooked Creek sections and action is beginning to heat up in the Hell Creek area.

Warmer temperatures have begun to melt the snowpack and runoff has started on many of the region’s rivers. Make sure to check on conditions before venturing out, and exercise caution if fishing a river during runoff.

While lakes are generally open the entire year, along with many of the rivers and streams in the Eastern and Central fishing districts, the general fishing season begins on Saturday.

Here’s the weekly fishing report:

Top picks

Ackley Lake — Trout are still biting. Use worms and marshmallows from shore. Some guys are throwing bigger spoons, spinners or crayfish imitations from shore. — Sport Center, Lewistown.

Fort Peck Reservoir, Big Dry Arm — Anglers are catching big walleye. A 29 ¾-, 29- and 28-inch walleye were all caught over the weekend. Jig or bottom bounce minnows at a slow speed for walleye. Target 5 to 8 feet of water. Crawlers, jigged at a depth of 15 feet, are working for northerns. Smallmouth bass are also biting. — Rock Creek Marina.

Fort Peck Reservoir, Crooked Creek — It is fishing well from boat or shore. From the bank, northerns are biting smelt. A few catfish are also being reeled in. Try liver. From a boat pull Dogger Jigs with a minnow for walleye. Quite a few 30-inch walleye were caught anywhere from 20 to 30 feet deep. Smallmouth bass are also active. — Crooked Creek Marina.

Madison River, Upper — The upper river has been fishing great with the consistent flows and warmer weather. Mayflies and midges are the two nymphs to be fishing a bunch. Above the West Fork start to look for heads popping up to eat emerging Baetis around noon on slightly cloudy days. The lower stretches of the river will likely see a great caddis and March brown hatch very soon with 70 degree weather in the forecast. It's still the time of year for winter stones to be active. Big Pheasant Tails or Hare’s Ears fished along the bottom will produce. — Montana Troutfitters, Bozeman.

Spring Creek — It is clear and fishing OK. Try a beadhead Prince Nymph. Most dark nymphs will work. There is a mayfly hatch on nicer days. Panther Martin spinners will work as well. — Sport Center, Lewistown.

Montana

Beaverhead River — San Juan Worms, Hot Head Sowbugs and Midges will work. Caddis should start going off in the evenings. We are eagerly awaiting opening day on the upper river. On Saturday the river from Clark Canyon Dam to Pipe Organ Bridge opens. Poindexter Slough has cleared and it is fishing a lot better. — Frontier Anglers, Dillon.

Big Hole River — Runoff could start picking up by the end of this week. The onset of warmer weather should prompt the March browns followed by the massive Mother’s Day caddis to hatch soon. Streamer junkies and those willing to dunk San Juan Worms below an indicator will find success. — Frontier Anglers, Dillon.

Bighorn River — Great water and weather conditions are on tap for our region. The fishing has been a bit day-to-day overall and really depends on who you talk to. Nymphing is still the most productive method. Fish were up on Baetis in pretty good numbers with the last spell of cool, drizzly weather. The fish that are up have been fairly picky so keep your bugs sparse and well presented. Top patterns this week included: Carpet Bugs, Jellybeans, Softhackle Rays, (14-18), Dill’s Duns, Smokejumpers, CDC Sparkle Duns and Schelle’s Cripple (18-20). — Bighorn Angler, Fort Smith. 

Bighorn Lake, Ok-A-Beh — A few bass have been caught using tube jigs and drop shotting a live minnow or plastic minnow. No news on walleye. — Scheels, Billings.

Boulder River — This week the river will be on the rise; expect runoff to muddy the waters downstream of the West Boulder. The main river should remain mostly clear throughout the week above the West Boulder, but will be on the rise due to high temperatures. Fishing is good with caddis, March brown and blue winged olive hatches.  Fish Stonefly and San Juan Worms or streamers in pockets and seams as the river rises. — Sweetcast Angler, Big Timber.

Canyon Ferry Reservoir — Rainbow trout fishing has been best from shore at Kim’s Marina while fly-fishing with a leech or beadhead nymph or using a jig tipped with a worm. Boat anglers are catching a few rainbows trolling lures tipped with a worm. A few walleye and perch are being caught mid-reservoir and at Confederate Bay in less than 15 feet of water on jigs or worm harnesses. — FWP, Helena.

Cooney Reservoir — Fishing was slow on Sunday. A highlight last week was a 3-pound rainbow trout caught from the overlook. The water is starting to clear up and the boat docks are in. Buoys will go in by the end of next week. Worms or leeches are your best bet. The success rate with jigs is minimal. — Cooney State Park.

Deadman’s Basin — Anglers did alright on trout trolling gold hardware. At the Broadview Pond anglers are having fun catching trout. — Cozy Corner Bar, Lavina.

Fort Peck Reservoir, dam area — The lake temperature has warmed up a little bit, so fishing is not hot and heavy, but some fat walleye are being caught in 20 feet of water pitching toward shore. Use a jig, minnow or plastic. A few northerns are being caught while fishing for walleye. Some anglers are targeting northerns in the back of the bays pitching spoons or pulling crankbaits in 10 to 16 feet of water. For lake trout target 18 feet of water and pull spoons or crankbaits. — Lakeridge Lodging & Bait Shop.

Fort Peck Reservoir, Fourchette Bay — A few big walleye have been caught throwing jigs toward the shoreline. — Westside Sports, Malta.

Fort Peck Reservoir, Hell Creek — Fishing is improving and quite a few pike are being caught all over. The pike are still shallow. For pike, try still fishing with live bait or pitching cranks or trolling them shallow. The smallmouth bite is picking up at Timber Creek, Snow Creek and Hell Creek near the rock piles. For walleye the best bite was between Bone Trail and Timber Creek. Most are jigging a minnow. — Hell Creek Marina.

Fresno Reservoir — Anglers are doing well on 15- to 18-inch walleye. Jig with a dead minnow. — Stromberg Sinclair, Havre.

Gallatin River — It is in runoff stage. The Taylor's Fork is pumping in mud and we likely won't be fishing this river for a while. If you do happen to find some softer water, fish big dark Stoneflies, Woolly Buggers, and big worms. Be extremely careful wading this river as it can get nasty quickly. — Montana Troutfitters, Bozeman.

Hauser Reservoir — Rainbow fishing has slowed down as they move offshore. A few rainbows are being caught from shore at the York Bridge ramp on flies or egg sacks and at Riverside while drifting jigs or egg sacks. Rainbow fishing is fair while trolling cowbells or Rapalas around the Causeway and York Bridge. Walleye are being caught in Lake Helena and a few perch and walleye are biting in the Causeway. Most walleye are being caught while trolling bottom bouncers or lures. — FWP, Helena.

Hebgen Lake — The ice has come off from the Grayling and Madison Arms down to Kirkwood. The ice is now pushing off from Kirkwood to the dam and should be completely off soon. There are shore fishing opportunities. Small fishing boats or tubes can get onto the lake and water levels at the boat ramps should come up enough by Memorial Day weekend for mid-size boats. Fish are hungry, so the bite is good. — Kirkwood Marina.

Holter Reservoir — Rainbow fishing from shore at the ramps has slowed down with a few being caught around Gates of the Mountains, Holter Lake Ramp and Log Gulch while using egg pattern flies or egg sacks. Boat anglers are finding rainbows near the surface while trolling cowbells or Rapalas in the lower reservoir around Split Rock and the clay banks. Walleye and perch fishing are slow. — FWP, Helena.

Madison RiverLower — Flows have been fairly steady recently and water temps are creeping up. Caddis are out, and any day we could see the hatch truly explode. Apart from caddis, Baetis and March browns have been a more consistent option. The crayfish bite has picked up with fish holding over the weed beds. Look for fish in the shallow water where it 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. — Montana Troutfitters, Bozeman.

Martinsdale Reservoir — Cowbells, Wedding Rings and Blue Foxes are good choices. PowerBait, crawlers and marshmallows will work from shore. If one catches a sucker from shore, use it as cut bait. The Musselshell River is still fishable. It is off-color, but try crawlers or spinners in the holes. — Ray’s Sport and Western Wear, Harlowton.

Missouri River, below Holter — The flow was 9,190 cfs and water temps were 44.8 degrees. 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 — A few catfish are being caught. Anglers continue to snag paddlefish, but the action is hit-or-miss. — Sport Center, Lewistown.

Nelson Reservoir — Anglers are catching a few perch, walleye, northerns, bass and crappie. Trying to find big schools of fish is tough. Use minnows, worms or leeches as all three baits are working. — Westside Sports, Malta.

Rock Creek — Rock Creek has officially entered it’s runoff season but is still fishable. Warm temperatures over Mother’s Day weekend spiked Rock Creek’s stream flows by over 20%. Our 10 day forecast brings us back down to the low 60s and high 50s so our feeling is Rock Creek will still fish over the next week or so, but an angler will have to get out and find the type of water that suits them best regarding both clarity and wadeability. There are finally some dry flies, including a tan Caddis in a 14, as well as similar sizing in March Browns. Now that we’ve gotten our first dose of true warmth attractor dries can be fished. Those patterns include a Purple Haze, Parachute Adams, or even a Royal Wulff in sizes 12-16. The nymph fishing can be an angler's best bet as we enter the season of fluctuating stream flows. Recommended nymph patterns include San Juan Worms in sizes 8-10, Caddis Pupa or Emergers in sizes 14-16, as well as your standard Pheasant Tail or Hare’s Ear in sizes 10-16. Stonefly nymphs like Rubber Legs, Girdle Bugs, North Fork Specials as well as a Red Fox Squirrel Nymph is sizes 8-12 make a great lead fly trailed effectively by a Batman, Montana Prince in blue, or Copper John in red or chartreuse. Most of your standard beadhead nymphs can be fished on Rock Creek in sizes 12-16. The streamer fishing continues to be the way to fish as far as we are concerned. Fish Sparkle Minnows, Krystal Flash Buggers, Slump Busters, The Grinch as well as Mini Sex Dungeons and Barely Legals. — East Rosebud Fly Shop. 

Ruby River — The water has a green tinge to it. Wading below the reservoir has proven to be challenging when the river starts hanging around 300 cfs. If you happen to check the USGS gauges below the reservoir near Alder you will obtain an unsound reading seeing that a dedicated portion of that water is diverted into irrigation ditches before it reaches the main fishing stretches. Despite the fluctuation in water levels nymph fishing has remained productive with midge and Baetis nymphs. However, the dry fly fishing has really tapered off. — Blue Ribbon Flies, West Yellowstone.

Stillwater River — With warm temperatures, flows have been on the climb. As often happens, caddis and rising/off-color flows arrived at the same time. We’re at the point of the season where runoff is likely here to stay. If the lower river is off-color, consider wade fishing the upper river above Absarokee, which usually stays clearer longer. Also look to fish smaller tributaries. There has been some success on a green or olive pupa or emerger (14-16). March browns have been 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. 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. Otherwise, nymphing is always a good bet with standard beadhead mayfly nymph patterns like a Hare’s Ear, Pheasant Tail, caddis green Psycho Prince, or red Copper John. Also if there’s no surface action a smaller Golden Stone nymph will work. In off-color water try nymphing with black, brown and coffee rubber leg patterns like Girdle Bugs and Pat’s Rubber Legs, as well as similar colored stonefly patterns along with a beadhead trailer like a Prince Nymph, Hare’s Ear, Batman or Pheasant Tail. As flows climb and clarity worsens, a San Juan Worm, rubber leg, or black Bugger fished on the edge is a good tactic. For streamers in off-color water use a color contrast of darker patterns, like black Buggers or the Grinch, either dead drifted or stripped. At some point the river is likely to run too high and off-color and it will be best to just stay away from it in those conditions and look for smaller tributaries, tailwaters and lakes. — Stillwater Anglers, Columbus.

Tongue River Reservoir — Water temps are coming up and were around 55 degrees this weekend. With the warmer weather fishing should pick up. Live minnows or worm harnesses seem to be working for crappie and walleye. Bass have been caught in the shallower water. Target weeds or structure. — Tongue River Marina.

Yellowstone River, Columbus — There was a window with both caddis and March browns coming off, but with the river running higher and off-color it’s going to be tough to get the fish to key on them. There may be some occasional fluctuations, but runoff is likely here to stay and at some point the cottonwood hatch will get going and the river will be extremely hazardous. There may be some spots here and there to fish, like side channels or slower water runs, but unless you can find a safe spot, at some point it’s best just to stay away from it. — Stillwater Anglers, Columbus.

Yellowstone River, Huntley — Catfishing was excellent on minnows and cut bait before the river rose and muddied up. Fishing conditions can change quite a bit during runoff season, but catfish aren’t as fickle as other species. Fish from Hysham east for walleye and smallmouth. Fishing is average for walleye and smallmouth. As the water warms, smallmouth and walleye fishing should pick up. — Huntley Bait and Tackle.

Yellowstone River, Livingston — Spring runoff has started and fishing will be limited for some time. — Dan Bailey’s Fly Shop, Livingston.

Wyoming

Bighorn River, Thermopolis — The flow is 1,500 cfs and fishing is picking up. Quite a few anglers are out, and dry fly action is increasing with the warmer weather. Streamers and midges will work. — White Horse Country Store & Canyon Sporting Goods, Thermopolis.

Boysen Reservoir — Trout fishing is good using crankbaits. Walleye fishing is slow. The best bet for walleye is minnows. — Boysen Lake Marina.

Buffalo Bill Reservoir — Anglers were catching lake trout with cut bait and a jig. — Pryor Creek Bait Co., Laurel.

Clarks Fork — Flows were at 1,470 cfs as of Monday. Wading would be tough now that the snowmelt has started. — North Fork Anglers, Cody.

Cody-area lakes — Anglers are doing well. Water levels are low and the water is not up into the weeds on the edges. Fish are taking midges and leech variations. Freshwater shrimp are out. Try scuds. On some days CalliBaetis are coming off and fish are rising to them. — North Fork Anglers, Cody.

Lake DeSmet — Fishing has really started to pick up. We have had many reports of fat rainbow, brown and lake trout. Rapalas are working great. Worms or PowerBait have been good choices for shore anglers. — The Lake Stop, Buffalo.  

Lower Shoshone — It has steady flows from the dam. Try streamers and big nymphs. A small Pheasant Tail or Hare’s Ear is a good dropper. — North Fork Anglers, Cody.

North Fork of the Shoshone — It has bumped up from the snowmelt. With runoff conditions it should be high until the end of June. Before runoff started it was fishing great with a big black or brown Stonefly trailed by a Pheasant Tail or Hare’s Ear. — North Fork Anglers, Cody.

Upper and Lower Sunshine Reservoirs— Fishing is a mixed bag as some people are doing well and others aren’t. Most are using worms. A few are fly-fishing and catching fish while others had some success trolling. — Wea Market, Meeteetse.

South Fork of the Shoshone— Runoff has started. Stick to the lakes. — 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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