Star Players

montana fish identification

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The species that reign supreme. 

Montana, embedded with a wide web of water, is home to a plethora of fish, but as with all species, some are more common than others. Every state has its staples, and these are ours. From lakes to rivers, in-town to deep in the backcountry, these are the heavy hitters you're most likely to run into. 

rainbow trout fish

Rainbow Trout
Waters: All area rivers
Size: 12-16"; up to 24"
Appearance: Long reddish-pink band running tip to tail
Behavior: Active mornings, evenings, and cloudy, cool days; strong fighters

brown trout fish

Brown Trout
Waters: All area rivers, particularly upper Madison and Beaverhead
Size: 12-18"; up to 30"
Appearance: Brown and black spots along sides, yellowish flanks
Behavior: Active mornings, evenings, and cloudy, cool days; prefer deep holes; meat eaters

brook trout fish

Brook Trout
Waters: Alpine lakes and mountain streams
Size: 6-13"; up to 20"
Appearance: Olive-green to dark-brown body, silver belly, light spots, black mouth
Behavior: Active mornings, evenings, and cloudy, cool days; prefer shaded, vegetated habitat

yellowstone cutthroat fish

Yellowstone Cutthroat Trout
Waters: Yellowstone, Gallatin, Big Hole; alpine lakes
Size: 10-16"; up to 24" (smaller in streams)
Appearance: Red slashes on lower jaw, black dots toward tail, bronzish
Behavior: Active mornings and evenings in rivers and streams; all day in alpine lakes; like to feed on the surface

westslope cutthroat trout fish

Westslope Cutthroat Trout
Waters: All area rivers and drainages except Yellowstone River, including many alpine lakes
Avg. Size: 10-16"; up to 20"
Appearance: Red slashes on lower jaw; vivid yellow, orange, and red hues with small, non-rounded spots
Behavior: Opportunistic feeders; prefer cold water with pools and sheltering vegetation; like to feed on the surface

mountain whitefish

Mountain Whitefish
Waters: All area rivers
Size: 10-16"; up to 20"
Appearance: Pointed snout, small round mouth, silver body
Behavior: Active mornings and evenings; feed mostly on the bottom

arctic grayling fish

Artic Grayling
Waters: Big Hole, Hyalite Reservoir, some alpine lakes
Size: 8-16"; up to 20"
Appearance: Silver-bronze with small, black, squiggly dots; colorful red, aqua, or purple markings; large sail-like dorsal fin
Behavior: Migrate up to 60 miles to spawn; do not coexist well with other trout 

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