Trout Is Out

northern pike Montana

Northern Pike

Don't overlook Montana's other fishy options.

A gleaming trout may be the holy image of fishing in Montana, but there are a lot more species swimming around our pristine waters. Consider these other fish for a fun catch or as a feature on your dinner plate this summer. 

This non-native species is common in lakes and larger rivers. Considered a nuisance, they make great targets when you’re trying to hone your bow-fishing skills. Carp prefer warm shallows and weedy areas. Carp get a bad rep for a fishy flavor, especially when caught in turbid waters; but it is often enjoyed smoked or pickled. Spin-fish with live bait or for a real challenge—and a strong fight—try to entice them with a nymph, streamer, or crayfish pattern.

Several native species are found all over Montana, from river drainages to reservoirs to lakes. The most abundant, the longnose sucker, can be found in clear, cold streams. A healthy sucker population is a good indicator of a healthy river, as they are sensitive to pollutants. Suckers are a strong and energetic species, ensuring a fun catch. Worms or other live bait, bounced along the bottom, is the best bet here, though a large nymph may induce a strike, too.

Perch are an abundant non-native species common throughout the state. They can make for a successful day on the water, and a great way to get kids excited about fishing. They are aggressive eaters, often caught with just a bit of worm, and sometimes even a plain hook. Found in lakes and reservoirs, perch are also a popular ice-fishing target. They’ll fall for a variety of baits, spinners, and flies alike, so pick your passion.

Walleye tend to live most of their lives in deep lakes, but will migrate to spawn in feeder streams. When lake-fishing from a boat, a fishfinder is a handy tool to seek them out. Cast or troll spinners or spoons; live bait is extremely effective, too. As any Midwestern angler can confirm, your palate will thank you after sinking your teeth into a beer-battered walleye fillet. 

Pike are the scary prehistoric-looking beasts lurking in lakes and big-river backwaters. These water monsters are voracious predators and wield a toothy grin. Spin-casting works best, but they can make for an exciting challenge on a fly rod, too. Either way, a wire leader is essential to keep their gator-like fangs from shredding your line.