Mountain whitefish (Prosopium williamsoni) is affectionately known as “mighty whitey,” “bugle lips,” “mountain bonefish,” “snout trout” and "ol' apple cheeks" among many other nicknames. The ...More
Mountain whitefish (Prosopium williamsoni) is affectionately known as “mighty whitey,” “bugle lips,” “mountain bonefish,” “snout trout” and "ol' apple cheeks" among many other nicknames. The whitefish is a widespread, native species found in rivers, streams, lakes and reservoirs in Montana. Some anglers disdain whitefish, others are impartial to their existence, and some share our feelings of admiration and respect. Here are some reasons why mountain whitefish deserve a little respect.
They belong here. As a native salmonid whitefish have toughed it out. They’ve seen arctic grayling come and go, and non-salmonid brook trout establish themselves; and they co-exist with introduced rainbow and brown trout.
What you don’t know can’t hurt you. It happens dozens of times a year in my boat: A large fish is hooked and a nice fight ensues. Anticipation builds as the camera and net are at the ready. The fish is brought to the surface and … doh! It’s a whitefish. Celebrate the size and the fight in the fish – if a rock roller fought well enough to keep its identity a secret, then it deserves accolades.
Trout with training wheels. For beginning anglers, whitefish are ideal for learning to hook-set, fight, land, and properly release fish. They tend to be less selective than trout, which plays well to the marginal skills of novice anglers. A whitefish on the line is a reward for a successful presentation of a fly.
Small whitefish make bigger trout. The Yellowstone River is home to some massive brown trout, as well as an abundance of whitefish. Predatory trout seek out other fish, such as small whitefish. Whitefish roe – eggs released during their fall spawn – provide an abundant food source for trout as they prepare for a long winter.
Morale booster. A fish in hand feels better than catching no fish at all, and it’s OK to admit you prefer to to catch trout. However, don’t rain on someone else’s parade if a whitefish is brought to hand. If you can’t say anything nice …
Indicator species. Large populations of whitefish indicate a healthy river system – one that has a diverse insect population, consistent fish-friendly flows and runoff cycles, and plenty of trout. Whitefish are a food source for osprey, otters, and eagles, among other animals. If a river’s whitefish population drops, those animals aren’t going to the grocery store, they’re going to eat trout.
The state record is attainable. If you want to make it in the record books, a whitefish might be your best chance. The typical whitefish is going to be 10-12 inches, but larger fish are not uncommon. The Montana state record is 23 inches and 5.1 pounds. Many hardcore anglers may have caught a whitefish that big, but those catches often go undocumented. Start keeping track because the record is swimming out there somewhere.
Equal opportunity feeders. Whitefish are opportunistic feeders. Sure, their willingness to eat removes the guessing game or challenge of catching a fish with a fly, but it’s OK to have times fishing when the catching is easy. Whitefish often eat dry flies with abandon and seeing a fish eat a fly you presented is fun regardless of the species.
Guilt-free fish. If you want to catch, keep, and eat fish, the whitefish is for you. In a Montana State University study, participants found that whitefish when cooked, were similar to trout in texture, aroma and juiciness. Fillet, remove any brown fat and skin, coat with your favorite breading, and fry in light oil. Or season the boned and skinned fillets and sauté, being very careful not to over cook. Usually three minutes a side is all it takes. They are also great smoked.
Whitefish have been around long before anyone fished our waters and like it or not, they are going to stick around long after we’re gone.
It is all systems go for trout hunters in the Big Sky state as almost all of our blue-ribbon rivers have come into prime fishing shape, and it is time to celebrate summer. The Yellowstone River is ...More
It is all systems go for trout hunters in the Big Sky state as almost all of our blue-ribbon rivers have come into prime fishing shape, and it is time to celebrate summer. The Yellowstone River is taking it's sweet time this season, but it is on the drop and will be fishing well soon enough. July is our peak month of the fishing season for good reason, and it's here for the whole month so you better be getting while the getting is good.
If you are coming to fish with us in the near future plan on early starts as the temperatures rise, good streamflows, ample sun protection and some pretty happy trout. We have great guides available on short notice so don't hesitate to call us to get out on the water - we'll make it happen.
If you haven't planned your Montana getaway yet, it's time to start thinking about the fall season. September and October will offer cooler weather, quieter waters and robust trout that need to feed before winter returns. Call us today to plan your autumn angling adventure.
What many consider to be the height of the Montana fishing season is soon to arrive and here's our best guess as to what is going to happen and when, given our current river flows, snowpack, ...More
What many consider to be the height of the Montana fishing season is soon to arrive and here's our best guess as to what is going to happen and when, given our current river flows, snowpack, weather forecasts and tarot card readings. All bets are off if we get a deluge of rain, or no more rain, or if we win the lottery.
Weather and Flows
Summer weather has arrived in the last couple weeks with 70-85 degree high temps and afternoon thunderstorms which has helped trigger our mountain snowmelt and some bug hatches. Most rivers in the state are high, muddy and largely unfishable, which is standard fare this time of the season. We are going to get a great flushing flow on most Montana rivers this season, which bodes well for the late summer fishing we love to get. All hope is not lost for great June fishing though, as there are some gems in the rough water.
Our home water has been the destination for many Montana anglers the last month as it has fished well through a moderate dam controlled run-off and is now on the drop. We may have seen the peak flows for the season already, depending on rain and irrigation upstream in the next couple weeks. Current flows are just above solid dryfly conditions, the caddis and pmd mayflies have begun to show, so this river is likely about to move into the red zone on the Fish Fun Factor and should sustain straight through until mid-August.
Run-off is chugging along on the Madison, but it appears to be less spectacular than on most other rivers this year. Currently there are fish to be caught sub-surface throughout the system, with the upper of the upper being the hotspot. We think the Salmonflies are going to pop on the lower river in a couple weeks and hustle through that stretch, then onto the upper in the third or fourth week of June. Flows should be solid this summer, and if you miss the big bugs shoot for the spruce moth hatch beginning in late July.
The Gally is currently a bit high and muddy, but it should come into shape again by the last week of June, also with a nice salmonfly hatch to kick start the summer season.
Always the hardest to predict, and it has a ton of snow to melt through the system this year, so it will probably be sometime into July until this river is fishable again. Salmonfly hatch? Who knows - hopefully we'll get to catch it this year.
Blackfoot, Clark Fork and Bitterroot Rivers
The westside freestones are all in full run-off mode right now as a record snowpack passes through the system and hopefully these rivers come back into shape near the end of the month, possibly in early July for full fishing effect.
The 'Horn has been running at about peak flow for a few weeks now and may continue to do that for the foreseeable future as the dam managers figure out how to handle an epic snowpack and subsequent streamflow. Nymph fishing has been strong, and it may be the only game on the Bighorn for a good while yet.
Paradise Valley Spring Creeks
You can set your watch on the Pale Morning Dun hatch, prime dates are from June 20 to July 10.
Yellowstone National Park
Walk wading classics like Slough Creek, Soda Butte Creek, the Lamar and Yellowstone Rivers should be good to go by July 15.