The Fishery - Pre-Dam
The problem for the river as a fishery was due to the ebbs and flows of the waterflow depending on snowmelt and season. In the spring and early summer, the Bighorn laden with melting snow from the Wind River and Bighorn Mountains, was a torrent that filled the canyon wall to wall and flooded the valley downstream. In the late summer, the river dried up and was a mere trickle.
Few fished the Bighorn, and certainly no one traveled any great distance to try their luck for a few stunted catfish or an occasional deprived sauger.
Below the dam, the change was even more dramatic. A fishery, matching any in the United States was formed by the damming of the river. No longer able to carry its load of mud toward the Gulf of Mexico, the water emerges from the lake crystal clear. The Rainbow and Brown Trout in the river now attract anglers from all over the United States.
Today the Bighorn just below the dam is the most fished river in Montana. During normal water flow years, trout can average upward of 11,000 per mile. A once muddle stream has truly been transformed into a clear water, world class fishery.
Did You Know?
Long before the Bighorn River was tamed by the Yellowtail Dam, the roiling waters through the canyon were feared. During spring snowmelt, the water turned into a raging torrent, a combination of whirlpools, rapids, and eddies. Conversely, the river through the canyon had a reputation for being placid by late summer, when dry heat and lack of rainfall turned it into a sedate stream. More...