Fishing

A Cutthroat Trout fish underwater.

Closed Waters  /  Season and Limits  /  Stocking and Native Fish  /  Fish ID  /  Bait and Equipment  /  Boating Permits  /  Cleaning Fish  /  Ice Fishing

A primary purpose of Glacier National Park is to preserve natural ecosystems for their aesthetic, educational, cultural, and scientific values. Through the management of fish and aquatic environments, we hope to encourage an appreciation for preserving native fish species in mostly undisturbed habitats. Fishing is permitted when consistent with preservation or restoration of natural aquatic environments.

 

Closed Waters

The following areas are closed to fishing:

  • Kintla Creek between Kintla Lake and Upper Kintla Lake
  • Upper Kintla Lake
  • Akokala Lake
  • Bowman Creek above Bowman Lake
  • Logging Creek between Logging Lake and Grace Lake
  • Cracker Lake
  • Slide Lake and the impounded pond below the lake
  • The following creeks are closed for their entire length: Ole, Park, Muir, Coal, Nyack, Fish, Lee, Otatso, Boulder, and Kennedy Creeks.
  • North Fork of the Belly River
  • North Fork of the Flathead River within 200 yards (183 m) of the mouth of Big Creek.
 
A map of Glacier National Park showing the three major water drainages.

Seasons and Regulations

No fishing license is required to fish inside park boundaries. No bull trout may be retained. Any caught incidentally must be handled carefully and immediately released. Wet hands with lake/river/stream water before handling fish. Fish Consumption Advisory: If you plan on keeping fish to eat, please check the fish consumption guidelines.

The standard fishing season for most waters in the park is from the third Saturday in May through November 30, with the following exceptions:

  • Lake fishing is open all year in the park.
  • Waterton Lake season and catch and possession limits are the same as set by Canada. Check Canadian regulations before fishing these waters.
  • Lower Two Medicine Lake season and catch and possession limits are set by the Blackfeet Nation. Check Blackfeet Tribal regulations.
  • North Fork of the Flathead River catch and possession limits, as well as methods of take, are the same as those set by Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks. However, no state fishing license is required when fishing the North Fork from park lands. Check MFWP regulations before fishing.
  • When fishing the Middle Fork of the Flathead River from park lands or bridges, a Montana fishing license is required, and state regulations are applicable.
  • Hidden Lake outlet creek and an area extending into Hidden Lake for a radius of 300 feet (92 m) are closed to fishing during the cutthroat spawning season (usually the majority of July) to protect spawning cutthroat trout, and to reduce the potential for negative human interactions with feeding bears.
  • From May 1 through June 15, an area extending 400 yards from shore between the Bowman Lake Ranger Station and the outlet of Bowman Lake is closed to fishing to protect spawning westslope cutthroat trout.
 

Catch and Possession Limits

All native fish caught must be released. There is no daily catch or possession limit on non-native fish species in the park.

  • Flathead River Drainage native fish: bull trout, westslope cutthroat trout, mountain whitefish, suckers, northern pikeminnow
  • St. Mary/Belly/Waterton River drainages native fish: bull trout, lake trout, burbot (ling), westslope cutthroat trout, northern pike, lake whitefish, mountain whitefish, suckers.
    • Exception: St. Mary Lake: No more than 5 fish may be harvested and possessed in combination with the following limits on individual species: 2 burbot (ling), 5 lake trout, 1 northern pike, 2 cutthroat trout, 2 mountain whitefish, and 5 lake whitefish.
  • Two Medicine and Cutbank Creek (Missouri River) drainages native fish: westslope cutthroat trout in Midvale and Railroad creeks only
  • Flathead River Drainage non-native species: Yellowstone cutthroat trout (Fish, Hidden, and Grace lakes only), lake trout, lake whitefish, kokanee, rainbow trout, and brook trout
  • St. Mary River/Belly/Waterton River drainages non-native species: Yellowstone cutthroat trout (in all lakes except St. Mary Lake: see above), rainbow trout, brook trout, and grayling
  • Two Medicine and Cutbank Creek (Missouri River) drainages non-native species: lake trout, brook trout, Yellowstone cutthroat trout, and rainbow trout

Fish Consumption Advisory
If you plan on keeping fish to eat, please check the fish consumption guidelines.


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Stocking and Native Fish

The National Park Service no longer stocks fish in park waters to enhance sport fishing. The historical introduction of exotic game species proved to be very detrimental to Glacier's native species. Competition for food and habitat, as well as hybridization with non-native species currently threatens native fish populations in many areas of the park. For example, bull trout populations have greatly diminished in park waters west of the Continental Divide due to the presence of non-native lake trout.

Glacier is currently engaged in fisheries research to assess the status of native fish in the park and to develop programs to protect and enhance their populations. Ensuring the future survival of the park's unique native species for the benefit and enjoyment of future generations is a key mandate of the National Park Service.

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Fish Identification

Native fish such as bull trout and westslope cutthroat trout can be distinguished from other species in a number of ways:

  • Cutthroat trout have a characteristic red “slash” under their lower jaw.
  • Bull trout have pink or orange spots on their sides with pale yellow spots on their backs.
  • Lake trout have a deeply forked tail and numerous white (light) markings on their body with no pink or orange spots on their sides.
  • Brook trout have black markings on their back and dorsal fins along with red or orange spots surrounded by blue halos on their sides.

Don't assume that because a fish is small, it can't be a bull trout. Juvenile bull trout rear in small streams and can be confused with brook trout. If you don't know, LET IT GO.

Inquire at visitor centers or ranger stations for a free Fish in Glacier color brochure to help with identification.

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Equipment and Bait

  • Fishing is allowed by hook and line only; use of only one rod per person is permitted.
  • The rod or line must be closely attended at all times.
  • Only artificial flies and lures are permitted.
    • Exception: Bait is permitted when fishing in the Two Medicine drainage upstream of the Two Medicine bridge at the Running Eagle Falls parking lot, or in the Many Glacier Valley upstream of the falls at the outlet of Swiftcurrent Lake.
  • Fishing with nets, seines, traps, drugs, or explosives is prohibited.
  • Do not deposit fish eggs, roe, food, or other substances in waters to attract fish.
  • Snagging fish in park waters or from park lands is prohibited.
  • The use of felt-soled wading boots is prohibited to prevent the introduction of Aquatic Invasive Species to park waters.
  • The use of all lead associated with fishing is prohibited within the park. This includes weights, lures, jigs, line, etc.
  • Exception: an angler who is using a "down-rigger" may use “cannon ball” lead weights of 2 pounds or larger on the down-rigger cable.
 

Boating Permits

If you’re planning on fishing by boat, please visit our Boating page for regulations and permit requirements. For information concerning boat permits, please visit our Aquatic Invasive Species page.

Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS) are non-native species that can harm native ecosystems as well as negatively impact visitor use and enjoyment of park waterways. AIS come in many forms, including animals such as zebra and quagga mussels, plants such as Eurasian watermilfoil, or pathogens such as whirling disease. These species can hitch a ride on boats, trailers, and float tubes, as well as on waders and wading boots. AIS have devastating impacts on native aquatic ecosystems.

Please thoroughly clean, drain, and dry all your boating, wading, and fishing equipment before coming to the park.

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Cleaning Fish

When cleaning fish, use garbage cans where available for disposal of entrails (guts).

When cleaning fish away from developed areas, fish entrails (guts) must be disposed of by puncturing the air bladder and dropping them into deep water at least 200 feet (61 m) from the nearest campsite or trail. Do not bury or burn entrails, as they will attract bears.

The skin must remain attached to any fish harvested while in the park for staff identification purposes.


Bears

Remember that the park is home to both black and grizzly bear populations; please be respectful when visiting their habitat. Bears are usually shy, but make no attempt to approach or startle them, as they have been known to attack without warning. Never leave food unattended. When hiking, make noise to alert bears of your presence. Never offer food to bears and never get between a sow (mother) and cub.

For more information on bears and associated regulations, please visit the park’s Bear Safety page.

Report all bear sightings to a ranger.

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Ice Fishing

  • No motorized vehicles (snowmobiles, ATVs, autos) are allowed on any lake, river, or stream.
  • Power augers are prohibited on all lakes within the park.
  • Shelters and all fishing equipment may not be left unattended.
  • No open fires are allowed. Self-contained stoves with fuel may be used.
  • Undesignated camping is not allowed on lakes or lakeshores.
  • Toilets should be used if available. Otherwise, human waste should not be disposed within 100 yards of any water source, and all toilet paper must be packed out.

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Learn more about fish, fishing, and the work the National Park Service does to conserve aquatic habitats nationwide.

Last updated: October 31, 2021

Contact the Park

Mailing Address:

PO Box 128
West Glacier , MT 59936

Phone:

406 888-7800

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