The 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, the park hopes to encourage an appreciation for the preservation of native fishes in natural and mostly undisturbed aquatic habitats. Fishing is permitted when consistent with preservation or restoration of natural aquatic environments. To fulfill these objectives, certain regulations, guidelines, and courtesies must be followed.
The following areas are closed to fishing:
Season and Possession Limits
The standard park fishing season for all waters in the park is from the third Saturday in May through November 30, with the following exceptions:
Catch and Release Fishing
All waters west of the Continental Divide (as well as Midvale Creek in the Two Medicine River drainage and Wild Creek in the St. Mary River drainage) are subject to catch and release fishing only for cutthroat trout. Cutthroat trout must be handled carefully and released immediately back into the water. However, two cutthroat trout may be harvested from Hidden, Evangeline, and Camas Lakes in accordance with park fishing regulations.
No bull trout may be retained and any caught incidentally must be immediately released.
Daily catch and possession limits will not exceed five fish, including no more than: two cutthroat trout (see ‘catch and release fishing’ above), two burbot (ling), one northern pike, two mountain whitefish, five lake whitefish, five kokanee salmon, five grayling, five rainbow trout, and five lake trout.
Stocking and Native Fish
Many people wonder why the National Park Service no longer stocks fish in park waters after this was done for many decades to enhance sport fishing. The reason is simple. The introduction of exotic game fishes was found to be detrimental to Glacier's native fishes. Competition for food and space, as well as hybridization with non-native species currently threatens native species populations in many areas of the park. Native bull trout have undergone dramatic reductions in abundance in many lakes on the west side of the park where lake trout have invaded.
The National Park Service is currently engaged in fisheries research to assess the status of native fish in the park and to develop programs to protect and enhance native fish populations. Ensuring the future survival of Glacier National Park's unique native fishes for the benefit and enjoyment of future generations is a key mandate of the National Park Service.
Native fish such as bull and westslope cutthroat trout can be identified from other species in a number of ways:
Inquire at visitor centers or ranger stations for a Fish in Glacier brochure to help with identification.
Equipment and Bait
The use of all lead associated with fishing is prohibited within Glacier National Park. This includes weights, lures, jigs, line, etc. The only exception is a fisherman who is using a "down-rigger" may use cannon ball lead weights of 2 pounds or larger on the down-rigger cable.
Alternatives to lead are nontoxic materials such as brass, steel, bismuth, and tungsten, available at major sporting goods stores.
A concern we must all address is the spread of harmful aquatic invasive species (AIS). These are non-native species that can harm native aquatic ecosystems as well as negatively impact visitor use and enjoyment of park waterways. AIS such as lake trout have been extremely detrimental to native bull trout populations, replacing them as the top aquatic predator in the many of the large lakes on the west side of Glacier. AIS can come in many other forms including other 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 of your boating, wading, and fishing equipment before coming to the park. A free launch permit is required to launch all motorized/trailered boats in Glacier National Park. In order to qualify for the permit, all such boats must be inspected for AIS by NPS staff. Hand-propelled watercraft such as rafts, kayaks, and canoes need a self-certification form (available at ranger stations, visitor centers, backcountry permit offices, on the boating webpage, and at many boat launches). The signed form should be kept on the boaters person or in the vessel. The free launch permits are available during normal business hours at backcountry permit stations, visitor centers, and the park headquarters.
When cleaning fish in the backcountry, fish entrails must be disposed of by puncturing the air bladder and depositing the entrails 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.
Consider yourself lucky to see a black or grizzly bear. But remember the wilderness is their home. Please be a well-mannered guest. Bears are usually shy; however, make no attempt to approach or startle them. They have been known to attack without warning. When hiking make some noise to alert them of your presence. Never offer food to bears and never get between a sow and cub. As bears have an excellent sense of smell, it is important to avoid the use of odorous food. Backcountry camping regulations require that food, cooking utensils, and food containers be suspended from the designated food hanging device at all times, except mealtimes. If needed, when not in a designated campground, suspend food and cooking utensils at least 10 feet above the ground and 4 feet from any tree trunk. In the absence of trees, store food and cooking gear in approved bear resistant food containers. Never leave food unattended.
Report all bear sightings to a ranger.
Fishing Regulations brochure (pdf 640 KB)