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Fishing For Salmon In Montana

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Guide to fishing for coho and kokanee salmon in MT.

By AA-Fishing Staff Writers

Montana is not typically known for salmon fishing, as it is a landlocked state without direct access to the ocean. However, it does offer opportunities for anglers to target landlocked salmon, also known as kokanee salmon, in select lakes and reservoirs.

Salmon Fishing Options

Chinook Salmon

Chinook Salmon, like all Pacific salmon, die after spawning. Fort Peck Lake is the only place in the state with chinook salmon. They grow large and put up a great fight when hooked. Fish for chinook with down riggers to troll around the thermocline. Use flashers, trailed with bait for best results. The current Montana state record for chinook salmon stands at over 31 pounds.

Kokanee Salmon

Kokanee Salmon

Kokanee salmon are a popular sport fish in Montana and can be found in several bodies of water such as Flathead Lake, Georgetown Lake, and Canyon Ferry Reservoir. These salmon are not the same as the ocean-run salmon species, but they still provide an exciting angling experience. Fish for them around structure with distinct drop-offs and depth changes. Typically kokanee average one to two pounds. They are plankton feeders and very sensitive to water temperature. They school in lakes at depths which remain ideal temperatures. Once this depth is identified, schools can be found where they are easily caught. Use small lures trolled at the appropriate depth. The can also be caught using corn, but the main way they are caught is using flashy lures which they attack when the lure intrudes their space. Kokanee salmon are known for their hard-fighting nature, making them a sought-after catch among anglers. The current Montana state record for kokanee salmon stands at over 7 pounds.

Coho Salmon

Coho Salmon

Coho Salmon are no longer available to anglers in any lakes in Montana. The current Montana state record for coho salmon stands at over 4 pounds.

Salmon Fishing Lakes in Montana

Flathead Lake is one of the top destinations for kokanee salmon fishing in Montana. The lake supports a healthy population of kokanee, and anglers can target them using downriggers, trolling with small spoons, or jigging with small lures. The spring and fall seasons are generally the most productive for kokanee salmon fishing in Flathead Lake.

Georgetown Lake is another notable fishery for landlocked chinook salmon in Montana. The lake is regularly stocked with kokanee salmon, providing ample opportunities for anglers to catch these prized fish. Trolling with downriggers or using light tackle with small lures are effective methods for targeting kokanee in Georgetown Lake.

Canyon Ferry Reservoir, located on the Missouri River, also offers opportunities for kokanee salmon fishing. Anglers can find success by trolling or jigging near drop-offs and underwater structures. The reservoir's deep waters provide suitable habitat for kokanee salmon to thrive.

It's important to note that fishing regulations and limits for kokanee salmon may vary depending on the specific water body and season. Anglers should consult the Montana Fishing Regulations and obtain the necessary licenses before pursuing salmon fishing in the state.

While Montana may not be widely recognized as a salmon fishing destination, its landlocked salmon fisheries provide anglers with a unique opportunity to experience the thrill of catching these feisty and beautiful fish. Whether it's trolling on a scenic lake or jigging in a reservoir, Montana's salmon fishing offers a chance to reel in some impressive kokanee salmon and enjoy the natural beauty of the state's waterways.

Several major lakes including Ashley Lake, Crystal Lake, Fort Peck Lake, Fresno Reservoir, Georgetown Lake, Hauser Lake, Holter Reservoir, Lake Helena, Lake Mary Ronan, Little Bitterroot Lake, Lake Koocanusa, Lower and Middle Thompson Lakes, McDonald Lake, Noxon Reservoir, Seeley Lake and Swan Lake all have populations of salmon. Also try your luck in the tributary rivers that flow into or out of these lakes.

Fishing Boats For Rent In Montana

Fishing for salmon in Montana

Chinook Salmon

Chinook salmon

World record: 97 lbs 4 oz

State Record: 31.13 lbs

Coho Salmon

Coho salmon

World record: 33 lbs 7 oz

State Record: 4.88 lbs

Kokanee Salmon

Kokanee salmon

World record: 9 lbs 10 oz

State Record: 7.85 lbs

Click the images and links above for species details.

Montana State Record Salmon

The state record chinook salmon came from Fort Peck Reservoir.

The state record coho salmon was caught in Fort Peck Reservoir.

The record kokanee salmon was taken out of Hauser Lake

About The Pacific Salmon Family

Pacific Salmon are born in and remain in freshwater streams for the early years of life. The number varies by species. Afterward they migrate to the Pacific Ocean waters where they bulk up and prepare for their once in a lifetime spawning run up the freshwater stream where they were born. They will instinctively return to their birthplace, spawn and die. They are found in the streams which empty into the ocean, and adjoining ocean waters.

The preferred method for catching salmon is fly fishing. Depending on the activity level, salmon may be caught on wet or dry flies. For more details check here for articles about fly fishing.

Salmon Organizations

Atlantic Salmon Federation

Atlantic Salmon Trust

Atlantic Salmon Museum

Pacific Salmon Commission

Pacific Salmon Foundation

Montana Salmon Fishing

The preferred method for catching salmon is fly fishing. Depending on the activity level, salmon may be caught on wet or dry flies, as well as a variety of other lures and baits.


Salmon fishing waters and information, by state.

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MI Salmon Fishing MN Salmon Fishing MT Salmon Fishing NC Salmon Fishing ND Salmon Fishing NE Salmon Fishing NH Salmon Fishing
NJ Salmon Fishing NM Salmon Fishing NV Salmon Fishing NY Salmon Fishing OH Salmon Fishing OR Salmon Fishing PA Salmon Fishing
RI Salmon Fishing SD Salmon Fishing VT Salmon Fishing WA Salmon Fishing WI Salmon Fishing WY Salmon Fishing



Learn the life cycle of salmon

The more you know about the life cycle and seasonal migration of salmon, the more likely you are to be looking in the right area next time you visit Montana salmon fishing waters. Visit the salmon fishing page for more information about the life cycle of the different species of salmon.

Contribute MT Salmon Fishing Knowledge

If you have information, articles or photos relating to salmon fishing in Montana, which you would like to see published here, please submit them for consideration.

Best salmon fishing waters in Montana!