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Fishing report: Yellowstone

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By Ennion Williams

Yellowstone National Park holds a wide variety of angling opportunities, from large rivers like the Madison and Yellowstone, to small creeks and lakes. The season for fishing in Yellowstone runs from Memorial Day weekend to the first Sunday in November.

Spring fishing in the park is found mostly near the west entrance on the Firehole, Gibbon and Madison rivers. In normal snowpack years, the Firehole will fish well on opening day with both mayflies and caddis. Hatches will occur from mid morning throughout the afternoon and provide excellent opportunities to catch both rainbows and browns in the 10 -15-inch range. Firehole Canyon sees the first Salmonflies of the year in the area, and this hatch will last a couple weeks and produce some larger fish from the Madison River.

As the summer progresses many smaller tributary creeks will offer excellent small stream fly fishing. Most waterways in the park have trout, and exploring smaller creeks by foot is a great way to see some of the most beautiful parts of the park.

In the northeast corner, the Lamar Valley offers some of the best cutthroat fly fishing in the world. The Lamar River, Soda Butte Creek and Slough Creek all hold good populations of Yellowstone cutthroat and feed into the Yellowstone River. Late summer fishing in the Lamar River is a treat to anyone seeking a beautiful landscape and consistent dry fly fishing.

The Yellowstone River in the park opens to anglers on July 15. There is an easily accessed section near LeHardy Rapids below Yellowstone Lake, and more challenging access points at Seven Mile Hole and Hellroaring Creek. The Yellowstone River’s incredible cutthroat are very willing to take a dry fly.

There are many lakes to fish as well in Yellowstone Park. A special permit is required for any type of floating on the lakes and can be acquired at any of the Park entrances. Yellowstone Lake is the largest of the lakes in the Park, and holds good populations of cutthroat trout. Nearby Lewis and Shoshone lakes hold populations of brown, rainbow and lake trout. In the fall these lakes tend to be very good fishing before the park closes.

There are so many spots in Yellowstone Park, I cannot comment on all of them. Buying a Yellowstone Park license helps to support the initiatives and preservation of the fishery. This summer the rivers are still running high and the hatches will be about a month behind normal conditions, so we should have good late season fishing.

Ennion Williams is a professional Fishing Guide and Outfitter in Big Sky. He can be reached at (406) 579-7094 or at He also runs Big Sky Local Foods.


A Yellowstone National Park Fishing Permit is required to fish in the park. Anglers 16 years of age and older are required to purchase either a $15 three-day permit, a $20 seven-day permit or a $35 season permit.

Anglers 15 and younger have two options:

1) Children 15 and younger may fish without a permit if they are fishing under the direct supervision of an adult who has a valid park fishing permit, or

2) Children 15 and younger may obtain a free permit that must be signed by a responsible adult; with this permit, a child can fish without direct adult supervision.

Fishing permits are available at all ranger stations, visitor centers, and Yellowstone Park General Stores. Fishing permits are also available at many businesses in the Greater Yellowstone Area.

No state fishing license is required in Yellowstone National Park.

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