The Yellowstone area is regarded as the epicenter for mountain stream blue ribbon fly fishing. In particular, the Madison, Yellowstone, Gallatin, Lamar and Firehole rivers and Slough Creek are renowned fisheries. Nearby, Henry's Fork, the South Fork of the Snake and other rivers are also important fishing waters.
Lakes in this area are also popular with anglers. Yellowstone Lake itself is an important fishery, as are numerous smaller lakes in the national park. Just to the west, Hebgen and Quake lakes in Montana shelter numerous large trout.
The waters in this area receive considerable fishing pressure and so the fish become wary. On a summer day, fishermen will be lined up along the Yellowstone River near Fishing Bridge, casting to large cutthroat trout that are easily seen in the clear water, but few of them will actually catch a fish. The lakes are a little kinder to new anglers – most people who work at it catch a few trout in the lakes.
To be successful fishing the streams, anglers need to spend time to learn about fly patterns and presentations. Talk to the guys in the fly shops – they will give excellent tips about how and where to fish. Move away from the easy access points to find fish that are willing to take a well-presented fly.
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:
- Children 15 and younger may fish without a permit if they are under the direct supervision of an adult who has a valid park fishing permit, or
- 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 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. (If you fish waters outside the park, you need to obtain a license from the appropriate state.)
In the park, the fishing season begins the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend and extends through the first Sunday in November. Exceptions are listed in the park's Fishing Regulations Handbook. Also note that there are areas within the park that are closed on a permanently or seasonal basis.
Some streams and lakes are subject to special fishing regulations. Study the regulations handbook to learn the rules for the water you plan to fish.
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