Flathead River Fishing

If you’re looking to catch something a bit more unique, head to Flathead River where you may be able to reel in a Westslope cutthroat trout. This fish, which is native to the river, is the primary inhabitant of these waters. You can find other fish here as well, including rainbow trout, lake trout, bull trout, largemouth bass, northern pike, and mountain whitefish. The Flathead River used to be a blue-ribbon trout stream, but those days are over. As a result, you won’t find as many people fishing this river as you’ll find at the other Montana Rivers. The fish here will respond to almost any bait. You probably won’t catch any monster fish here, but you’ll still catch plenty of rainbow and cutthroat trout. For your best chances of landing trout, fish above Kerr Dam in the upper half of the river.

driving directions

Because its main water source is snow melt, Flathead River remains cold, even in the summertime. The river is wide and sometimes deep, flowing quickly and steadily. Anglers here consider the fishing to be low pressure and relaxing. Fish are typically eager to bite.

Above Flathead Lake

Flathead River above Flathead Lake is deep and has a swift current. Consequently, wade fishing can be difficult unless you come later in the summer when water flow is lower. It is, however, a good stretch of the river for floating. To find water more ideal for wade fishing, try fishing south of Kalispell where the river branches.

In this stretch of the river you will concentrations of both rainbow and cutthroat trout—both of which tend to congregate in holes and pools around debris and natural terrain. Caddis flies give good catch results, and hoppers are always a good bet in late summer. Use sink-lines and weights to get your line closer to the bottom, where fish hold during the day.

Northern pike can be found in the section south of Kalispell. They are caught most easily during spring or fall. Large streamers or spoons are recommended.

For wade fishing, or fishing from shore, your best chance to catch mountain whitefish is near Old Steel Bridge FAS. For boaters, mountain whitefish can be caught along the entire length of the river.

Below Flathead Lake

Floating is unpredictable through the stretch of Flathead River below Kerr Dam because of extreme fluctuation in river speed and depth.

Northern pike, rainbow trout, brown trout, and largemouth bass can all be found in the river below Flathead Lake, but trout fishing is spotty. Fishing is best for northern pike.

For fly fisherman, the best fishing is on the Flathead Indian Reservation stretch of Flathead River. To access this area, you will need a tribal fishing permit.

Flathead River Fish:

Flathead River boat ramps:

The following boat ramps provide access to Flathead River.

Flathead Lake, Big Arm State Park Boat Ramp
300-398 1st St E Polson, MT
Directions