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The Arctic Grayling (Thymallus arcticus) is a species native to northern North America. The only populations native to the lower 48 states were in Michigan and Montana, and the Michigan ... morepopulation is now extinct. Consequently, the fluvial or river-dwelling population in the upper Big Hole River are the last remnants of this native Fish of Special Concern. Originally, the fluvial Arctic Grayling was widespread throughout the upper Missouri river drainage as far downstream as Great Falls. Lewis and Clark made note of these "new kind of white or silvery trout" in 1805. The lake-dwelling form is fairly common in 30 or more lakes across the western half of the state. These lake fish are genetically, but not visibly, different from our native fluvial Arctic Grayling. Grayling are gullible to the angler's lures and also seem to be easily out-competed by other salmonid species. This probably explains much of their demise from their native range. They are spring spawners and broadcast their eggs over a gravel bottom in moving streams. Grayling can overpopulate, producing severely stunted populations in some mountain lakes. Grayling are truly a unique Montana species. The iridescent hues of a spawning grayling's dorsal fin are brilliant. Exceptional individuals can weigh up to 3 pounds and reach 20 inches in length. They are generalists, eating a variety of aquatic invertebrates (Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks).
The "brookie" or brook trout (Salvelinus fontinalis) was introduced to Montana from eastern North America in 1889. It too, was extensively propagated and stocked in the early half ... moreof this century, although seldom so today. Brook trout favor small, cold, headwaters streams and ponds, particularly those that are spring-fed. Brook trout are common throughout most of the western two-thirds of the state in all major drainages. Many an angler learned to fish for brookies as a kid. Spawning occurs in typical trout-like fashion with eggs deposited in a gravel redd during the fall. Brook trout are frequently able to spawn successfully in ponds which have upwelling springs. Brook trout will eat nearly any living organism, and larger fish can be voracious predators on other fish and even their own young. Brook trout are a handsome game fish in their own right, but indiscriminate stocking in mountain lakes has resulted in irreversibly stunted populations in many cases. Trophy brook trout up to 9 pounds have been taken in Montana waters.
The brown trout (Salmo trutta) belongs to a different genus than our native trout species. They evolved in Europe and western Asia and were introduced to North America in 1883 and ... moreto Montana in 1889 in the Madison River. Today brown trout are found throughout most of Montana except the northwest and parts of the east. Generally, they prefer lower gradient, larger streams than cutthroat and rainbow, and they also do well in many reservoirs. Brown trout were widely stocked in the first half of this century, but today most come from natural reproduction. Brown trout are great competitors and generally are more tolerant of dewatering and other environmental disturbances than our other trout species. The state record is 29 pounds, and large fish are not at all uncommon, although 12-20 inches is the usual size range of adults. Brown trout spawn in gravel redds like our native trout but their spawning season is in the fall. This gives them a distinct advantage in some habitats since their spawning and incubation period lies outside the irrigation season. Brown trout are more predaceous than rainbow or cutthroat. Large fish often feed at night on other fish as well as crayfish and other invertebrates.
The native Bull Trout (Salvelinus confluentus) has been determined to be a separate species from the coastal Dolly Varden. Bull Trout are found in the Clark Fork and Flathead drainages ... moreof western Montana, and their slowly declining trend has led to their designation as a threatened species. Bull Trout are a sensitive species that do not tolerate high sediment levels in their spawning streams. Sediment can suffocate the developing embryos before they hatch. In Flathead Lake, where they achieve trophy sizes of up to 25 pounds, the Bull Trout life cycle has been studied extensively. Adult Bull Trout ascend the North and Middle forks of the Flathead River to spawn in small tributary streams; in some cases traveling well over 100 miles in a few months. They spawn in the fall and the adults return to the lake. Young fish may spend up to three years in the tributaries before returning to mature in Flathead Lake. In other river systems, Bull Trout may be a resident stream fish.

Often, native Bull Trout have been displaced through competitive interaction with introduced Brook Trout. Bull Trout and Brook Trout will interbreed, resulting in sterile hybrids, which leads to a further decrease in Bull Trout populations. The Bull Trout may be considered the Grizzly Bear of the fish world in relationship to its need for unaltered habitat. Young Bull Trout feed primarily on aquatic invertebrates but adults eat mostly other fish (Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks). Resident adults are 15 to 30 centimeters in length whereas migratory adults commonly exceed 60 centimeters (Rieman and McIntyre 1993).
The golden trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss aguabonita) is a California species that was introduced in Montana in 1907. There are currently about 20 golden trout populations in the high ... moremountain lakes of western and southcentral Montana. They provide a unique opportunity to catch a beautiful fish in a pristine environment. Golden trout up to 4 pounds have been caught in Montana but typical size is usually 6-12 inches. Golden trout are spring spawners and can usually be found in inlet or outlet streams to high mountain lakes around the Fourth of July. Like other mountain lake trout species, they are opportunistic feeders, surviving off a variety of aquatic and terrestrial invertebrates.
One of two Pacific salmon species in Montana, the chinook salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha), was introduced into Fort Peck Reservoir during the 1980s in an effort to produce a trophy ... morefishery. Like all Pacific salmon species, the chinook dies after spawning. It is doubtful that these fish will reproduce in Fort Peck, but due to their intense homing instinct they will return to where they were stocked when they are ready to spawn. They may then be captured and artificially propagated in the hatchery. While still experimental, chinooks of over 25 pounds have already been captured in Montana. Chinook, also known as "king salmon", are intense fish predators as adults.
Cisco (Coregonus artedi) is Montana's newest fish species. They were introduced by the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks into Fort Peck Reservoir in 1984, from Saskatchewan, ... moreto act as a forage fish for walleye and lake trout. They have produced a rapidly expanding self-reproducing population. Studies are ongoing to determine the value of cisco as a forage fish. Cisco, also known as lake herring, are widespread across eastern and central Canada. They spawn in the fall in shallow water. Cisco are an open water or pelagic species, forming large schools at medium depths where they feed mostly on plankton.
Columbia River Redband Trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss gairdneri) are a native trout of western North America. There is considerable variation in the life history in this group of trout. ... moreResident stream populations are found throughout the Columbia River basin. A lake variation known as Kamloops are found in some larger lakes in the Columbia and Frasier River (British Columbia) basins. A third variation is the steelhead that migrated from the ocean as far as the upper Snake River, Idaho (almost 1000 miles) (Behnke 1992).
The kokanee is the landlocked version of the sockeye salmon. Kokanee were first introduced into Montana in Flathead Lake in 1914 and are currently fairly widespread in the western ... morehalf of the state on both sides of the Divide. Kokanee can achieve sizes of 3 to 5 pounds but 1-pounders are most common. The size of kokanee in Montana waters is a function of two factors, their own population density and the abundance of their available food supply. Kokanee are strictly plankton feeders and they can rapidly overpopulate, resulting in large numbers of stunted fish. Kokanee spawn naturally in many Montana waters. They either run upstream from their lake habitat or spawn along the lake shorelines in the fall. Most kokanee reach sexual maturity in their fourth year of life and they then undergo a dramatic transformation prior to spawning. The silvery specimen seen here becomes a smooth-skinned, red-colored spawning fish with large hooked jaws and teeth on the males. All the adults die after spawning, making for a tremendous food source for bald eagles, grizzly bears, and other animals. Kokanee are very sensitive to water temperature and school in lakes at a certain depth. Once located, they are readily caught and provide excellent sport as well as table fare.
The Lake Trout (Salvelinus namaycush) is a char of the same genus as Bull Trout and Brook Trout. Lake Trout are native in the St. Mary and Missouri River drainages and have been introduced ... moreto a few other scattered mountain lakes, Flathead Lake, and Fort Peck Reservoir. Lake Trout are a major game fish in much of Canada and were at one time a staple of the Great Lakes fishery. In Montana, the Lake Trout of Flathead Lake have achieved trophy status, growing to 42 pounds. Lake Trout inhabit very deep, cold lakes, living in water up to 200 feet deep. They spawn in the fall on the rocky substrate of the shoreline. They scatter or broadcast their spawn, a rarity in the trout group. Small Lake Trout feed on plankton and aquatic invertebrates but fish over 2 to 3 pounds eat a fish diet. Lake Trout are a highly-prized food fish in Canada and are catching on as a game fish in Montana with the advent of downriggers, electronic fish finders, and other specialized techniques.
The lake whitefish (Coregonus clupeaformis) is the largest of our four whitefish species. They commonly weigh 2 to 4 pounds, and the state record is 10 pounds. The lake whitefish has ... morea deep, flat-sided body and is found mainly in the depths of clear, cold lakes across northwest and north-central Montana. All Montana whitefish are fall spawners. Adult lake whitefish move into the shore zone to broadcast their spawn randomly over a rocky bottom. Lake whitefish are schooling cold-water fishes and feed at depths often over 200 feet on plankton and other invertebrates. The lake whitefish is the most valuable commercial freshwater fish in Canada, but in Montana it is just beginning to catch on as a game fish in the Flathead Lake area.
The mountain whitefish (Prosopium williamsoni) is familiar to most Montanans. This widespread native fish is primarily a stream-dwelling species, but populations are also found in ... morereservoirs and lakes. The mountain whitefish is found in abundance in most clear, cold rivers in the western drainages and eastern mountain front of Montana. The typical mountain whitefish is a cylindrical 10-16 inch fish, but they can reach a weight of 5 pounds. Trout fishermen frequently catch several whitefish for every trout taken. They are considered a nuisance by some anglers, but are sought after by others. Whitefish provide forage for larger trout. They have evolved with our native trout and have been shown to provide little competition with trout. Their pointed snout and small round mouth makes them efficient at vacuuming invertebrates from the substrate while trout tend to feed more on drifting insects. Mountain whitefish often congregate in large schools on their fall-spawning runs to broadcast their adhesive eggs over gravel bars in tributary streams. Mountain whitefish are one of our most important native gamefish because of their abundance and willingness to take a bait or artificial fly.
Pygmy Whitefish (Prosopium coulteri) are a native salmonid in northwestern Montana. They seldom exceed 15.2 to 20.3 cm (6 to 8 in.) in length. Their overall appearance is silvery or ... morewhite, except for an olive-brown back. The snout overhangs the mouth, the jaw lacks visible teeth, there is a single flap between the nostrils on each side, the eye is large (about the same diameter as the snout length), the transparent membrane surrounding the eye has a distinct notch below the rear edge of the pupil. The body is round in cross-section, the scales relatively large, with 54 to 79 along the lateral line, 31 to 40 around the body, and 16 to 20 around the caudal peduncle (Brown 1971, Page and Burr 1991, Holton and Johnson 1996).
The rainbow trout is a very popular sport fish. It is silver colored with black spots over its body, dorsal and caudal fins. Adult fish have a distinctive "rainbow" band along the ... moreside of their body.

Rainbow trout are native to many water. They are an easy fish to raise in a hatchery and are stocked. In many cases, rainbow were stocked in both their native and new areas. Today, they are found in lakes, ponds, rivers and small streams throughout the states.

There are many varieties of rainbow trout; some of the varieties have nicknames. We usually think of rainbow trout as a beautiful, but small fish that can be caught most places, most times of the year. 

Kamloop are a type of rainbow trout that was introduced into Idaho. A Kamloop lives part of its life in a lake, and part of its life in a river or small stream. In lakes, Kamloop grow rapidly and many are over 10 pounds when they are caught. A few may get to be over 30 pounds. In fact, the world record rainbow trout was a 39-pound Kamloop from Lake Pend Oreille. Steelhead are a native type of rainbow trout that are anadromous. Anadromous means they spawn in freshwater streams, go to the ocean to grow, and return to fresh water as adults. They are common to the Clearwater, Snake and Salmon rivers.

Life History
Rainbow, Kamloop and steelhead spawn in streams from mid-April to late June. They use areas of gravel, or cobble, depending on the size of the fish. The female rainbow selects a place in a riffle area below a pool to dig a redd (nest). The female displaces the gravel with her body and tail, and the male fertilizes the eggs as they are deposited. The female covers the eggs with gravel by continuing upstream and the current carries the gravel over the eggs.

The eggs hatch in early to midsummer. The young fish may live in the stream a few months, several years, or their entire life. The juvenile Kamloop and steelhead migrate to other waters, usually after two years of rearing in the stream. The juvenile fish that migrate to lakes or the ocean will grow rapidly. The growth of those that remain in the stream varies with the amount of food and temperature of stream.

When they mature and are ready to spawn, the rainbow, Kamloop, and steelhead migrate back to the place they were born. The age of sexual maturity depends on the type of rainbow and where it lives. Most rainbow require 3 to 5 years to mature.

Spawning habitat is not available in many lakes and periodic stocking is required to replenish the population.

Feeding Habits
Rainbow trout eat insects and zooplankton in the water or on the surface. They will also feed on small fish and fish eggs. As they get larger, especially the Kamloop, they will eat larger fish. Adult steelhead holding in the river prior to spawning do not eat much, but will strike at food or lures.

Angling Techniques
The rainbow is popular with anglers. They are widely distributed in accessible waters. They have a reputation for being strong fighters which makes them popular with novice and experienced anglers alike. There are as many ways to catch rainbow trout as there are fishing methods. Rainbow will take all types of bait and lures including trolling spoons, spinners, salmon eggs, corn, or even marshmallows. Many anglers use either fly casting or spinning equipment. Knowing what they commonly feed on in that specific area will help you to choose the right bait. Ice fishing for rainbows is also popular. Usually a bait of worms, maggots, or corn is suspended off the bottom.
The Westslope Cutthroat Trout (Oncorhynchus clarkii lewisi) is one of two subspecies of native cutthroat found in the state. Together, they have been designated Montana's state fish. ... moreCutthroat trout are so named for the red slashes near the lower jaws. The Westslope Cutthroat Trout's historical range was all of Montana west of the Continental Divide as well as the upper Missouri River drainage. This fish has been seriously reduced in its range by two primary factors: hybridization with Rainbow and/or Yellowstone Cutthroat Trout, and habitat loss and degradation. Since the Westslope is recognized as a very important part of our native fish fauna it has been designated a Montana Fish of Special Concern in Montana. Pure Westslope Cutthroat Trout have been identified by genetic analysis and form the broodstock maintained by the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife, and Parks at its Anaconda hatchery. The average size of these fish is 6 to 16 inches, depending on habitat, but they rarely exceed 18 inches in length.

Westslope Cutthroat Trout are common in both headwaters lake and stream environments. They feed primarily on aquatic insect life and zooplankton. Cutthroat spawn in the spring in running water, burying their eggs in a nest called a redd. The eggs hatch in a few weeks to a couple of months. The newborn fry frequently migrate back to lakes to rear after 1 to 2 years in their native stream. Westslope Cutthroat Trout is a trout with small, non-rounded spots, with few spots on the anterior body below the lateral line. Coloration varies, but generally is silver with yellowish hints, though bright yellow, orange, and especially red colors can be expressed to a much greater extent than on coastal or Yellowstone Cutthroat Trout (Behnke 1992). Hybridization between Westslope and Yellowstone Cutthroat Trout can produce a spectrum of spotting and coloration ranging between the typical patterns of each subspecies. Some populations that have been affected by hybridization show little or no phenotypic signs of hybridization (Behnke 1992). Hybridization with Rainbow Trout can be detected by the appearance of spots on the top of the head and on the anterior body below the lateral line, as well as by reduced scale counts, increased caecal counts, and loss of basibranchial teeth (Behnke 1992).
The Yellowstone Cutthroat Trout (Oncorhynchus clarkii bouvieri) is one of two cutthroat trout subspecies in Montana. They have a golden coloration and larger spots more widely distributed ... moreon their sides than the Westslope Cutthroat Trout. The Yellowstone Cutthroat, as the name implies, is native to the Yellowstone River drainage of southwest and south-central Montana. Originally their range was as far downstream as the Tongue River, but today pure, unhybridized populations are limited to some headwaters streams and Yellowstone National Park. Yellowstone Cutthroat Trout are a Montana Fish of Special Concern. Much of their spawning habitat in tributaries of the upper Yellowstone River has been lost to irrigation withdrawals which dewater the streams before spawning and egg-incubation are completed in July and August. The Big Timber hatchery of the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife, and Parks maintains a pure Yellowstone Cutthroat broodstock. Yellowstone Cutthroat Trout are used extensively for mountain lake stocking on the east slope of the Rocky Mountains and in the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness where they can grow to sizes up to 15 pounds. In general, Yellowstone Cutthroat Trout are larger than Westslope Cutthroat Trout and more prone to eat fish as part of their diet.
The largemouth bass (Micropterus salmoides) is the largest and most widely acclaimed gamefish in the sunfish family. Largemouth are true warmwater fish, thriving in temperatures up ... moreto 90 F in their native southeastern U.S. The largemouth bass may be the most widely introduced species in North America and are now found virtually all across the continent as well as east and west of the Divide in Montana. Another spring spawning nest-builder, the largemouth bass prefers habitat that is very warm, such as weedy ponds or sloughs. They are seldom found in rivers or in waters deeper than 20 feet. An aggressive and opportunistic surface-feeder, largemouth bass are primarily fish-eaters. They also will eat nearly any other water-borne animal on occasion. The Montana record largemouth bass is a little over 8 pounds, but the world record is 22 pounds. Largemouth bass do well in many marginal trout ponds but are subject to winterkill and often need to be restocked.
The northern pike (Esox lucius) is Montana's lone representative of the pike family. It is native to Montana only in the Saskatchewan River drainage on the east side of Glacier Park. ... moreHowever, widespread introduction, both legal and illegal, now makes the northern pike a common gamefish statewide except for southwest Montana. Northern pike thrive in standing or slow-moving waters of lakes, reservoirs, and streams, especially where dense vegetation grows. Because of their voracious fish-eating habits they can literally eliminate their food supply in only a few years, leaving a population of terminally-stunted "hammerhandles." It is for this reason that widespread illegal pike introductions in western Montana have become a fishery manager's nightmare. And in the prairie streams of eastern MT, pike have caused widespread elimination of multiple native prairie minnow species (that did not evolve with predatory fish) in permanent and intermittent drainages. Northern pike spawn in early spring just after ice-off. They broadcast their eggs over flooded shoreline vegetation. The eggs adhere to the vegetation until the young are ready to swim on their own. Northern pike can grow to nearly 40 pounds in Montana and provide a truly outstanding sport and food fish in the appropriate waters.
The smallmouth bass (Micropterus dolomieu) has been called "pound for pound the best fighting game fish alive." Smallmouth are native to eastern central North America but were widely ... morepropagated in hatcheries and planted as early as the mid-1800s. They were first transplanted to Horseshoe Lake near Bigfork in 1914 and are still being introduced in selected locations by the Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks. Smallmouth bass are primarily a stream fish but are also doing well in reservoirs like Fort Peck and Tongue River where specimens over 5 pounds have been taken. Smallmouth are spring, nest-building spawners. Due to erratic spring weather, nesting failure in Montana is not unusual. Smallmouth bass eat insects, frogs, crayfish, and fish.
There are conflicting ideas among experts as to whether the walleye (Sander vitreus) is native to Montana or not. Regardless, it is one of the most important sport fishes in Montana's ... moreeastern drainage and elsewhere in the U.S. and in Canada, where the walleye is a much sought-after commercial fish as well. Its flesh is of the highest quality. In recent years some sportsmen's groups in Montana have aggressively pursued the increased planting of walleye and promoted walleye fishing tournaments. Sometimes walleye hybridize with sauger, producing sterile saugeye. Adult walleye largely eat fish and for the most part are lake and reservoir dwellers. Walleye are so named because of their large, reflective eyes which are very light-sensitive. They are very active at night.