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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.
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 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 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 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.
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 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.