The main purpose of Glacier National Park is to preserve the natural beauty of the ecosystem and protect it from destruction. The park hopes to encourage an appreciation for the preservation of native fishes in natural and mostly undisturbed habitats. Fishing is allowed when consistent with preservation or restoration of aquatic environments. In order for the park to maintain these objectives, they had to put in place certain regulations and guidelines.

Closed Waters

The following areas are closed to fishing at all times:

  • Kintla Creek between Kintla Lake and Upper Kintla Lake
  • Upper Kintla Lake
  • Akokala Lake
  • Bowman Creek above Bowman Lake
  • Logging Creek between Logging Lake and Grace Lake
  • Cracker Lake
  • Slide Lake and the impounded pond below the lake
  • The following creeks are closed for their entire length: Ole, Park, Muir, Coal, Nyack, Fish, Lee, Otatso, Boulder, and Kennedy Creeks
  • North Fork and the Belly River
  • North Fork of the Flathead River within 200 yards of the mouth of Big Creek

Season and Possession Limits

The regular park fishing season for all of the waters in the park is from the third Saturday in May through November 30, except for the following:

  • Lake fishing is open year-round.
  • Waterton Lake season, catch and possession limits are the same as set by Canada. You may want to check Canadian regulations before fishing in these waters.
  • Lower Two Medicine Lake season, catch and possession limits are set by the Blackfeet nation. You should check Blackfeet Tribal regulations before fishing in these waters.
  • Hidden Lake and an area extending into Hidden Lake is closed to fishing during the cutthroat spawning season in order to protect the population of the cutthroat trout and reduce potential encounter for humans with bears.
  • If you are fishing from park lands along the North Fork of the Flathead River, catch and possession limits and other fishing regulations are applicable.
  • You must have a Montana fishing license when fishing from park lands or bridges along the Middle Fork of the Flathead River
  • The area stretching 400 yards from the shore between the Bowman Lake Ranger Station and the outlet of Bowman Lake is closed to fishing to protect the westslope cutthroat trout from May 1- June 15

Catch and Release Fishing

All of the waters west of the Continental Divide are subject to catch and release fishing for cutthroat trout. This area includes Midvale Creek in the Two Medicine River drainage and Wild Creek in the St. Mary River drainage. These trout must be handled carefully and immediately released back into the water. However, you may catch 2 cutthroat trout from Hidden, Evangeline, and Camas Lakes.

You may not catch bull trout and if you do, you must release it immediately back into the water. 

You may only catch a total of 5 fish including no more than: two cutthroat trout (only from Hidden, Evangeline, and Camas Lakes), two burbot (ling), one northern pike, two mountain whitefish, five lake whitefish, five kokanee salmon, five grayling, five rainbow trout, and five lake trout.

There is NO limit on lake trout in park waters west of the Continental Divide
There is NO limit on lake whitefish in Lake McDonald
There is a Parkwide brook trout daily catch and possession limit of 20 fish

Fish Consumption Advisory

If you are planning to eat any fish you have caught, be aware of any contaminants that the fish may have been exposed to. At Glacier, they believed all of their water to be pristine and free of pollutants. Later, they factored in the airborne pollution and contamination. For more information, visit the National Park Service’s website about Contaminants in Fish.

Stocking and Native Fish

The National Park Service used to stock all of the waters with fish to improve in sport fishing, but recently they stopped. This is because the more exotic fishes that were being introduced into the waters were killing off all of the native fish that were originally found in Glacier’s waters. There is a major competition for food and space that threatens the native species populations in many areas of the park. The native bull trout’s population has decreased immensely on the west side of the park where the lake trout have now invaded.

The National Park Service is trying to asses the status of native fish in the park so they can create programs to protect them and increase their populations.

Fish Identification

The native fish such as the bull trout and the westslope cutthroat trout can be identified from the other fish species in multiple ways:

Cutthroat trout had a red ‘slash’ under their lower jaw.

Bull trout have pink or orange spots on their sides with pale yellow spots on their back.

Lake trout have a deeply forked tail and numerous white (light) markings on their body with no pink or orange spots on their sides.

Brook trout have black markings on their back and dorsal fins along with red or orange spots on their sides surrounded by blue halos.

Many times younger bull trout rear in small streams and can be confused with brook trout. If you do not know what kind it is, LET IT GO.

Equipment and Bait

  • Fishing is allowed by hook and line only and you may only use one rod per person.
  • You must be closely attending the rod or line at all times.
  • You may only use artificial rods and lines.
  • Bait is only permitted when fishing in the Two Medicine drainage upstream of the Two Medicine bridge at the Running Eagle Falls, and in the Many Glacier upstream of the falls at the outlet of Swiftcurrent Lake.
  • You may never fish with nets, seines, traps, drugs, or explosives
  • You may not deposit fish eggs, roe, food, or other substances to attract fish
  • You may not snag fish in park waters or from park lands
  • You may not use felt-soled wading boots in order to prevent the introduction of Aquatic Invasive Species to park waters.
  • You may not use any lead associated with fishing, which includes weights, lures, jigs, line, etc. The only time there is an exception is if a fisherman is using a “down-rigger” may use cannon ball lead weights of two pounds or larger on the down-rigger cable.

Alternatives to lead would be non-toxic materials such as brass, steel, bismuth, and tungsten

Boating Permits

There has been a big problem at Glacier National Park with aquatic invasive species (AIS). These are non-native species that can be very harmful to native aquatic ecosystems. AIS has severely decreased the population size of the native bull trout. The lake trout has replaced the native bull trout as the top aquatic predator in many of the large lakes on the west side of Glacier. AIS can come in many forms which include animals such as zebra and quagga mussels, plants such as Eurasian watermilfoil, or pathogens such as whirling disease. These species can be on boats, trailers, float tubes, as well as waders and wading boots. In order to keep this area safe and preserve its natural beauty, please make sure to thoroughly clean, drain, and dry all of your boating, wading, and fishing equipment before coming to the park.

Cleaning Fish

If you are cleaning the fish in the backcountry, make sure to dispose of the entrails by puncturing the air bladder and depositing the entrails into deep water at least 200 feet from the nearest campsite or trail. Do not bury or burn entrails because they will attract bears.

When cleaning the fish, use garbage cans where available for entrail disposal

The skin MUST remain attached to any fish caught while in the park for staff identification purposes.

Ice Fishing

  • There are no motorized vehicles (snowmobiles, ATVs, autos) allowed at anytime on lakes, rivers, or streams.
  • Power augers are not allowed on any lake within Glacier National Park.
  • Shelters, bait, and all fishing equipment may not be left unattended.
  • You are not allowed to have an open fire at any time. Self-contained stoves with fuel may be used.
  • Undesignated camping is not allowed on lakes or lakeshores.
  • Toilets should be used if available. Otherwise, human waste should not be disposed within 100 yards of any water source and all paper must be taken with you.