Where to Wet a Line in Glacier Park

Angling tips to the lakes and streams of the Crown Jewel

An angler prepares to cast out into Lake McDonald while fishing near the Apgar Visitor Center in Glacier National Park. Lido Vizzutti

Glacier National Park’s ample angling opportunities are often eclipsed by its soaring peaks and sprawling network of trails, but with 27,023 acres of lakes, 563 streams, and 22 species of fish, there’s plenty of casting to do if you know which waters to ply.

A slim margin of park visitors come here exclusively to fish, so those who pack rods and reels can often find un-crowded banks, calming views, as well a few native trout. While weather and skill variables influence success, a few tips for Glacier’s waters can help.

With an abundance of high-alpine, nutrient-starved lakes, many of Glacier’s waters are populated with tiny, hungry trout that will nip the end of a pinky finger. But others are home to beautiful specimens of native cutthroat that will give your lines plenty of action.

When fishing in Glacier National Park, a fishing license is not required, provided all your fishing is done within the park itself. A Montana fishing license will be required if you plan on fishing in any of the rivers that form the southern and western borders of the park. General park fishing season is from the third Saturday in May, through Nov. 30, with some exceptions.

While keeping fish is highly discouraged in the park, it is not illegal. Be sure to read up on the park’s fishing restrictions and regulations before casting a line.

McDonald Creek
Located just inside the West Glacier Entrance Station, and tracking from Lake McDonald to the Middle Fork Flathead River, McDonald Creek is a popular spot for fishing due to its easy access and alluring views.

To protect the park’s cutthroat trout populations, catch-and-release fishing restrictions are in place, requiring anglers to use single hooks between Lake McDonald and the Quarter-Circle Bridge.
Slow crystalline water serves up a challenge for fly fishers who enjoy laying out delicate casts using long leaders and spider-silk tippet, but even if you spook the fish, this idyllic stretch of water is stunning eye-candy.

Hidden Lake
Due to its excellent fishing for Yellowstone cutthroat trout and its accessibility, this gorgeous lake receives high fishing pressure and catch-and-release restrictions are in place.

But anglers who don’t mind going the extra distance can easily find stretches of lakeshore away from the crowds, where the degrees of solitude increase the further you proceed.

Dry fly fishing requires patience to catch this lake’s reserve of spooky cuts, and streamers and nymphs, as well as sinking line, is a good idea to pack along.

Gunsight Lake
For hikers with a decent fitness level who enjoy high-elevation lakes, Gunsight Lake offers fishing for good-sized rainbow trout, as well as eight backcountry camping sites that must be reserved in advance.

The stunning turquoise lake sits beneath Jackson Glacier and Gunsight Pass, and requires a 6-mile hike from Jackson Glacier Overlook, located east of the Logan Pass Visitor Center.

Avalanche Lake
It’s worth packing along a rod, reel and fly box when taking the short, popular but always-rewarding trip to Avalanche Lake, which offers good fishing for tiny cutthroat from its banks, as well as good-sized trout for anglers willing to pack along an inflatable belly boat or walk to its more distant shores.