Just east of Shelby, Tiber Reservoir (AKA Lake Elwell) is one of the most versatile recreational areas in Montana. The lake provides excellent year-round angling for walleye, northern pike, sauger, native trout, ling, and perch, and has over 178 miles of shoreline, a marina, and five well-maintained boat ramps located strategically around the lake. There are also numerous campground areas. Tiber is a whopping 14,842 acres and one of the largest earthen dikes in the world – over three miles long. It is also home of the current Montana state walleye record. It is easy to locate likely walleye hangouts; however, the walleye can be temperamental, making the fishing unpredictable at times.
Canyon Ferry Reservoir
Canyon Ferry Dam and reservoir are located about 50 miles downstream from where the Gallatin, Madison, and Jefferson Rivers join to form the Missouri River. The reservoir has approximately 35,200 water surface acres, 9,360 land acres, and 76 miles of shoreline, and offers excellent fishing opportunity for rainbow trout, perch, ling, and walleye. There are three marina concessions (Goose Bay Marina, Kim’s Marina, and Yacht Basin Marina) on the reservoir which provide a variety of public recreation facilities. Action begins in June and lasts well into summer. In early summer, look for crowds of boats on the lake’s south end. Walleyes move northward into deeper waters through summer and fall.
Lake Frances is a small 3,616 acre reservoir, basically right in the town of Valier. It is known for great walleye fishing. You can see its famous “lighthouse” restaurant while fishing out on the lake. A campground with electrical hookups, bathroom facilities, and a playground is right on the shoreline and there is also a motel and bed and breakfast in Valier. Lake Frances is owned and operated by the local irrigation district, so it gets drawn down significantly late in the summer.
Fresno Reservoir near Havre has an elevation of 2,575 feet. There are 7,388 surface acres, 25,618 land acres, and 65 miles of shoreline. Fresno Dam was completed in 1939 as part of the Milk River Project, providing water for irrigation in the lower Milk River Valley. With views of the Bear Paw Mountains to the south, Fresno Reservoir has become one of the most popular recreation areas in northcentral Montana and is known as one of the best warm-water fisheries in the state.
Holter Lake, formed by Holter Dam on the Missouri River, is a very popular lake, both for fishing and for pleasure boating in Montana. Formed by the dam, Holter Lake (also known as Holter Reservoir) is 25 miles long. About 45 miles northeast of Helena, the lake has very good fishing for rainbow trout, as well as walleye and perch. (Rainbow trout and walleye historically have been the most abundant game species in the reservoir. Suckers and yellow perch are the most abundant nongame species.)
At an elevation of 2,500 feet, the recreation area encompasses 288 acres east of Malta. A campground is available, offering several tent and trailer camping spots and basic facilities, including restrooms and drinking water. Swimming, fishing, and boating may be enjoyed with the convenience of a boat launch at the site. Groceries and food service are available within one mile. June is the best month to fish this lake. Nelson is also a good spot to catch walleyes through the ice.
Fort Peck Lake
Fort Peck is the fifth largest artificial lake in the United States. It extends 134 miles through central Montana, and its twisting, inlet-studded shoreline has a total length of some 1,520 miles. Along with the Missouri River, smaller tributaries such as the Musselshell River, Fourchette Creek, Timber Creek, Hell Creek, and Dry Creek feed the reservoir; the latter forms the longest side arm of the reservoir, which reaches some 30 miles southwards. The lake covers an area of 245,000 acres making it the largest in Montana by surface area. Starting in May, the fishing here is best in the upper reaches and Big Dry Arm. As summer progresses and waters warm, good fishing extends to the reservoir’s middle reaches and dam area.