Where to Fish Bighorn Lake


The 525-foot-high Yellowtail Dam impounds the Bighorn River at Fort Smith, Montana. Yellowtail Dam was completed in 1965 and changed a good warmwater fishery into a high quality tailwater trout fishery below the dam. Its construction created and made accessible Bighorn Lake which lies in a sand- and limestone-walled defile cut between the Bighorn and Pryor Mountains by the Bighorn River. Hundreds of feet down, within the Bighorn Canyon, water is backed up some 41 miles in Montana and 30 miles into Wyoming. In Montana, Bighorn Lake has a surface area of 5574 acres. Yellowtail Dam is used for peaking power with the Yellowtail Afterbay Dam 2 miles downstream functioning as a re-regulating facility. Because of the dam, streamflow in the river is relatively stable with little daily fluctuation. Bighorn Lake, like the river reach it inundated, supports a warmwater fishery.

Size 5574.0 acres
Elevation 3302.96 ft.
Directions
Status of the Fishery Some native species such as Sauger and reintroduced Shovelnose Sturgeon in the reservoir rely heavily on the Bighorn River in Wyoming for spawning habitat and recruitment. The reservoir does provide spawning for Smallmouth Bass, Channel Catfish and Ling. The reservoir is managed as a Walleye fishery. The reservoir offers limited natural recruitment and is therefore annually stocked with Walleye to maintain the fishery.In 2009 the strategy for maintaining Walleye changed from stocking typical/diploid Walleye fingerling to newly available triploid/sterile Walleye fingerling which were larger in size than the diploid fingerling.
Township/Range/Section 06S 31E 19
Latitude/Longitude 45.3062 -107.97335
FWP Region Region 5 
County Carbon
Fishing District Central

Main Contact

Michael Ruggles
Fisheries Biologist
mikeruggles@mt.gov
(406) 247-2963
Billings
Region 5


Manager

Ken Frazer
Fisheries Manager
kfrazer@mt.gov
(406) 247-2961
Billings
Region 5

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Waterbody Section Field Form Type Date Purpose Species
For Comparative analysis all Length Units are millimeters : all Weights are grams
Species Count Avg StdDev Min Max AvgWgt StdDevWgt MinWeight S/L Sects Surveys Waterbody
For Comparative analysis all Length Units are millimeters : all Weights are grams
Waterbody Section Species Count AveLength StdDevLength MinLength MaxLength AveWeight StdDevWeight MinWeight MaxWeight
For Comparative analysis all Length Units are millimeters : all Weights are grams
Waterbody Year Section Species Count AveLength StdDevLength MinLength MaxLength AveWeight StdDevWeight MinWeight MaxWeight
Year Angler Days Std. Error
2015 9713 1881
2013 6570 1484
2011 3601 605
2009 14858 2061

View the latest Montana Fishing Regulations.