Glacier National Park is best known for its spectacular scenery, wildlife, and backcountry hiking opportunities. Nearly 1.5 million visitors come to the park each year to experience its grandeur. Straddling the Continental Divide in northwestern Montana along the Canadian border, Glacier Park features rugged mountain peaks and some fifty glaciers. Wildflowers blanket the high mountain valleys and grassy meadows. Wildlife abounds—mountain goats, bighorn sheep, elk, moose, deer, black bears, and, most notably, grizzly bears. Glacier Park is one of the grizzly’s few remaining strongholds in the lower United States. Thus, for most people, fishing is a secondary attraction to Glacier Park. But the park offers good fishing opportunities, highlighted by the chance to catch a variety of native species from Glacier’s pristine waters. In many sections of the park, fish are small due to cold and nutrient-poor waters that limit insect populations and fish growth. However, some lakes provide anglers a chance to catch trophy fish. And almost anywhere anglers go in Glacier, they’ll be surrounded by extraordinary beauty. Waters from the park flow into three oceans. The west side of the park drains into the north and middle forks of the Flathead River, eventually reaching the Pacific Ocean. East of the Continental Divide, park waters drain north into the St. Mary River and south via the Missouri River, eventually reaching the Arctic and Atlantic oceans, respectively. Native species of concern to park management programs include the westslope cutthroat trout and bull trout. Historically, westslope cutthroat trout were found throughout the waters of the Columbia River system, but they were eliminated in many areas. Populations remain strong in Glacier Park, however, providing the main catch for anglers today. Lake trout, native only to lakes east of the Divide, were introduced into several lakes on the west side of the park. These fish get very large, often exceeding 15 pounds in some park lakes, but the introduction of lake trout has decimated bull trout population on the west side by out-competing bull for their cutthroat food source. Bull trout are native to the Columbia and Saskatchewan River drainages of Glacier Park. Bull trout are known for their remarkable spawning runs, and many “park” fish are spawners from Flathead Lake, more than 30 miles to the south. All bull trout caught must be immediately released. Kokanee salmon were introduced throughout Glacier Park during the early 1930s and continue to thrive in several park lakes. Kokanee from Flathead Lake once spawned in large numbers in lower McDonald Creek each fall, attracting a spectacular concentration of bald eagles. But this kokanee population collapsed and now the eagles gather in lesser numbers at Lake Koocanusa and along the upper Missouri River. Grayling is another introduced species that now receives special management consideration. The grayling survives only in a few isolated waters in Montana and is considered in need of special support. Experts believe Glacier is within the grayling’s historic range, and the park provides needed grayling habitat today.
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