Located southeast of Hardin on Montana Highway 313, Bighorn Lake was created by the construction of Yellowtail Dam near Fort Smith in 1965. The 71-mile lake is in a peaceful setting of steep-sided canyons on the Bighorn River. The dam provides electric power, water for irrigation, flood control, and recreation. Fishing, boating, water-skiing, swimming, hiking, and camping are highly popular at this isolated southeastern Montana recreation site.
The entire lake is surrounded by the Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area, which extends into Wyoming. Due to the steepness of the canyon walls, there are very few places where you can pull a boat up to the bank and fish. However, the scenery in the canyons is spectacular. According to FWP fisheries biologist Steve Swedberg, Bighorn Lake is primarily a walleye fishery, with some limited rainbow and brown trout, and black crappie fishing. Largemouth bass and channel catfish inhabit the Wyoming end of the lake. Smallmouth bass have now become established in the lake and it could develop into a great fishery.
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