Montana Power Boat Fishing Trips: Intro

Montana power boat fishing trips allow Yellowstone Country Fly Fishing’s guides and guests to access stretches of the Missouri River and area lakes that are either inaccessible to or unsuited to fishing from oar-powered boats or from shore.

Many of these fisheries hold the largest trout in our operations area and lots of them, a rare two-for-one combination. On our most popular power boat trip destination, the Hauser Dam tailwater on the Missouri River, the average rainbow trout runs 14 to 20 inches and trout to 24 inches are common. This fishery’s nickname “Land of the Giants” is well-earned, but big fish are possible in most reservoirs, as well.

angler and large rainbow trout caught on a montana jet boat fishing trip

Big trout on Montana jet boat fishing trips don’t care if you forgot to rub in the sunscreen on your nose. Just don’t touch your flies with stinky hands!

The boat we use on Montana power boat fishing trips is an aluminum jon boat-style craft set up with a tunnel hull prop motor for accessing rivers too shallow for normal prop boats while performing better than jet boats on lakes. We’ve modified these boats with drift boat-style oarlocks and anchor systems for efficient drift-fishing, plus a remote-steer trolling motor and assorted fish finders for lake fishing.

Montana Power Boat Fishing Trips: Where and When?

We offer power boat trips on the “Land of Giants” section of the Missouri River and on several area reservoirs. Of these, Land of Giants is by far the most popular destination.

One of the great advantages of Land of the Giants is that it offers excellent fishing for most of the year. In fact, wade-fishing this area is possible year-round. Ice at the marina on Upper Holter Lake where we launch the boat is the largest limiting factor in jet boat trip availability. We are able to offer jet boat trips from mid-March through November except when high winds make crossing Holter Lake hazardous. Good fishing is possible through this entire period, though crowds are high in late April and early May.

client and large rainbow trout caught on a Missouri River Montana jet boat fishing trip

Late May rainbows usually get fat and silvery once they’re done spawning.

The peak fishing in our opinion is from mid-March through mid-April, from mid-May through mid-July, and from mid-October until it gets too cold to stand racing across a lake at 35mph in an open boat.

Trips on the Montana reservoirs within our operations area are available from ice-out in April through June. The reservoirs on which we guide are all about 90 minutes away. Willow Creek or Harrison Reservoir is located near Harrison (surprise), while Newlan Creek Reservoir, Lake Sutherlin, Bair Reservoir, and Martinsdale Reservoir are all located within 20-30 minutes of White Sulphur Springs, north of Livingston.

Montana Power Boat Fishing Trips: The Fishing

Most fishing on Montana jet boat fishing trips is subsurface. On the Missouri River, this means fishing with nymphs, streamers, and in the right seasons with egg imitations. On area lakes, we typically use leeches, mayfly nymphs, and chironomids.

Dry fly fishing is possible but never guaranteed. The best dry fly fishing opportunities occur on reservoirs in early June (including Upper Holter Reservoir where we launch for Land of Giants trips) and on the Missouri River in late June and July. At other times, any dry fly fishing will be a pleasant shock.

scenery and anglers on missouri river

Beatiful scenery is common on many of our jet boat fishing trips.

Most fishing on Missouri River jet boat fishing trips takes place “on the drift.” We motor up to the top of a good run, then drift over it as though we’re fishing from a large and ungainly drift boat. When we’ve completed a drift of anywhere from 100 yards to half a mile in length, we’ll motor back to the top and repeat the process.

If conditions warrant, we may also anchor to fish small-scale structure thoroughly or get out to wade-fish good riffles. These slower-paced tactics are more likely during the summer when we have fewer bank anglers to worry about and lower flows

On area reservoirs, we may anchor up to fish good weed lines or drop-offs or fish on a wind-drift if gentle winds are pushing us along areas of good structure. Usually we’ll combine the wind-drift with fishing using a trolling motor, since it’s uncommon for the wind to push us exactly where and how we want. Some wade-fishing is possible on lakes that lack abundant bank access, though this is uncommon since areas inaccessible to bank anglers are usually deep weed beds, heavily-wooded, or are otherwise more-suited to fishing from the boat.

Power Boat Trip Rates

The increased expenses of operating a power boat, increased licensing costs, and high access fees mean power boat trips run a bit more expensive than most of our trips through most of the season. The rate for one or two clients is $675 per day from March 15 through June, $725 per day from July 1 through September, and $675 per day from October 1 until the marina where we launch closes sometime in early November.

Less than 1% of all Montana fishing guides and outfitters have the necessary boats, additional insurance, and federal captain’s licenses to run power boat trips. For this reason, power boat trip availability is very limited, especially in the July through September peak season. While we have a few other guides to call when Walter is busy, he runs the vast majority of our jet boat trips. We suggest booking jet boat trips as early as you can. Short-term availability from July through September in particular is basically nonexistent.

Our power boats can handle two clients at a maximum combined weight of 460lbs to remain under our boats’ weight capacity rating of 685lbs. Since these trips operate on federally-navigable waterways under Coast Guard jurisdiction, we must remain under these capacities, no exceptions.

Even small Montana reservoirs can become unsafe due to high winds. We reserve the right to cancel or cut short power boat trips if unsafe winds or lightning are forecast. We don’t want to turn into statistics. Several fishing clients (not ours!) have died in the past few seasons when their guides went out when they shouldn’t have or stayed out after conditions went south. Cancellations will receive full refunds, while trips cut short may have prorated discounts depending on how much time on the water is lost.

smiling angler and montana fishing guide on Montana jet boat fishing trip

Smiles abound on jet boat fishing trips.

Note on Lodging

The launch for our Montana jet boat fishing trips on the “Land of Giants” stretch of the Missouri River is located 20 miles north of Helena, Montana. This is about 2hr 20min from our base in Livingston. As such, most guests will be happier staying in Helena, Wolf Creek (20mi further north), or Craig (25mi further north) to fish this water. We’re more than willing to run day trips meeting in Livingston or Bozeman if clients are willing to meet early and get home late, but it’s a long haul from here. If you opt to stay in Helena, we can arrange to meet at or near your lodgings before heading up to the put-in. If you stay in Wolf Creek or Craig, we’ll meet at Land of Giants Marina where we launch. The marina is only 1.5mi from Interstate 15 on a paved road, and there’s plenty of parking.

Nearby reservoirs are all located much closer to Livingston and Bozeman, so there’s no need for alternate lodgings for Montana jet boat fishing trips on area lakes.

large spring rainbow trout caught on Montana jet boat fishing trip

Large early April rainbow, ready for release.