Montana Power Boat Fishing Trips: Intro
Montana power boat fishing trips allow Yellowstone Country Fly Fishing’s guides and guests to access area lakes that are either inaccessible to or unsuited to fishing from oar-powered boats or from shore. These lakes offer excellent fishing in May and June when the spring runoff makes most rivers unfishable, usually without the crowds found on the few rivers that are fishable.
In addition to area lakes, we have also previously offered power boat trips on the Land of Giants section of the Missouri River. We (foolishly) stopped renewing our access privileges at the private marina where boats are launched for this trip during the height of Covid, and are now bumped to the bottom of the list as far as commercial access privileges. We hope to renew this access over the next couple years. As of this writing in Jan. 2023, we’re #6 on the wait list.
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 several area reservoirs within 90 minutes of Livingston. We’re also exploring some new multi-day destinations further away, including areas that offer excellent bass and pike fishing as well as trout.
Power boat trips are available from April through Thanksgiving, but are most important in May and June when lakes can be at their best but most area rivers are too muddy.
Montana Power Boat Fishing Trips: The Fishing
Most fishing on Montana power boat fishing trips is subsurface. 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. At other times, any dry fly fishing will be a pleasant shock.
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. When sight-fishing for cruising trout or esoteric species like carp, we may use the trolling motor exclusively, or even oars, to creep up on our quarry.
Power Boat Trip Rates
The increased expenses of operating a power boat, increased licensing costs, mean power boat trips run a bit more expensive than our other trips through most of the season. Add $50 to our standard full-day or 3/4-day rates. During peak season, this works out to $650–$685 per day, a bit less during early spring and late fall.
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. 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 500lbs to remain under our boats’ weight capacity rating. Since many power boat 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. One way of dodging the wind is to get on the water early, so 3/4-day trips meeting at 5:00AM aren’t uncommon.