Montana Fishing License

Montana

One of Montana's most popular fishing spot for bass and rainbow trout is at Wadsworth Park in Great Falls. The many rivers such as the Gallatin, that fork off the Missouri River, are great for fly fishing. The Blackfoot River is home to Westslope Cutthroat, Rainbow Trout and Brook Trout. Fishing regulations in Montana are specific as each district has its own set of rules and regulations formulated as deemed necessary to local conditions.

Procuring a fishing license in Montana is accessible through the website of the Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks. There are different types of fishing licenses in Montana due to various fishing methods open for anglers. There are also different fishing licenses and conservation for residents and non-residents so it is best to read and learn about the different fishing licenses offered in Montana before buying.

The fishing regulations and laws in Montana are strictly implemented to ensure that the fish populations in all the waterways in the state are kept healthy and thriving not only today but in many years to come. The rules may vary based on the season, location and species for better coverage. It is highly suggested that anglers read the updated versions of the fishing regulations and rules before the fishing trip to prevent possible problems.

Montana's landscape and geography brought about diversity in its waterways. There are winding rivers, cold mountain streams, shallow streams and ponds, all teeming with various species of fish. To keep the many waterways of Montana and its fish population healthy and thriving, the fisheries administration of the state are on top of natural resources' conservation and preservation. Everyone can do his share in this aspect. Just picking up after one's own trash is a great help. Practicing correct catch and release technique greatly helps keep the fish population dense.


There’s a lot to see in Montana - the landscape, the people, the lakes, the reservoirs, and the biodiversity. It is one of the states that will give you an experience that you will never forget - especially if you went there to bring your family and bond together as you catch rainbow trout or bass at a place like Wadsworth Park in Great Falls. 

But before you go, you need to know that Montana also requires everyone - may it be locals or tourists - to help them protect their natural resources. If you are planning to fish in Montana’s state waters anytime soon, the first thing that you need to secure is the fishing and conservation licenses that they sell. The proceeds from fishing licenses go directly to the state’s efforts to protect the fish population by assisting fishery management, conservation efforts, habitat protection, and fishing education.

For most anglers and hobbyists, both the fishing license and the conservation license is required before fishing in any of its state waters. It can be a little complicated to some, but it’s actually quite simple. It’s definitely easy to pick one up, and the prices are very reasonable. Learn more about the licensing requirement in the state of Montana now and start enjoying the vastness of its water treasures. Here’s everything that you need to know:

What kind of license do you need to fish in Montana? 

Every angler, with some exemptions, is required to purchase at least two licenses before they are allowed to participate in any type of fishing on its state waters. The two licenses that the state requires are: 

  1. Conservation License - This license is required when purchasing fishing or a hunting license. Hence, if you plan to go fishing in Montana, you need to buy a conservation license first. Please note that pursuant to the law, a social security number and a valid photo ID is required when buying this type of license. 
  2. Fishing License - This license allows the owner to catch fish and possess fish or aquatic invertebrate authorized by the state’s fishing regulations across the state of Montana. A fishing license is valid from March 1 until the end of February the following year. It is also not transferable and non-refundable. Please note that holders of the fishing license are still subject to all state fishing regulations.

Where to buy a Montana Fishing and Conservation License? 

The state of Montana offers a few convenient ways to purchase a fishing and conservation license. You can get one at FWP offices, FWP License Providers, or Online

One important reminder if you want to purchase your license online is to double-check your purchase or application prior to the final submission as once an application has been entered, or an over the counter license has been purchased, it is final and cannot be changed.

Please note that licenses purchased requiring a harvest tag or decal will be sent to you, and should be received within ten days. For all other licenses, you will need to print permanent copies at the end of the transaction and/or send them to your email for later printing.

What is the residency requirement in the state of Montana? 

Resident anglers enjoy special privileges and discounted rates when purchasing the necessary fishing and conservation licenses in the state of Montana. To qualify for a resident license, a person must meet the following criteria:

  •  you must have physically been living in Montana for at least 180 consecutive days (six months) immediately before purchasing any resident license
  •  you must file Montana state income tax returns as a resident if you are required to file
  •  you must have registered your vehicles in Montana
  • if you are registered to vote, you must be registered in Montana
  •  you may not possess or apply for any resident hunting, fishing or trapping privileges in another state or country

In order to avail the perks of being a resident of Montana, anglers must present a valid Montana driver’s license, a valid Montana driver’s examiner’s identification card, or a tribal identification card. If you are unsure of your residency status, it is best to contact the Fish, Wildlife & Parks office for your questions. 

Different Fishing Licenses in Montana

As mentioned earlier, different licenses are required from anglers depending on their age, residency status, and other special privileges they hold. For your reference, here are the different licenses that you can purchase from the state of Montana: 

General Fishing License

Age

License Specifics

Conservation License

AIS Prevention Pass

License Fee

Total Cost

0-11

No license required. Must observe all limits and regulations.

12-17, 62 and older, or disabled

Resident

Resident Sportsman licenses includes a season fishing license.

$8

$2

$5 for 2 consecutive calendar days

$15

$10.50 for season

$20.50

18-61

Resident

Resident Sportsman licenses includes a season fishing license.

$8

$2

$5 for 2 consecutive calendar days

$15

$21 for season

$31

12 and older

Nonresident

Nonresident Combination licenses includes a season fishing license.

$10

$15

$25 for 2 consecutive calendar days

$50

$56 for 10 consecutive calendar days

$81

$86 for season

$111

In the state of Montana, resident anglers who are aged 12-17 years old or 62 or older (or disabled) must purchase a standard Conservation License for $8.00 and a $2 AIS Prevention Pass on top of a fishing license. The fishing license costs $5.00 for a two-day permit and $10.50 for the entire season. Meanwhile, residents from 18 years old to 61 years old have to pay $5.00 for a two-day permit or $21.00 for an annual fishing license. Resident anglers below 12 years old are not required to possess a license before fishing in Montana. 

On the other hand, non-residents who are 12 years old and older must purchase a Conservation License for $10.00 and an AIS Prevention Pass for $15.00 on top of a fishing license. Non-residents have the choice to purchase a 2-day permit for $25.00, a 10-day permit for $56.00, or a full season permit for $86. 

Paddlefish Tag

All anglers must purchase a Paddlefish tag to fish for Paddlefish. To purchase a tag, all anglers must have a valid Conservation License, an AIS Prevention Pass, and the required Fishing License. Please note that every person can only purchase one Paddlefish Tag. Here’s the breakdown of fees:

Paddlefish Tag

License Specifics

Conservation License

Season Fishing License

AIS Prevention Pass

Tag Fee

Drawing Fee (*Only for Upper Missouri)

Total Cost

Resident
Learn more here

$8

$10.50

$2

$6.50

$5

$37- $42

Nonresident
Learn more here

$10

$86

$15

$15

$5

$126- $131

Special Licenses

The state of Montana provides special rates and privileges to those who have special needs. Persons with disability can purchase their licenses for a discount while legally blind residents can avail a lifetime fishing license. Here are the summary of fees: 

Montana Resident with Disability

 

License Specifics

Conservation License

AIS Prevention Pass

License Fee

Total Cost

 

Resident

Must be permanently and substantially disabled, and certified by FWP. Application and licenses available at FWP offices and online.

$8

$2

$10.50

$20.50

 

Non-resident

Not available

Lifetime Fishing for the Blind

 

License Specifics

AIS Prevention Pass

One-Time License Fee

Initial Total Cost

 

Resident

Contact the HQ & Regional offices for information and an application.

$2

(This must be purchased once each license year.)

$10

$12

 

Nonresident

Not available

 

Daily Limits and other Fishing Regulations in Montana

The state of Montana is imposing standard daily catching and possession limits on regulated species, especially paddlefish. Here’s a matrix of the daily possession limits followed by the state: 

Species

Daily and Possession Limits

Brook trout

10 daily and in possession.

Combined trout includes Brown Trout, Rainbow Trout, Golden Trout and Arctic Grayling

Lakes/Reservoirs: 5 daily and 10 in possession, includes Cutthroat Trout.

Rivers/Streams: 5 daily and in possession.

Cutthroat Trout

Lakes/Reservoirs: included in the “Combined Trout” daily and possession limit.

Rivers/Streams: all Cutthroat Trout must be released immediately

Lake Trout

3 daily and 6 in possession.

Bass

5 daily and in possession.

Burbot (Ling)

5 daily and in possession

Channel Catfish

10 daily and 20 in possession.

Crappie

15 daily and 30 in possession.

Northern Pike

10 daily and in possession.

Paddlefish

1 per season and in possession. Tag required.

Pallid Sturgeon

None - this is an endangered species and all fish must be released immediately. All waters are closed to fishing for Pallid Sturgeon.

Salmon (Kokanee & Chinook)

5 daily and 10 in possession.

Sauger/Walleye

5 daily and 10 in possession.

Shovelnose Sturgeon

5 daily and in possession, none over 40 inches.

Tiger Muskie

1 daily and in possession, must be over 40 inches.

Whitefish

20 daily and 40 in possession.

For complete information about the different rules and fishing regulations in the state of Montana, please download the updated Montana Fishing Regulation Guidebook

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What is the validity of a Montana fishing license? 

The season fishing license is valid from March 1 through the last day of February the following day. Furthermore, please note that if you purchased a 2-day or a 10-day fishing license, it is only valid for 2 or 10 consecutive days following the purchase of the license. 

Q: Is there a free fishing day?
By Montana law, each year on Father’s Day weekend any person (resident or non-resident) may fish for any fish within this state without obtaining a fishing license as long as they abide by the seasons, restrictions and bag limits listed in these Fishing Regulations. The two exceptions to this are Paddlefish and Bull Trout fishing, both of which require the purchase of a Conservation and Fishing License. Fishing for Paddlefish also requires a Paddlefish tag. A catch card is required to fish for Bull Trout 

Q: What is an AIS Prevention Pass? 

The AIS Prevention Pass is required for all individuals who fish in Montana. This new program, initiated by the 2017 Montana Legislature and signed into law by Gov. Steve Bullock, is helping fund the fight against aquatic invasive species in Montana.