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Native Fish

Overview

As a group, all 56 native fish still inhabit Montana but some are facing a long fight for survival. Most of our best-known fish- rainbow trout, brown trout, largemouth bass, and walleye- are not native to Montana, but were introduced by newcomers as sport fish.

Montana's native fish adapted to a life in mountain and prairie streams over thousands of years- enduring wild spring floods, summer droughts, and long, cold winters.

As new settlers changed Montana's landscape, the cycle of life changed for Montana's native fish as well. The eventual planned and unplanned introductions of non-native fish also added new challenges to our native fishes' struggle to survive in Montana waters.

Like a family heirloom passed from generation to generation, Montana's native cutthroat trout are among the treasures that make Montana such a special place. Montana's native fish are Nature's Keepers and it's up to all of us to keep it that way.

Management Plan

Today, many Montanans are rallying to learn more about our nearly forgotten and somewhat mysterious native fish. Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks' Native Fish Management Plan will help native fish populations and their habitats. Montana's plan seeks to:

  • Monitor the presence, distribution and abundance of Montana's native fish.
  • Maintain or enhance Montana's native fish populations and habitats.
  • Encourage participation by Montana's scientific community, other state and federal agencies, and local communities to conserve and enhance our native fish populations and habitats.

Fishery Biologists

Steps in gathering information to learn more about Montana's native fish include:

  • Restoring native fish habitats and populations in targeted areas
  • Identifying important native fish spawning areas-where fish lay their eggs- and rearing ears- where newly hatched fish safely live and grow
  • Conducting statewide inventories of native fish populations
  • Creating conservation and recovery plans to keep native fish numbers from falling below levels that could trigger federal Endangered Species Act listings
  • Establishing management goals for all of Montana's native fish and their habitats

Names and Status of Native Fish

Fish Name
Game Fish
Fish of Concern
Endangered Species Act Status
Arctic Grayling
X
X
candidate species
Bigmouth Buffalo      
Blue sucker  
X
 
Brassy Minnow      
Brook Stickleback      
Bull Trout
X
X
threatened
Burbot
X
   
Channel Catfish
X
   
Creek Chub      
Emerald Shiner      
Fathead Minnow      
Flathead Chub      
Freshwater Drum      
Goldeye      
Interior Redband Trout
X
X
 
Iowa Darter      
Lake Chub      
Lake Trout
X
   
Lake Whitefish
X
   
Largescale Sucker      
Longnose Dace      
Longnose Sucker      
Mottled Sculpin -- see Rocky Mountain Sculpin
Mountain Sucker      
Mountain Whitefish
X
   
Northern Pike
X
   
Northern Pikeminnow      
Northern Redbelly Dace      
Northern Redbelly X Finescale Dace  
X
 
Paddlefish
X
X
 
Pallid Sturgeon
X
X
endangered
Peamouth      
Pearl Dace  
X
 
Plains Minnow      
Pygmy Whitefish
X
   
Redside Shiner      
River Carpsucker      
Rocky Mountain Sculpin      
Sand Shiner      
Sauger
X
X
 
Shorthead Redhorse      
Shorthead Sculpin      
Shortnose Gar  
X
 
Shovelnose Sturgeon
X
   
Sicklefin Chub  
X
 
Slimy Sculpin      
Smallmouth Buffalo      
Spoonhead Sculpin  
X
 
Stonecat      
Sturgeon Chub  
X
 
Torrent Sculpin  
X
 
Trout-perch  
X
 
Western Silvery Minnow      
Westslope Cutthroat Trout
X
X
 
White Sturgeon
X
X
endangered
White Sucker      
Yellowstone Cutthroat Trout
X
X