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Flathead Lake

Flathead Lake is the largest freshwater lake in the western United States, with over 200 square miles of water and around 85 miles of shoreline. It is considered one of the cleanest lakes in the world. The lake is bordered by the Salish Mountains to the west and the Mission Mountains to the east.

A number of public access sites along Flathead Lake are maintained by Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks. These include fishing access sites and state recreation areas. The recreation areas have boat launches, picnic facilities, camping areas, and toilets. Wild Horse Island, located near Flathead Lake's Big Arm Bay, is a state park that only has picnic facilities. The island can be accessed by boat, and is reserved for day use, only.

Flathead Lake offers a variety of recreational activities. Fishing, especially trout fishing, is extremely popular. In addition to fishing for trout, you can fish for whitefish, bass, pike, and yellow perch. Boating is common activity on Flathead Lake. You can bring your own boat, and use one of the several public boat launches available. Or, you can take a guided boat tour of the lake and it's unique islands.
An Angler's Dream


Flathead Lake is one of Montana's premier fishing lakes, although it's not particularly suited for fly fishing. Because of the lake's size, a powerboat is almost a requirement for fishing, and fishing by boat with trolling gear is common.

Fish that are native to Flathead Lake include cutthroat trout, bull trout, and whitefish. Non-native fish include largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, yellow perch, northern pike, and a variety of trout species. 

There are more than 25 fish species in the Flathead Lake ecosystem. The most valuable fish are mainly the Rainbow Trouts, Lake Trouts, Bull Trouts and Lake Whitefish. Lake trout can reach incredible sizes making it past 20 pounds.  Fishing for lake trout usually works best with a boat and trolling gear since the fish occupy the more deeper areas of the lake except, of course, during the fall when they move more towards the shoreline which provides great opportunities for fly fishing. 

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Unique Boating Experiences


Flathead Lake is one of the premier locations in Montana for pleasure boating. Sailboats are common, as are canoes, kayaks, and paddleboards. Motor boats are also popular, and are almost essential for successful fishing.

Boat ramps are available at the lake at a number of locations. Sailboats with fixed keels can be launched at Big Arm and Yellow Bay. Sewage dumps are located at Findley Point State Park and Wayfarers State park. You also have the opportunity to rent boats or fishing charters at a number of private marinas in Polson, Bigfork, and Big Arm.

Flathead Lake also has landing areas for boats, but only for human powered, or wind power, boats. Look for the diamond-shaped signs indicating landing areas.


Awesome lake. Huge! They say largest freshwater lake west of the Great Lakes. We did a half day fishing charter and it was awesome. Such a great area.
Wonderful area. lucycan, Trip Advisor
Absolutely one of the most beautiful lakes in America. We took a 6 hr cruise on a pontoon boat that provided breathtaking views of the mountains, forests, cabins/homes and waterfront. The water itself is clear and pristine. We visited a local farmers market in Polson and enjoyed the products, vendors and customers. This is an area we will definitely go back to
Big Sky at its best. Tim R, Trip Advisor
We chilled and picnics in the state lovely parks, surrounding the lake, rented a boat and skis for the day and loved every minute! The water is clear and the lake is beautiful! Finley Point State Park is a great spot for sunset. I want to visit in the fall sometime.
Beautiful place to relax! JSJR, Trip Advisor