Milk River


Milk River

Milk River

Channel Catfish, Stone Cat, and Black Bullhead are present in this body of water. The Milk River is the home to the current state record Stone Cat, and a previous state record Channel Cat. The Stone Cat, a 0.54 lb. beauty, was caught by Dale Bjerga on 6/16/96. The Previous state record Channel Cat, broken in 1984 was a 23lb. 4 oz. giant. caught by Larry Hamilton. Although, you will be hard pressed to see fish like that everyday, it is reasonable to catch a dozen cats in the 2 to 3 lb. range, and have an outside shot at one near 6 lbs. on a typical afternoon outing. It is safe to say that the average Channel Cat is about 2.5 lbs., a 6 lb. Cat is really nice, and a 10 lb. Cat is a trophy. The river is more accessible above Vandalia diversion dam and navigable with a prop boat, below Vandalia dam, a jet boat is almost a necessity. This river is also host to the annual Milk River Catfish Classic held in Glasgow, MT in early June.

Nearly 700 miles long from its sources to the mouth below Fort Peck Dam, the Milk River is one of the Missouri River’s longest tributaries. Beginning on the eastern edge of Glacier National Park the North and South forks of the Milk River flow northeast through the Blackfeet Indian Reservation to merge just over the Canadian border. The mainstem Milk River continues 171 miles through Alberta, Canada, re-entering Montana north of Rudyard. Fifty-three miles farther southeast the Milk River runs up against Fresno Dam, completed in 1939. Above Fresno Reservoir, limited woody vegetation, highly fluctuating flow, and extremely high turbidity characterize the river. The channel is mostly shallow and highly braided. Turning due east below the dam, the river carries less sediment and runs within a single incised channel with vertical banks. From Fresno Dam down to Vandalia Diversion Dam, 318 miles, the river is fragmented by four diversion dams and one municipal water weir. East of Havre, the river winds through the pre-glacial-age valley of the Missouri, paralleled by U.S. Highway 2, and marking the northern boundary of the Fort Belknap Indian Reservation. Below Vandalia Diversion Dam, for its last 120 miles, although still a single-channel river, the Milk has well-developed riparian stands along its banks, deeper habitat, and cobble riffles. The present-day Milk River results from a history of dams, channelization, flow modification, and expansion of land use, as well as natural development. Since the 1880s, the Milk River Basin has provided water for agricultural communities. The Milk River replenishes the wetlands and prairie habitats of the 16,000-acre Bowdoin National Wildlife Refuge where over 250 bird species and other wildlife families flourish. Perhaps the river’s most important contribution to the area’s fishery resource is its alliance with the Missouri River. In its lowermost 73 miles, the Milk River provides critical spawning and rearing habitat for migratory and resident fishes, including native species of the Missouri River, such as blue sucker, channel catfish, freshwater drum, paddlefish, sauger, shorthead redhorse, and shovelnose sturgeon. Information from Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks.