swiftcurrent lake glacier park

Fishing Swiftcurrent Lake in Montana

Swiftcurrent Lake is a glacial lake located inside of Glacier National Park in Montana. The lake sits above Lake Sherburne in the beautiful Many Glacier section of the park. Swiftcurrent is fed by melt water from Grinnell Glacier which has been shrinking for several years.

The Swiftcurrent is perhaps most known for being home to the Many Glacier Hotel. This lake-side hotel is the largest hotel in the park. Constructed in 1915, the hotel brings a lot of people to the area. Most guests get involved in some kind of recreation like hiking or boating, though fishing pressure on the lake is actually quite low.

brook trout from swiftcurrent lakeAn average Swiftcurrent brook trout

Nonetheless, Swiftcurrent Lake is actually a good fishery for brook trout. These introduced fish have basically taken over the lake. They are easily caught on hook and line from the bank. They can also be caught from a kayak or canoe. The fish here can be quite beautiful. They’re also quite tasty when caught in such cold, pristine waters.

If you do encounter other anglers, they will typically be fishing from the bank around the hotel and the nearby outflow. The rest of the shore is usually free people anglers and even people in general. Even at the hotel the lake offers good fishing. This is some of the most easily accessible good fishing you can find in the park. You can park in the lot at the hotel, take a few steps, cast out a lure or fly and be into some fish in no time. Or you can follow the trail around the lake and fish as you go. There’s plenty of space.

Fishing in Swiftcurrent Lake

Brook trout are the primary species you encounter at Swiftcurrent Lake. There may be some other fish like Kokanee spread around. I haven’t found any yet. The brook trout in Swiftcurrent average around 10 inches. That might not sound like much, but consider that a 10 inch wild brook is considered a trophy in parts of the fish’s native range like eastern Tennessee. You can also get into larger brook trout at Swiftcurrent. The lake has some of the biggest brookies in the park, though they’re probably not going to break any records.

Swiftcurrent can be a breezy place, but it’s not nearly as windy as some other areas in Many Glacier. That includes Lake Sherburne below where strong winds seem to blow around the clock. At Swiftcurrent Lake you can get your casts out with little problem, even with the moderate winds. A long, light action spinning rod rigged with 2-4 pound test will help you whip your lures out a good distance from the bank. If you’re fly fishing, a nine foot six weight rod with a sinking tip line works well too.

brook trout from swiftcurrent lakeA nice Swiftcurrent brookie

Inline spinners have always worked well for me at Swiftcurrent Lake. I use lures like Blue Fox Classic Vibrax Spinners, Thomas Special Spins, and Swiss Swings. Gold seems to outfish every other color here. I also like baits that integrate yellow, black, or red into the color scheme. Gold spoons like the Acme Phoebe and Thomas Bouyant can also work well at Swiftcurrent. Cast out, give the lure some time to sink, then retrieve fast enough to give the lure action. If that doesn’t work, keep varying your retrieve until you find something that does.

When fly fishing small nymphs and streamers work well. Midge patterns like the Zebra Midge and Chironomid Bomber can be effective when retrieved slowly. But I prefer fishing colorful streamers like a size 8-10 Mickey Finn or Bead Head Woolly Bugger. Streamer fishing is more active and exciting. You can be somewhat aggressive with the retrieve. More to the point, streamers seem to catch more fish than midges at Swiftcurrent.

Swiftcurrent Lake Fishing Regulations

No fishing license is required to fish in Glacier National Park. You do need to pay to access the park itself however. Payment for park access can be made at any of the gates stationed along park access points. In off times when no park employees are present, you can drop off a payment in the provided envelopes. Or you can get an annual pass.

Lake fishing is open all year in Glacier Park. Native fish must be released. Swiftcurrent Lake is in the St Mary watershed. Bull trout, burbot, lake trout, northern pike, lake whitefish, mountain whitefish, suckers, and westslope cutthroat trout are native to the St Mary watershed. There’s no limit on non-native brook trout.

You can only use flies and artificial lures on a single pole when fishing Swiftcurrent Lake. You can use bait to fish in the creek from the outlet at Swiftcurrent Lake down to the large waterfall just a few hundred feet downstream. I guess the people making the rules figure these fish aren’t going to make it over the falls anyway. You cannot use felt soled waders or lead fishing products anywhere in the park.

To the best of my knowledge, this is accurate as of the time of writing. Of course regulations are subject to change. For current regulations be sure to check the Glacier National Park website.

Swiftcurrent Lake fishing at a glance

Fish species present: Brook trout, Kokanee
Closest tackle shops: St Mary Grocery
Recommend line: 2-4 lb monofilament / 3-5x leader
Recommended bait / lures: Classic Vibrax, Special Spin, Swiss Swing, Phoebe, Bouyant
Recommended flies: BH Woolly Bugger, Chironomid Bomber, Mickey Finn, Zebra Midge
Nearby lodging: Many Glacier Hotel, Many Glacier Campground

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