Spearfishing in Montana on the Gallatin River

It was my first time spearfishing in Montana, and realistically the first time I’d ever engaged in the sport. My co-worker Devin convinced me and another colleague, Andrew, to join him on an excursion to the Gallatin River somewhere near Manhattan, Montana.

We gathered in the driveway of Devin’s house on the west side of town and as the sun beat down, I knew it was going to be a beautiful day. Devin showed us, briefly, how the spear worked. It was a Hawaiian Sling style which had a rubber band coming out the end and a long gold shaft ending with a trident spike.

“You just wrap the band around your thumb, reach as far up the spear as you can, and let go when you see a fish.” Devin held out the spear as the band stretched along the shaft, pointed to a spot on the lawn, and let go. The spear stuck into the ground almost instantly. It seemed easy enough.

We got to our first hole and found the Gallatin River was running cold that day. Devin grabbed the spear and waded out into the green water. “You have to get low and not splash around too much,” he said. His head disappeared beneath the water and I could make out his back as he floated with the current. Seconds later he reappeared with a Mountain Whitefish on the end of his trident.

Andrew and I tried our luck, but had no success at that first spot. I found I was constantly trying to get used to seeing fish underwater–attempting to recognize them in the murky waters amongst the rocks and moss. I was on their level. Devin decided we had better try upstream as he knew of a couple other good holes.

On the next hole, the water was quite shallow, which diminishes your reaction time significantly. Out of nowhere, whitefish and suckers seemed to fly past. I missed several times, yet Andrew was able to land a sucker. Cold from the water and disappointed from failure, I slinked behind as we approached the last hole of the day.


At this hole, there was a large eddy down stream from a large fallen log. The water swirled over the wooden obstruction and undulated slowly in the shadow of a large tree. Here the water was a deep blue and I could tell it was quite deep.

Determined to land a fish, I went first, but saw nothing. I went in again, right into the water beneath the tree’s shadow, and it all happened so fast.I saw a group of three large suckers at the bottom of the bed. I aimed for the middle of the pack, and boom. I hit the biggest one right in the head.I grabbed the spear and kicked to the surface, screaming a triumphant war cry as the sucker hung lifeless from the spear.

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