Across much of the West prolonged hot and dry weather is impacting many of our cold water fisheries. In Montana–a state that manages many of its rivers and streams as wild trout fisheries–because of several weeks of hot and dry weather now has several river closures and restrictions currently in place.
From a recent press release, Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks’ is enacting closures and restrictions. Montana’s drought policy provides for angling closures when flows drop below critical levels for fish, when water quality is diminished, or when maximum daily water temperatures reach at least 73 degrees for three consecutive days. Warm and dry conditions are expected to continue during the coming weeks.
These restrictions and closures are designed to protect fish, such as trout, that become more susceptible to disease and mortality when drought and warm water conditions combine with additional stressors, including catch-and-release fishing.
All stress to fish at this time of year is cumulative, and anglers should consider fishing in cooler waters during times of low flows and high water temperatures in rivers. Anglers can help reduce stress for fish by following these practices when catching and releasing fish, though fish mortality may still occur:
- Fish during the coolest times of day, where permitted.
- Land the fish quickly.
- Keep the fish in water as much as possible.
- Remove the hook gently. Using artificial lures with single and barbless hooks can make hook removal faster and easier.
- Let the fish recover before releasing it.
The restrictions include what are commonly known as “hoot owl” restrictions, which means fishing is closed from 2 p.m. to midnight each day. Some waters are under full fishing closures, which prohibit fishing at all times of day. These closures and restrictions will stay in effect until conditions improve.
These restrictions and closures are as follows:
- A hoot owl on the Big Hole River from the North Fork of the Big Hole River downstream to Dickie Bridge, and from the Maidenrock Fishing Access Site downstream to the Tony Schoonen Fishing Access Site.
- A full fishing closure on the East Gallatin River from Penwell Bridge Road downstream to the confluence with the Gallatin River.
- A hoot owl on the East Gallatin River from the confluence of Bear Creek and Rocky Creek downstream to Penwell Bridge.
- A hoot owl on the Shields River from the U.S. Forest Service Crandal Creek Bridge downstream to the confluence with Rock Creek.
- A hoot owl on the Gallatin River from Montana Hwy. 84 in Four Corners downstream to the confluence with the Missouri River.
- Upper Clark Fork – From the confluence of Rock Creek near Clinton upstream to the confluence with Warm Springs Creek.
- Silver Bow Creek, including Warm Springs Ponds — From the creek’s confluence with Warm Springs Creek to Montana Street in Butte.
- A hoot owl on the Beaverhead River from Laknar Lane Bridge downstream to the confluence with the Big Hole River.
- A full fishing closure on the Shields River from Rock Creek downstream to the confluence with the Yellowstone River.
- A hoot owl on the lower Big Hole River from the Tony Schoonen Fishing Access Site downstream to the confluence with the Beaverhead River.
- A full fishing closure on the upper Big Hole River from the North Fork of the Big Hole River downstream to Saginaw Bridge on Skinner Meadow Road.
- A hoot owl for the entire Jefferson River.
- A hoot owl on the Madison River from Ennis Dam downstream to the confluence with the Jefferson River.
- A full fishing closure on the Ruby River from the Duncan District Road crossing downstream to the confluence with the Beaverhead River.