The Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Commission ordered a bag limit reduction to begin Sept. 16 on Clark Canyon Reservoir due to low water. The Clark Canyon trout daily and possession limit will be reduced from five fish to two fish, and the burbot (ling) daily and possession limit will be reduced from ten fish to two fish.
The bag limit reduction order will remain in effect until the general fishing season opener on the third Saturday of May, 2003. The Commission also enacted closures on the upper Beaverhead River and the Red Rock River which will begin Oct. 7 and continue through Nov. 30.
Clark Canyon Reservoir recently dropped to a record low of 12,000 acre-feet in water storage. Biologists contend that fish populations in that reservoir do well at 60,000 acre-feet, but fare poorly at storage pools near 40,000 acre-feet. Last year the lowest minimum pool in history at Clark Canyon was recorded at 29,000 acre-feet. The surface area this year has shrunk from more than 5,000 acres at full pool to fewer than 1,000 acres.
"In order to protect the wild brown trout and ling populations as well as the Eagle Lake rainbows that serve as a brood stock for our hatchery system, it is necessary to place an emergency drought fishing regulation on the reservoir," said Dick Oswald, FWP area fishery biologist.
Things also were bleak for the Beaverhead and Red Rock rivers. Extremely low flows are being experienced on both rivers for the third consecutive year. Flows as low as 50 cubic feet per second (cfs) have been recorded on the Beaverhead near Dillon. FWP’s minimum recommended instream flow for the reach is 200 cfs. The Beaverhead closure includes all angling in the river between Clark Canyon Dam and the Selway Bridge in Dillon, a distance of 30 river miles.
Flows on the Red Rock River vary between dry streambeds in reaches near Dell, to flows of 15 to 30 cfs in refuge reaches. This summer on July 18 FWP asked anglers and landowners to voluntarily refrain from fishing the Red Rock River due to low flows. The Commission order closing the river to fishing was made "to protect important and highly vulnerable spawning stocks of wild brown trout and mountain whitefish." The closure will be in effect on the river from Lima Dam to Clark Canyon Reservoir, a distance of 57 river miles.