"We acted in anticipation of a summer season that may require rapid, efficient decisions to protect trout and other fish from the effects of extreme low water flow and high temperatures," said FWP Commission Chairman Rich Lane.
Field biologists' recommendations for a closure will follow a decision-making process outlined in FWP's newly drafted Drought Contingency plan available on the FWP web site at fwp.state.mt.us under Fishing. The plan classifies priority fisheries and sets guidelines for critical water flow and temperature for trout. When conditions on a body of water hit or go below the minimum guidelines, a decision is triggered. Protection measures may include asking anglers to voluntarily limit fishing, partial fishing closures noon to midnight or a full closure to angling. Rivers with active watershed or conservation groups will be managed under the overall management plan in place.
In 2000, the Commission delegated this same authority to streamline the closure process.
Montana Trout Unlimited supports the approach. "This is a smart, responsive way to go about these closures. The thresholds set in the Drought Contingency Plan are good and defensible biologically," said John Wilson, Conservation Director for Trout Unlimited. "Our only caution is to be conservative in protecting the fisheries and upfront and aggressive in encouraging anglers not to shift to another overly stressed river nearby."