In its continuing response to the summer's drought and the low water flows in many of Montana's premier wild trout streams, Montana, Fish Wildlife & Parks announced today that it has extended 15 existing advisories requesting that anglers voluntarily limit all fishing to mornings only.
"We feel it is prudent to extend the voluntary angler advisories until conditions improve," said Larry Peterman, chief of FWP's Fisheries Division. "The health and survival of the wild trout in these rivers is a concern and we want anglers to know that they can help conserve this wild resource."
The advisories were expected to be lifted on Aug. 30, but unseasonably hot weather, and persistent low flows and warm water conditions, led FWP to extend the advisories to further protect the rivers' wild and native trout. The advisories were issued due to a mix of low flows and warm mid-day water temperatures that expose wild and native trout to several layers of environmental stress.
FWP also expects to add the upper Beaverhead River to these advisories after the Labor Day weekend, when water releases from Clark Canyon Dam will be gradually reduced to 35 cubic feet per second. Today's flow on the Beaverhead River at Barretts, south of Dillon, is 399 cfs.
Voluntary midnight to noon fishing advisories have been extended for:
In addition to the extended advisories, FWP continues to encourage anglers to consider fishing in streams above 6,000 feet where water flows and temperatures are generally more favorable, or to fish in lakes, ponds and reservoirs.
In a drought-related issue, FWP has informed a total of 13 junior water users in the Clarks Fork of the Yellowstone, the Musselshell, and the East Gallatin river drainages who have rights more recent than the agency's 1978 instream flow right, that they must stop diverting water. FWP's relatively recent instream flow rights are used to keep water in the river to protect the fishery. The vast majority of Montana water users own water rights that are senior to FWP.
FWP's Drought Contingency Plan sets out four options for streams severely impacted by drought: voluntary partial or full closure--where anglers are advised not to fish between the hours of noon and midnight to not at all; mandatory partial closure--prohibiting fishing between the hours of noon and midnight; and full closure--prohibiting all angling. The FWP Commission approved the plan in June.
FWP's drought plan calls for angling restrictions to be imposed when flows drop below critical levels for fish or when maximum daily water temperatures equal or exceed 73 degrees for three consecutive days. The preferred water temperature for rainbow and brown trout is about 55-57 degrees. Temperatures of 77 degrees or more can be lethal to trout.
FWP closes streams to fishing when low-water conditions and high temperatures, combined with fishing pressure, would lead to an unacceptable level of stress on fish. Montana's streams and rivers contain wild trout that replenish their populations through natural spawning. It is critical that sufficient numbers of spawning-age trout are conserved to repopulate the fishery when conditions improve.
Currently, the 47-mile stretch of southwestern Montana's upper Big Hole River--from the Rock Creek Road to Dickey Bridge--and the entire Jefferson River is closed to angling.
The voluntary advisories and closures will remain in effect until conditions improve, Peterman said.