The 28-mile middle reach of the Big Hole River, closed to angling since August 28, was reopened today by Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks.
The reopening of the river to fishing came as a result of water-flow increases. The gauge at Mudd Creek, north of Wisdom, has clocked flows above 80 cubic feet per second since Oct. 10, meeting the criteria for reopening the river to angling specified in the Big Hole River Drought Management Plan. Flows on the upper reach are also increasing as irrigation and stock-water diversions subside.
The middle reach of the Big Hole River was reopened by FWP Director Jeff Hagener and FWP Commissioner Tim Mulligan, acting with authority delegated to them by the Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks Commission. The order is effective immediately.
"I want to express my appreciation to irrigators and anglers for the sacrifices they continue to make during this drought," Hagener said. "The closing of the middle reach of the Big Hole was aimed at protecting native Arctic grayling. The conservation efforts of the people who work, live and recreate in the Big Hole valley have helped the on-going recovery of this important native fish."
The Big Hole River holds the last remaining native population of river-dwelling Arctic grayling in the lower 48 states. Introductions of grayling into some Missouri River tributaries have recently been made to expand its present range.
The upper reach of the Big Hole River, a 19-mile stretch, was closed to angling June 26. If flows continue to improve, however, the reach may soon reopen to angling, officials said.
The 73.7-mile lower reach of the Big Hole River avoided an angling closure this summer due to the efforts of local irrigators and timely rains.
The Big Hole Drought Management Plan was developed by the Big Hole Watershed Committee, a group of volunteers representing agriculture, municipalities, business, conservationists, anglers and federal, state and local agencies.