With the heat of summer beginning to warm up Montana’s trout streams, Montana anglers are once again joining forces to conserve the state's wild and native trout fisheries.
As they did last season, Montana Trout Unlimited, the Fishing Outfitters Association of Montana, and Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks are encouraging anglers to help Montana's trout beat the heat.
"Early last year, FOAM and TU each developed helpful drought-related guidelines for anglers and floaters,” said Chris Hunter, FWP's chief of fisheries. "We thought the guidelines were so good we asked if we could all team up to help spread the word about what we can all do to help conserve Montana's wild and native trout."
TU Executive Director Bruce Farling said TU members are committed to trout conservation and want to be vigilant again this summer as water levels in streams in southwestern and central Montana begin to drop and water temperatures begin to rise.
"To maintain Montana's high-quality angling, the trout deserve a conservative approach," Farling said. "When our streams begin to suffer from low flows again this summer, anglers should be prepared to temporarily give up some fishing to help preserve angling opportunities for the future."
Farling advises anglers to be extra cautious handling trout when water temperatures reach the mid 60s—as they have on the Missouri River near Great Falls— and to consider avoiding waters where temperatures reach 70 degrees or more—like on the Red Rock River near Lima.
"These kinds of private and public partnerships are among the things that make Montana a special place to live and work," said Robin Cunningham, FOAM’s executive director. "Working together, anglers, outfitters, guides, groups like TU and FWP can diminish the effects of drought on Montana’s spectacular fisheries. We hope everyone will read, remember, and follow these guidelines during the upcoming low-water, high-temperature months."
Here are the guidelines TU, FOAM and FWP are encouraging anglers and outfitters to follow this summer to help conserve Montana's wild and native trout populations.
Where and When You Fish Can Make a Difference
· Follow appeals for voluntarily cutting back on angling.
· Avoid streams where low flows and high temperatures pose problems to fish.
· Use cooler stretches and start early in the day to avoid rising water temperatures
· Avoid fishing in the afternoon and evening when temperatures are highest.
· Avoid fishing at night. On some rivers, the oxygen levels are at the lowest at night.
· Explore smaller, higher-elevation streams and lakes where fish are less affected by drought.
· Fish less drought-affected waters such as secondary streams, private spring creeks and ponds, public lakes and reservoirs.
Land Fewer Fish, Release Them Quickly
· Use heavier-than-usual gear and tackle to land fish quickly.
· Avoid direct handling of fish and use extra caution with native species such as cutthroats, grayling, and bull trout.
· Use a landing net with a rubber net-bag.
· Pull the boat over to release fish – the closer to their original hole, the better.
· Keep the fish in the water as much as possible – this summer, skip the photos.
· While moving a fish back and forth during resuscitation, it helps to stroke its belly, too.
· Watch fish behavior after you release them. If the fish are sluggish or seem slower to recover, they could be stressed from the effects of high temperatures.
Use Extra Courtesy When on the Water
· If you’re forced to travel outside your "home" waters due to fire or drought closures, be sure to respect local anglers', outfitters' and guides' etiquette and techniques.
· If you find transplanted anglers, outfitters or guides in your area, recognize that they are trying to enjoy the day or serve their clients just like you are – respect their needs and offer your hospitality.
· Reduced flows concentrate fishing, so be extra patient at put-ins and take-outs.
· Be extra courteous to your fellow anglers, especially the walk-waders.
· Ranchers suffer right along with us, so show appreciation to those who reduce irrigation to provide in-stream flow.
· Low water dries up prairie potholes, too, and waterfowl are forced to nest on mainstem waters, so be careful around islands and other potential nesting areas.
For the latest drought information, including drought related fishing advisories, visit FWP's website at www.fwp.state.mt.us. Click on the "2002 Drought Updates" Hot Topics link.