Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks is asking anglers to voluntarily limit fishing to morning hours on the Bitterroot River in western Montana below Tucker Crossing and to not fish on Rattlesnake Creek near Missoula, beginning July 30.
Low flows combined with high water temperatures are stressing fish by concentrating them and reducing the amount of oxygen in the water. Angling can put additional stress on trout.
FWP biologists say that by limiting fishing to mornings-only, fish caught and released will have a better survival rate because water temperatures are cooler in the morning.
Pat Saffel, FWP regional fisheries manager in Missoula, requested the voluntary restrictions because water temperatures are very warm in the lower Bitterroot River and Rattlesnake Creek.
When low flows or high temperatures or both threaten fish, FWP may use voluntary measures, time-of-day restrictions, or full angling closures to protect fisheries.
In the Bitterroot River, below Tucker Crossing, flows have been supplemented with water from Painted Rocks Reservoir, but the water temperature is reaching 73 to 76 degrees.
In Rattlesnake Creek, an important cold-water refuge for trout, including bull trout, temperatures have risen above 65 degrees and flows continue to drop. Although it is not legal to fish for bull trout, listed as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act, voluntarily restricting fishing will help reduce stress on the species.
The temperature and water flow triggers and steps FWP may take are defined in the FWP Drought Fishing Closure Policy available on the FWP web site. The plan calls for lifting restrictions by mid-September or as river flows and temperatures allow.
For more information on drought, see the FWP web site at www.fwp.state.mt.us and click on “Drought & Fire ’03.”