The Blackfoot Drought Response Committee and Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks (FWP) are lifting the voluntarily fishing restrictions on the Blackfoot River and some of its tributaries because streamflow has increased. Anglers were being asked to limit fishing on the mainstem Blackfoot River to morning-only and to cease all fishing in important bull trout tributaries including Gold, Belmont, Cottonwood, Copper, Monture Creeks, North Fork Blackfoot River and Landers Fork. These restrictions will be lifted as of August 26, 2004.
Regional Fisheries Manager, Pat Saffel, Missoula, is lifting the voluntary restrictions because instream flow in the river has increased from about 550 to 750 cfs in the past week. The Blackfoot Drought Plan recommends that voluntary restrictions be put in place after the Blackfoot River drops below 600 cfs and that they are lifted in early to mid September as conditions allow. "We've seen moisture and temperature patterns in late August that we typically don't see until mid September," according to Saffel. He adds that we'll see decreasing water temperatures with longer nights and generally cooler air temperatures. The plan was voluntarily developed by an extensive group of irrigators, landowners, The Blackfoot Challenge, Trout Unlimited, anglers, fishing outfitters and FWP. The plan calls for voluntary reductions in water use from water right holders as part of a "shared sacrifice" approach to conserving the river's fishery. Fishing outfitters are also asked to participate.
Saffel adds, "It is likely that we'll see hot days again and there's a chance flows may drop below 600 cfs again, so we ask anglers to be aware of the river conditions and the sacrifice irrigators make to support the fishery during low flow periods." "It is unlikely that we'll issue another request if river conditions worsen because of the short time the restriction would be in effect." Saffel points out that anglers can monitor river conditions on their own and limit their fishing if the weather turns hot and dry and flows fall below 600 cfs again. Flow information for Montana rivers can be found on the U.S. Geological Survey web site at http://waterdata.usgs.gov/mt/nwis/current?type=flow. The Gage used for the Blackfoot River is at Bonner.