The small stream and river fishing season officially opens in most of Montana the third Saturday in May, and that is May 17 this year. That means eager anglers are already digging out their tackle boxes, throwing out dried up bait and dreaming over new tackle at sporting goods stores on the weekend.
To purchase a fishing license online click here.
Here is a quick preview of the 2008 fishing regulation changes of note.
Handling and Transporting Fish
Under the new regulations, while a person is fishing, or on the water or the ice, all fish in possession are required to be whole with head, skin, fins and tail attached. Gills and entrails may be removed.
In another change, the requirement has been dropped that called for leaving a one-inch patch of skin on a fillet to help identify fish other than trout and salmon. For trout, salmon, grayling, char and whitefish, however, the regulation has not changed and the entire skin must be attached to the fillet for identification.
The whitefish standard daily and possession limits have been reduced to 20 daily and 40 in possession in all fishing districts. Two locations with significant lake whitefish populations, Flathead Lake and the lower Flathead River, remain at a limit of 100 daily and in possession.
Big Hole River
Regulation changes allow for year-round fishing of brook trout from the headwaters to the North Fork Big Hole River.
In another change, the size restriction on trout (only one over 18 inches) was lifted between the headwaters of the Big Hole and Dickie Bridge. Now the combined trout regulation in this reach of river is five daily and in possession, with no size restriction.
A third regulation change removed the slot or size limit from Divide Bridge to Melrose Bridges. Now, the standard Central District combined trout limit applies: five daily and in possession, only one over 18 inches.
The regulations reverted to the Central District standard limit for rainbow and brown trout on the Bighorn River (combined trout five daily and in possession, only one over 18 inches) downstream from Afterbay Dam. This allows more harvest of rainbow trout than before.
Regulation changes resulted in a reduced harvest limit on the Yellowstone River within the Central Fishing District. Now, the combined trout limit is four brown and/or rainbow trout daily and in possession, with only one over 18 inches between the Yellowstone National Park boundary and the I-90 bridge in Billings.
Another regulation change eliminated cutthroat trout harvest between the Highway 78 bridge at Columbus and the I-90 bridge at Billings.
In the Western District, the regulations now allow anglers to use two lines and two hooks per line on most lakes and reservoirs as directed by a law passed in the 2007 Montana State Legislature.
For a complete look at the 2008 fishing regulations in effect, pick up a new 2008 fishing regulation book at any FWP regional office, or from an FWP license provider, or go to the FWP web site at fwp.mt.gov on the Fishing page and click on regulations.
The next full overhaul of the fishing regulations will begin in the spring of 2011 and end October 2011 when the final regulations are adopted by the Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks Commission for 2012 to 2015.