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Warm water prompts fishing restrictions on Yellowstone River

Fishing - Region 5

Monday, August 01, 2016

BILLINGS — Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks will restrict fishing on parts of the Yellowstone River in south central Montana beginning 2 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 2, 2016, due to warm and rising water temperatures.

The “hoot owl” restrictions mean that anglers may not fish between 2 p.m. and midnight each day. The restrictions were triggered when water temperatures reach, -- or are anticipated to reach – at least 73 degrees for three consecutive days.

The restrictions will apply on the Yellowstone River from Carter Bridge south of Livingston to the confluence with the Clarks Fork of the Yellowstone east of Laurel.

The “hoot owl” restrictions begin at 2 p.m. each day because water temperatures tend to spike during the heat of the day and surpass the 73-degree threshold by mid-afternoon. The higher water temperatures are highly stressful to fish and can be fatal if the fish are put under an additional burden of being caught by an angler. Flows as low as 10 percent of normal for early August mean that the water can heat up quickly and get warmer during the afternoon.

Two southern Montana tributaries to the Yellowstone River already are under hoot-owl restrictions, They are the Stillwater River downstream of Cliff Swallow fishing access site and the Boulder River downstream from the Natural Bridge.

Though water temperatures in streams such as the Yellowstone River below Billings are higher than 73 degrees, they are populated with warm-water species such as channel catfish, bass and sauger. Those fish thrive in warmer water and restrictions are not necessary. Trout are considered cold-water fish, however, and are susceptible to heat, prompting restrictions on streams where they live.

Biologists will continue to monitor the flow and temperatures of rivers throughout the region to determine if others need to be restricted or when restrictions can be lifted.

For up-to-date information on restrictions related to drought, visit