Autumn's cooler temperatures and better water flows prompted Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks officials to reopen today the entire 125-mile-long Smith River to all fishing under the river's normal fishing regulations.
The Smith River was initially closed to fishing in August to reduce drought and angling stress on the river's wild trout populations. The 31-mile Smith River stretch from Tenderfoot Creek to the Rattlesnake Boat Camp was opened to catch-and-release only fishing last month
The entire river was reopened today by FWP Director Pat Graham, who was given the authority by the FWP Commission earlier this year to address drought-related stream closures and restrictions. The order will take effect immediately.
Steve Leathe, FWP's fisheries manager in Great Falls, said the decision to open all of the Smith River to fishing came once average daily temperatures at the U.S. Geological Survey gage near Camp Baker remained below 70 degrees and flows reached at least 80 cubic feet per second for seven consecutive days.
The last time water temperature reached 70 degrees at the Camp Baker gage was Sept. 5. Average daily flows have exceeded 80 cfs since Oct. 11. "Flows hovered between 30-35 cfs from Aug. 25 through Sept. 9," Leathe said. "Flows gradually began to increase on Sept 10."
Under normal fishing regulations, the Smith River is open to fishing all year, with a special regulation area between Rock Creek and Eden Bridge where anglers must use artificial lures only. The creel limit in this area is three trout daily under 13 inches and one trout over 22 inches. All trout between 13-22 inches must be released. There is an extended whitefish season in this special regulation area from Dec 1 to the third Saturday in May when anglers can use aquatic insects, maggots or artificial lures for bait. Check regulations for additional details.
Prospective floaters are reminded the river is still too low to float. FWP recommends minimum flows at the USGS gage site of at least 150 cfs for canoes, 250 cfs for rafts, and 350 cfs for drift boats. Current flows are 80-100 cfs.
Floating on the Smith River between Camp Baker and Eden Bridge is strictly limited. Mandatory registration, floaters fee and other regulations apply. For information call 406-454-5840.