With recent temperatures leaping into the 90s throughout Montana, state fishery officials are gearing up now should the need arise to protect wild fish from the potentially life-threatening stress of low stream flows and elevated water temperatures.
Such conditions, along with competition for space and food, stress wild trout. High water temperatures and lower oxygen levels can lead to fish kills that can affect adult trout numbers in future years.
Limiting fishing to the cooler hours of the day—usually between 12 a.m. to 2 p.m.—is one tool FWP sometimes uses to reduce the impact on drought-stressed trout in rivers and streams. A full fishing closure is another option when conditions worsen.
"We suggest that anglers, when fishing trout streams and rivers, primarily in valley situations, restrict their fishing to the morning and early afternoon periods when water temperatures are at their coolest," said Bruce Rich, chief of FWP's Fisheries Division in Helena.
FWP also has instream flow water rights, some granted more than 40 years ago. These, along with voluntary community drought plans, are aimed at keeping enough water in a stream to keep fish healthy.
While fishing restrictions typically do not occur until late July or early August, Rich said restrictions may need to be put in place sooner in some locations. Should angling restrictions or closures be needed, information will be available via FWP's website at fwp.mt.gov.