Montana’s Famous Trouts Under Threat as Drought Fissures


“Water temperatures were above 70 degrees for several days in a row,” said Travis Duncan, spokesperson for Colorado Parks and Wildlife. “And there’s potential for more closures as we progress through the season.”

On Tuesday, the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks imposed “hook owl” restrictions between Helena and Great Falls due to hot water temperatures in the Missouri River, one of the most popular trout fishing grounds in the state. The rule prohibits fishing after 2 pm (the term “hook owl restrictions” originates from the early days of the lumber industry. Foresters work early in the late summer mornings when the weather is cooler because the forests are dry and that means the forests are dry. chainsaws or other equipment that can spark a fire. Loggers often hear owl sounds during their early morning shifts.)

While restrictions are usually enforced at some point in the summer, this year is unusual.

“As far as we know historically, this is unprecedented in the extent of the limits imposed,” said Eileen Ryce, director of the state’s fisheries division.

Further complicating the situation here is the decline over several years in brown trout populations in the southwestern part of the state, including the Big Hole, Ruby, Yellowstone, Madison, and Beaverhead Rivers, some of the top destinations for fly anglers.

For example, on the Big Hole River this year, in one of the most popular areas, a census in May found 400 brown trout per mile, up from 1,800 in 2014. The Beaverhead River dropped from 2,000 brown trout to 1,000 per mile. And those counts were made early in the season, before the onset of this summer’s extreme conditions. The state is considering long-term restrictions on all these rivers, which could include releasing all brown trout or stopping fishing in some places.


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