Jefferson, Big Hole section closed to fishing

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Jefferson, Big Hole section closed to fishing

By the Associated Press

HELENA - The Jefferson River will be closed to fishing at noon Tuesday because of low water levels tied to the lingering drought, state fish and wildlife officials announced Monday.

The state Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks also said another section of the Big Hole River, the 28-mile middle reach of the upper Big Hole, will be closed to anglers at the same time.

"These rivers are in critical condition," said Larry Peterman, FWP's fisheries administrator. "We are closing the Jefferson River and the upper Big Hole River to angling to reduce the stress on the wild and native trout populations in these popular fisheries."

This year's closures come later than last year's. In 2000 the department began closing portions of the Big Hole River at the end of June and had shut down the entire length by Aug. 12. The Jefferson River was closed to fishing Aug. 5, 2000.

Under the Jefferson River drought management plan, the water flow that triggers closure is 250 cubic feet per second. On Friday, the river at Twin Bridges dropped to 245 cfs.

The Big Hole drought plan separates the river into three reaches. Tuesday's closure affects that portion from the mouth of the North Fork to Dickie Bridge, just upstream from Wise River.

That area is critical habitat for fluvial or river-dwelling grayling. The upper reach of the Big Hole, a 19-mile stretch from Rock Creek Road to the mouth of the North Fork, was closed to fishing June 27.

The latest Big Hole closure is a result of flows that dropped to 53 cfs. The drought plan recommends closure when flows drop to 60 cfs.

The 74-mile lower reach of the Big Hole River is running at about 153 cfs, barely above its closure mark of 150.

The closures are intended to protect both rivers' wild rainbow and brown trout populations, and the Big Hole River's genetically pure native Arctic grayling.

Department officials said they will consider reopening the Jefferson River when flows reach 300 cfs for seven consecutive days. The middle reach of the upper Big Hole would reopen when flows reach 80 cfs for that period.

About fishing closures

Closures on the Jefferson River and the middle reach of the Big Hole River are triggered by water flows of less than 250 cubic feet per second and 60 cfs, respectively. The Jefferson is at 245 cfs, and the Big Hole is at 53 cfs.
 
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