Morning-only fishing advisory issued for 11 Montana rivers.


Mar 11, 2001
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Morning-only fishing advisory issued for 11 rivers.

By MARK HENCKEL, Gazette Outdoor Editor .

Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks issued voluntary angling advisories for 11 rivers Wednesday – including the length of the trout water on the Yellowstone – asking anglers to restrict fishing to mornings only.

The move is an effort to limit stress on trout suffering the effects of low flows and high water temperatures as drought conditions continue to worsen across Montana.

In another drought-related move, FWP exercised its water rights on the Yellowstone and informed 17 water users between Livingston and Billings to stop diverting water from the river.

Voluntary midnight-to-noon fishing advisories were issued for:

Big Hole River, below the mouth of the North Fork.

Beaverhead River, below Park Street Bridge.

Boulder River, below Natural Bridge.

East Gallatin River.

Gallatin River, below the Highway 191 Bridge.

Jefferson River.

Lower Madison River, below Ennis Dam.

Upper Missouri River, from Headwaters State Park to Canyon Ferry Reservoir.

Shields River.

Stillwater River.

Yellowstone River, from Yellowstone National Park downstream to Huntley Diversion.

FWP’s regional fisheries manager in Billings, Jim Darling, said river conditions are quickly worsening.

“The Yellowstone did a major tumble and went from marginally acceptable to record low. The water temperature went up at the same time. There’s no doubt it’s at a critical level,” Darling said.

The Boulder and Stillwater are close on the heels of the Yellowstone. They’re declining fast, he said. “We went out and looked at them, and there’s still a fair amount of pressure with people fishing in the middle of the day. The high temperatures are simply amazing for those cold-water streams,” he said.

FWP adopted a drought contingency plan earlier this year that outlined what it would do as flows dropped and water temperatures rose.

The service’s drought plan calls for angling restrictions to be imposed when flows drop below critical levels for fish or when maximum daily water temperatures equal or exceed 73 degrees for three consecutive days. At those temperatures, the additional stress that angling places on trout could be enough to kill them.

The preferred water temperature for rainbow and brown trout is about 55-57 degrees. Temperatures of 77 degrees or more can be lethal to the fish.

According to FWP, water temperatures are already reaching that 77-degree threshold on the Stillwater at Absarokee, the Madison River at Ennis Dam, the Gallatin River at Logan, the Missouri River at Toston and the Yellowstone River from Springdale downstream.

Pat Flowers, FWP’s regional supervisor in Bozeman, said, “These voluntary angler advisories are the first step in letting river users and the community in general know that our major rivers in southwestern Montana are at or near the stage where fish health and survival is a concern, and that additional restrictions could be coming down the line.”

If conditions continue to decline, FWP could impose other restrictions up to a full closure, already in effect on a 19-mile stretch of the upper Big Hole River.

In explaining why morning fishing was still considered safe to the fish on these 11 waters, Darling said, “We’re tracking the temperatures on the Internet, and it’s the very coolest period of the day, where it would be least stressful on the fish.”

Flowers said, “We want to protect our wild trout, and the rivers’ wild brood stocks – the fish that will spawn this fall and next spring. To keep our wild populations healthy, we’ll need as many of the spawning-age fish to survive this dry summer as possible.”

FWP’s decision to exercise its water rights on the Yellowstone are an effort to keep water in the river to protect the fishery. The 17 water users who were notified hold water rights that are junior to the in-stream flow rights of the department.


Mark Henckel is the outdoor editor of The Billings Gazette. His columns appear Thursdays and Sundays. He can be contacted at 657-1395 or

Fly Slinger

Jul 10, 2001
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its understandable...  i heard the yellowstone looked more like a ditch than a river this year.  its amazing what mother nature will do...  well, hopefully the dryspell will end by next summer.

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