Montana enacts dramatic fishing closures due to dwindling streamflows, excessive heat

The Montana Division of Fish, Wildlife and Parks (FWP) introduced yesterday a dramatic slate of fishing closures and restrictions which impacts a number of the state’s most iconic and sought out trout water, such because the Yellowstone, Madison, Beaverhead, Gallatin, and Missouri rivers. The closures are available response to harmful and worsening river circumstances, the results of traditionally low stream flows and excessive water temperatures, which threaten the survival of the state’s trout and different fish species. As Hatch Journal just lately reported, Montana’s fisheries are frequently stricken by low flows and excessive water temperatures as a result of mass diversion of stream water by agricultural and different industries. This 12 months, circumstances have been exacerbated by climate-change fueled drought and extreme warmth blanketing a lot of the west, pushing Montana fisheries to the brink and prompting FWP to behave.

The new restrictions, which go in impact at this time, have an effect on rivers in southwest, north-central and south-central Montana. The restrictions embrace full closures on the Jefferson River and parts of the Shields, Massive Gap, and Gallatin rivers. Additionally included are “hoot owl” restrictions—which shut rivers to fishing after 2pm—on the Stillwater River and the aforementioned iconic trout rivers. A few of these current closures are unprecedented in Montana historical past.

In its assertion saying the brand new restrictions, Montana FWP highlighted the risks that low flows and excessive temperatures can pose to fish, stating that it enforces angling closures “when flows drop beneath vital ranges for fish, when water high quality is diminished, or when most every day water temperatures attain not less than 73 levels for 3 consecutive days,” noting that “heat and dry circumstances are anticipated to proceed throughout the coming weeks.”

“Below regular circumstances, fish can struggle off infections. Nonetheless, beneath the stress of excessive temperatures and low flows, they’re extra prone to those ailments,” FWP added.

On account of the worsening circumstances throughout the state, a coalition of Montana fly fishing guides, outfitters, and lodges; outside recreation corporations Orvis and Patagonia; and several other conservation teams submitted a letter requesting Governor Gianforte instantly create a Chilly Water Fisheries Activity Drive to deal with the decline of chilly water fisheries within the state.

In response to Man Alsentzer, Government Director for the group Higher Missouri Waterkeeper, which submitted the letter to Gianforte’s workplace, “the mixture of drought, warmth, air pollution, low water, growth, and fishing strain means our cherished chilly water fisheries and southwestern Montana waterways are declining by loss of life by a thousand cuts.” Alsentzer mentioned the letter “calls on Governor Gianforte to instantly do extra to guard the lifeblood of the state’s $7.1 billion outside economic system and our lifestyle—clear and chilly water—earlier than it’s too late.”

John Arnold, proprietor of Headhunters Fly Store in Craig, Montana, one of many letter’s signatories, added “between early season fish kills, unnaturally heat water temperatures, and low trout numbers, it’s an all-hands-on-deck second. Shedding chilly water trout fisheries might be a loss of life blow for quite a few fishing and river associated companies already reeling from the pandemic if motion isn’t taken.”

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