Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks is lifting fishing restrictions immediately on the Bitterroot River, making it the second river this week in western Montana to be relieved of restrictions. FWP lifted drought-related restrictions on the Clark Fork on Aug. 28.
The entire main stem of the Bitterroot has been closed to fishing from 2 p.m. until midnight since July 25 to reduce the impact on drought-stressed fish. Now water temperatures are holding below the 70 degree restriction trigger.
In the Blackfoot drainage, fishing remains closed from 2 p.m. until midnight on important bull trout streams including Morrell, Gold, Belmont, Cottonwood, Copper, and Monture Creeks; the North Fork of the Blackfoot River; and Landers Fork.
The “Blackfoot Drought Response Plan” calls for implementing an all-day fishing closure on the main Blackfoot River and important bull trout tributaries once river flows drop below 500 cfs at the Bonner USGS river flow gauge.
Flows have been holding steady around 520 cfs, but on Wednesday, the USGS recalibrated its Bonner gauge as part of periodic equipment maintenance to assess for accuracy. After calibration, the flow reading dropped to 488 cfs. The Blackfoot Drought Response Committee did not anticipate this recalibration, and will meet on Sept. 3 to decide how to proceed. For now the main stem Blackfoot River remains unrestricted.
Anglers can check for details on fishing restrictions or closures on the FWP home page at fwp.mt.gov. Select Drought & Fire under the Hot Topics heading, or check the FWP online fishing guide.