Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks (FWP) is lifting fishing restrictions immediately on the Clark Fork River. Water temperatures are holding below 70 degrees, and weather conditions have moderated enough that further restrictions are not likely.
The Clark Fork from Perkins Lane Bridge downstream to Flint Creek and from the confluence with Bitterroot downstream to the Flathead River has been closed to fishing from 2 p.m. until midnight since July 25 to reduce the impact on drought-stressed fish.
Other west-central Montana rivers that remain under these “hoot owl” restrictions include the main stem of the Bitterroot River and the bull trout tributaries in the Blackfoot Drainage.
On the Bitterroot, fishing is prohibited from 2 p.m. to midnight on the entire length of the river, excluding the East and West Forks. Region 2 FWP Fisheries Manager, Pat Saffel says that criteria for removing restrictions on the Bitterroot have not been met.
“We’re looking for water temperatures to stay below 70 degrees for three consecutive days in the lower Bitterroot near Missoula, and we’re thinking we might be there next week if cooler air temperatures hold,” Saffel says.
Saffel says that interested users can check the USGS Missoula water gauge for the Bitterroot to monitor temperature.
In the Blackfoot drainage, fishing is 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.
On the main Blackfoot River, temperatures are declining and flows are holding steady just above the trigger point for fishing restrictions. The Blackfoot Drought Response Plan calls for a “shared sacrifice” approach to improve stream flow and reduce stress on the trout fishery. Water contributions from irrigators have kept flows high enough to avoid restrictions, but Saffel points out that the water is still low and temperatures warm.
“We encourage anglers on the Blackfoot to reduce fish stress by fishing during the coolest parts of the day, and to handle and release fish as quickly as possible,” Saffel says.
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.
(Report by Montana FWP; Cover Photo: completelyflyfisher.com)