In an effort to protect fish from the stress of low stream flows, Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks will impose a complete closure to fishing on the Blackfoot River and its important bull trout tributaries effective Thursday, Sept. 5.
The “Blackfoot Drought Response Plan” calls for a 24-hour a day fishing closure on the main stem Blackfoot and important bull trout tributaries once river flows dip below 500 cfs at the Bonner USGS river flow gauge. Flows were at 467 Tuesday, an unusually low discharge. Based upon 80 years of record, past stream flows condition exceeded this level 88 percent of the time.
The all day closure applies to the entire main stem Blackfoot River; Morrell, Gold, Belmont, Cottonwood, Copper, and Monture Creeks; the North Fork of the Blackfoot River; and Landers Fork.
As water reaches flow and temperature triggers, the plan also calls for reductions in water use from water right holders as part of a “shared sacrifice” approach to improve stream flow and reduce stress on the trout fishery. Many irrigators have been contributing flows to the fishery for more than a month.
The drought plan was developed by the Blackfoot Drought Committee, a group of irrigators, local landowners, anglers, fishing outfitters, state and federal agents including FWP, and members of various conservation organizations including Trout Unlimited, and is coordinated by the Blackfoot Challenge.
The committee will monitor flows daily and lift the fishing closure as soon as conditions improve.
Closures on the Bitterroot and Clark Fork Rivers were lifted last week, but river restrictions are in place in other parts of the state. 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: pacificrivers.org)