Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks lifted all fishing restrictions on the Blackfoot River and tributaries today.
The entire main stem and important bull trout tributaries have been under a 24-hour fishing closure since September 5 to reduce the impact on drought-stressed fish. FWP Region 2 Fisheries Manager, Pat Saffel, says that forecasted moisture and reduced irrigation demand prompted officials to lift restrictions.
“River flows are steady to increasing and improving conditions for fish. In addition, irrigation demand is declining,” Saffel says. “Still, drought conditions remain, and we encourage anglers and irrigators to take measures that can reduce their impacts on fish and the river.”
Saffel suggests that anglers can reduce stress on fish by avoiding angling where water is particularly low and fish have little ability to find alternate habitat. Irrigators can help by continuing to curb their water use or shutting of early to provide instream flow.
Many irrigators have been reducing use as part of the river’s “Drought Response Plan” that calls for a “shared sacrifice” among irrigators and anglers. FWP and The Blackfoot Drought Committee also lifted the call for voluntary contributions from junior irrigators participating in the drought response. Curbing angling for already stressed trout and improving stream flows not only protects fish for this year but also helps maintain trout populations in following years.
“The addition of flows from these irrigators has been a big relief for the fishery,” Saffel says. “We want to thank the irrigators and anglers for helping reduce stress on the fish this summer.”
The Blackfoot’s 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.
For the latest information on drought and fire restrictions and closures around the state, visit FWP’s website at fwp.mt.gov.
(Report by Montana FWP; Cover photo: hs.doversherborn.org)