During a conference call Thursday, the Fish and Wildlife Commission lifted all fishing restrictions at Willow Creek Reservoir near Augusta.
The department was recently informed that the Bureau of Reclamation and Greenfields Irrigation District need to completely drain the reservoir in order to complete maintenance and repairs to the dam infrastructure. During the drawdown, it is anticipated that some fish will be flushed downstream, and fish that remain in the reservoir will not survive because water levels will be below levels that can sustain aquatic life. Rather than leave fish to waste, the commission has lifted all fishing restrictions to allow public opportunity to harvest and consume fish that are expected to die during the drawdown. The reservoir is expected to be drained by the end of August.
FWP attempted to negotiate for solutions that would save the fishery in the reservoir, including providing funds. Those negotiations were unsuccessful. During the past 10 years, FWP had established an exceptional rainbow trout and tiger muskie fishery.
The commission action removed all daily bag limits, possession limits, and gear restrictions for Willow Creek Reservoir. Fish can be harvested by any lawful means; however, it is unlawful to transport any live fish from the reservoir. Fishing restrictions will be lifted until Dec. 31. The Willow Creek Reservoir Fishing Access Site will remain open during the drawdown. Conditions near the water’s edge are expected to be treacherous with variably muddy conditions and high risk of sinking in the mud. Anglers are encouraged to use extreme caution when accessing the water.
After the dam is repaired and the reservoir is re-filled, FWP will evaluate how to rehabilitate the fishery. Willow Creek Reservoir is currently a popular rainbow trout and tiger muskie fishery, accounting for an estimated 7,030 angler days in 2017. Other species currently present in the reservoir include brook trout and white sucker.
For more information on the Willow Creek Reservoir drawdown, please contact the FWP Region 4 office in Great Falls at 406-454-5840.
(feature photo via BigSkyFishing.com)