FWP completes report of angler surveys on upper Madison River
By angelamontana

Posted: December 7, 2018

Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks recently completed a report of angler surveys in the iconic upper Madison River and the results document an increase in angling pressure and some changes in angler satisfaction.

The surveys again show that the majority of angling on the upper Madison River is from non-residents. Additionally, anglers are increasingly dissatisfied with the number of anglers on the river and traffic at the river access sites. However, most anglers have a positive view of the angling experience on the river.

The Madison River is frequently one of the most heavily fished rivers in Montana. Due to the heavy use, FWP has undertaken many efforts to analyze use and reduce angler conflicts and crowding on the Upper Madison River during the last 60 years.

FWP is currently undertaking a negotiated rule making process to address recreation management on the Madison River. The Fish & Wildlife Commission is slated to appoint the negotiated rule making committee members at their meeting Dec. 10.

The angling report on the upper Madison River was primarily funded by NorthWestern Energy, which owns and operates Ennis and Hebgen Dams.

To gather information for the report, FWP used remote sensing cameras to track boat traffic from 2015 to 2017 at a fixed point on the upper Madison River. In 2016, a mail survey was initiated to survey anglers who had fished the upper Madison River and were identified through biennial pressure surveys. In 2017, FWP conducted a creel survey to identify and describe the current angling population, their perceptions, as well as catch rates by species and location. Creel surveys are done with anglers in person and on site at the river.

Significant findings from the creel surveys include:

  • Approximately 70% of anglers interviewed during the survey were non-resident, the remaining being Montana resident anglers
  • Gallatin County anglers represented 18% of interviews conducted.
  • Most of the non-resident, non-commercial use, is occurring between Hebgen Dam and Lyons Bridge Fishing Access Site, where fishing from a boat is prohibited.
  • Throughout the nearly year-long survey approximately 50% of the use on the float fish section of the river (Lyons FAS to Ennis FAS) was from commercial users.
  • Anglers from California, Utah and Colorado represented more than 21% of the interviews conducted.
  • More than 25% of people interviewed had not fished the Madison River more than one year.
  • While 70% of respondents indicate the quality of fishing is either neutral, acceptable or very acceptable, angling satisfaction is declining in some categories – 55% of anglers surveyed said the number of people float fishing between Lyons Bridge and Ennis was either unacceptable or very unacceptable. Similar levels were observed when people were asked to rate their satisfaction with the number of people and vehicles at river access points.

The results of the 2017 state-wide angler pressure survey will be available soon, and will provide additional information relevant to the Madison River.

To see the complete report, click here.

( Via MT FWP; feature photo via Outside Bozeman)