By Montana Grant

Posted: May 31, 2020

Montana has a bunch of private fisheries that are open to the public. You just need to call and make an appointment. Landowners control the volume of fishermen to try and manage the fishery. These small stream fisheries are easily overfished.

I tried to connect with Willow Creek, near Three Forks, the other day. The fish are average in size and rattlesnakes are abundant. The owner of the property lives in California but offers free access to the small creek fishery. Browns and rainbows are the standard.

The woman in charge of reservations told me that they were booked until the end of October! I have never been unable to get a date on this fishery. Normally 6-10 anglers a day are allowed. In the decades of fishing this creek, I have never been unable to book a day.

After a bit of research to several local fishing shops, guides, and outfitters, I have figured out part of the problem. Suddenly, Willow Creek, and other private fisheries, are a destination. They sell and book guide/outfitter dates up the wazoo! “The Madison River has become too crowded”. Clients want a more private and intimate venue”. It is also true that our fly-fishing population continues to grow. Fishermen also want to social distance.

The same issue is happening with hunting access. Outfitters, clubs, and other groups are buying up access rights to decent properties. The landowners only need to accept a huge payday to restrict public access. The outfitters or private groups are not required to post the property or announce the access restriction. If you had permission, it needs to be current. Many of the Hutterite Farms, State land and all, are now private Outfitter access. Nonresident landowners often close public access.

Montana is a Sportsman’s dream destination and Big Money are all about taking advantage of that. The concern is that they are using public resources to make a buck. This issue is more prevalent in the larger, more populated counties of Montana. If this trend continues, Public lands and watersheds will continue to become more crowded as other areas restrict or deny access.

We all love our special Big Sky Country open spaces, but who do they belong to? So much of our Public Land is already land locked and access is denied. Leased property that contain public land blocks are now off limits to Public use. Our Public tax dollars pay for the management and care of School trust and State lands, but the benefits seem to go to private entities.

Outdoor Recreation in Montana is changing. Subsistent hunting and fishing are no longer a necessity or requirement. These experiences are in demand as a sport and entertainment venue. Our exceptional resources are being loved to death. They are becoming “Booked for a Buck”! Remember this when voting and communicating with other residents and sportsmen.

In Europe, fishing and hunting are now the “Sports of Kings.” Only the wealthy get to pursue the natural resources the “public” sometimes take for granted.

Help keep Montana Open Spaces Open!

Montana Grant

For more Montana Grant, find him enjoying public places with the public at

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