By Montana Grant

Posted: August 13, 2020

According to commissioner Pat Byworth, “the Madison River is the most heavily fished wild trout river in the world!” Developing rules and a plan to protect this amazing fishery is in “uncharted waters.”

Montana officials plan to hear two petitions related to new regulations for the Madison. The August 13th meeting will listen to the proposals which will the trigger a public process. Last year the number of commercial trips increased 13% to nearly 14,000 guided trips. This year, the numbers are even higher.

Two groups are proposing petitions.

FOAM, the Fishing Outfitters Association or Montana is scheduled to present their proposal.

They are calling on the commission to remove restrictions. Allow boat fishing between Quake Lake and Lyons Bridge. Cap the number of commercial trips at the current levels. Avoid “rest rotation” schedules for at least 3 more years. They also want “Flex trips”, or additional guide trips on the Madison. This means that if other rivers are closed or impacted, they can use the Madison as an alternative. They also want any recreational user to have a “no cost, no limit stamp”.

The George Grant Chapter of Trout Unlimited also has a proposal. They are also supported by the Skyline Sportsmen Association and the Anaconda Sportsmen Association.

They want a cap on guided trips at the 2019 numbers. Seasonal rest/ rotation sections of the river are also requested. They are looking at Saturdays and Sundays between June 15th and Sept. 30th. The petition also wants a” no cost, no limit” stamp to be required.

This process has been going on for a few years and has yet to see positive change. The Covid-19 pandemic has only increased the pressure on the fishery. Crowding and fishing pressure is worse than it has ever been.

Both parties agree that river health is important and that something needs to change. It is up to the FWP to balance the wellness of the Madison River fishery and the economic impact. Pat Byworth says, “there is no more time!”

Montana Grant

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