CROWDED WATERS!!!
By Montana Grant

Posted: April 23, 2022

Popular waters can quickly become crowded. Big fish opportunities invite big crowds. Montana’s favorite BIG Sky waters invite BIG crowds. The Madison, Yellowstone, Beaverhead, BIGhole, BIGhorn, Missouri, and Gallatin Rivers are destinations for boatloads of anglers. These famous waters are a pilgrimage for fishermen worldwide.

On a day along the Bighorn River, I was working a pod of trout. My boat was parked upstream, and I had waded to approach the fish. Suddenly, a fly line was cast over my shoulder toward the fish I was involved with. A guy said,” I fished here yesterday and did great! “I quickly told him that today is not yesterday, and you are too close for comfort. He replied, “Well I am a nonresident, and you get to fish anytime you want. I only have a few days.” Resident or non-resident does not matter. Respect, etiquette, and rudeness are not welcome. The Bighorn is BIG river, surely, he could have gone elsewhere. I sat on the bank for 15 minutes and watched the idiot get skunked. As he waded away, I quickly hooked up and made sure I whooped and hollered. 

Some of the crowds are just seasonal. A big hatch, spawning cycle, or best weather invites crowds. More easily accessed waters are also inviting. A recent video or article will create a surge in crowds. Outfitters and guides often dominate certain watersheds. Waters near a tri-state area get hammered from all sides. Some fishermen are just rude and ignorant. 

The fish often get the bad end of the deal. Even with proper Catch and Release techniques, a fish can only survive so many human encounters. They may swim off but many stop feeding for extended times. Bacteria and infection will kill many fish. Big fish tend to be more fragile. When fish operculum’s, eyes are pierced and blinded, and lips are ripped off, they become less likely to survive.

Boat ramps are often busy places. For some reason, people seem to fish at these spots, blocking access. Many are awful at launching and loading watercraft, not to mention backing up a trailer. This means longer waits.

Here are some other tips related to Water Etiquette.

If you can cast to another person, you are too close, unless invited.

Don’t monopolize one spot. Move on after a reasonable time.

Boats need to avoid other boaters and waders. Navigate as far away as you can.

In some cases, where waters are narrow, the angler may need to give way to the boaters. Usually, fish will settle down after 15 minutes or so.

Seek out more remote waters if you require more privacy. Most anglers fish within a half mile or less of an access.

Since most anglers are right-handed, the left bank, facing upstream, gets the most fishing pressure.

If you fish around a person, leave untouched water for them. Usually, 15 minutes of space is enough.

Fishing is supposed to be fun. Make some new friends. Getting into arguments just ruins everyone’s day.

Montana Grant