FWP News: High temps prompt additional hoot owl restrictions on some rivers in southwest and west-central Montana
By angelamontana

Posted: August 1, 2022

HELENA – Daily hoot owl fishing restrictions are being implemented for sections of the Shields, Madison, Ruby, East Gallatin, Clark Fork and Bitterroot rivers and Silver Bow Creek to reduce fish stress and mortality during high water temperatures.

Hoot owl restrictions prohibit fishing each day between 2 p.m. and midnight. These restrictions go into effect at 2 p.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 2:

  • Shields River: Shields River Road bridge to the confluence with the Yellowstone River
  • Madison River: Madison Dam (Ennis dam) to the confluence with the Jefferson River
  • Madison River: Eight Mile Ford Fishing Access Site to Ennis Reservoir
  • Ruby River: Duncan District Road crossing to the confluence with the Beaverhead River
  • East Gallatin River: Confluence of Rocky Creek and Bear Creek to the confluence with the West Gallatin River
  • Clark Fork River: Confluence of the Bitterroot River to the confluence of the Flathead River
  • Silver Bow Creek: The entire creek, from the confluence with Blacktail Creek at Montana Street in Butte to the confluence with Warm Springs Creek at the Gas City Road Bridge
  • Bitterroot River: The entire main stem (which excludes the East and West Forks)

Hoot owl restrictions are currently in place for these waters:

  • Gallatin River: from the mouth of the river to Cameron Bridge Fishing Access Site
  • Beaverhead River: from the mouth of the river to Selway Park FAS
  • Big Hole River:
    • Maidenrock FAS to the the river’s confluence with the Jefferson River
    • From Saginaw Bridge to Dickie Bridge
  • Clark Fork: from the confluence with Warm Springs Creek and Silver Bow Creek t o the confluence with Flint Creek
  • East Gallatin River: from Penwell Bridge Road to the confluence with the West Gallatin River at Nixon Bridge
  • Jefferson River: the entire river
  • Madison River: from the Warm Springs boat launch to the confluence with the Jefferson River
  • Smith River: from the confluence of the North Fork and South Fork to Eden Bridge FAS
  • Sun River: from the mouth of Muddy Creek to the Highway 287 bridge

Water temperatures in these areas have exceeded 73 degrees for three consecutive days, meeting criteria for the restrictions. The restrictions will remain in place until water temperatures allow for lifting the restrictions or until Sept. 15.

Fishing restrictions, such as hoot owl restrictions and full closures, are designed to protect fish that become more susceptible to disease and mortality when conditions, such as low flows and high water temperatures, combine with other stressors, including catch-and-release fishing. Restrictions may be put in place for other waterbodies as warm temperatures continue in the coming weeks. Anglers can find a statewide list of current restrictions at fwp.mt.gov/news/current-closures-restrictions.

All stress to fish at this time of year is cumulative, and anglers should consider fishing in cooler waters during times of low flows and high water temperatures in rivers. Anglers can help reduce stress for fish by following these practices when catching and releasing fish, though fish mortality may still occur:

  • Fish during the coolest times of day, where permitted.
  • Land the fish quickly.
  • Wet your hands before handling the fish.
  • Keep the fish in water as much as possible.
  • Remove the hook gently. Using artificial lures with single and barbless hooks can make hook removal faster and easier.
  • If the fish is hooked deeply, you may have to cut the line at the fish’s mouth or consider keeping it if regulations allow.
  • Let the fish recover before releasing it.

An emergency safety closure remains in effect on the Yellowstone River from Mayors Landing FAS to Sheep Mountain FAS.

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