A hoot owl restriction, which prohibits fishing each day between 2 p.m. and midnight, was in place for the Ruby River from the confluence with the Beaverhead River up to Duncan District Road crossing. That restriction has been lifted.
A section of the Beaverhead River has also reopened to fishing after a full fishing closure was put in place earlier this month for the entire river. The fishing closure has been lifted from the river’s confluence with the Big Hole River upstream to Pipe Organ Bridge. A full fishing closure remains in effect from Pipe Organ Bridge upstream to the dam at Clark Canyon Reservoir.
The closure began Sept. 1 to reduce stress for fish while flows from Clark Canyon Dam transitioned from typical irrigation releases of about 300 cubic feet per second (CFS) to the minimum overwinter release of 25 CFS. This flow change occurred several weeks earlier than normal due to severe drought projections. However, water managers extended the transition period to allow more time for fish to adapt.
Now that the transition is complete and air and water temperatures have cooled in some areas, Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks has lifted the closure downstream of Pipe Organ Bridge. The closure remains in effect above the bridge due to a high density and susceptibility of spawning fish, low flows, and relatively warm water.
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. Fishing restrictions are also still in place for the Jefferson and Big Hole rivers. 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 where fishing is allowed, 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.