Following high flows from 2017 through 2019 the Bighorn River’s trout populations took a hit. But since 2019, the river’s fish populations have steadily climbed. Total trout per mile in 2021 amounted to more than 2,500 fish. In addition, rainbow trout numbers have recovered. They were hardest hit during the high flows because they are spring spawners. Rainbow trout numbers last year reached 1,400 fish per mile. Because the river flows are controlled by Yellowtail Dam, the fish are reliant on the Bureau of Reclamation’s dam operations. Limiting high spring flows has been a challenge because what appears to be a dry year can quickly change in the spring with heavy moisture. But the agency has gotten better at calculations and dam flows since 2019 and anglers are seeing the benefits. Trout growth in the river, which is essentially a big spring creek, are phenomenal right now, but it’s always a balancing act between having enough fish and enough big fish. For more details, as well as how the Bighorn Reservoir fishery is doing, check out my story at https://billingsgazette.com/news/state-and-regional/bighorn-river-fisheries-thriving-in-wyoming-and-montana/article_4e0d6a64-db15-11ed-be12-3fb4ecd1ed51.html.
Written by Brett French | Outdoors editor | Billings Gazette Communications