Fly Fishing Community Steps Up With ‘Save Wild Trout’ Campaign
By Moosetrack Megan

Posted: June 20, 2023

WISE RIVER, MT – In response to the Jefferson Basin’s wild trout population crash, a coalition of fly fishing businesses, outfitters and guides, lodges, anglers, and advocates have formed and launched Save Wild Trout to address this ecological and economic emergency.


“The State’s inaction and lack of urgency has left us local business owners and impacted community members desperate for answers, so we’ve formed Save Wild Trout to bring private resources and expertise to work together to find science-based solutions to restoring our fisheries,” said Wade Fellin, Co-owner of Big Hole Lodge. “This is an all-hands-on-deck moment for southwest Montana’s beloved and world renowned wild trout fisheries, and we can’t hold our breath hoping someone will step up, while population numbers and our businesses suffer. Working alongside federal, state, and local agencies and with the local, national, and international fly-fishing community, Save Wild Trout can work outside of the confines of bureaucracy in a complementary way.”


After a group of impacted guides, outfitters, fly-fishing businesses, and lodges sent a letter to Governor Gianforte requesting emergency assistance on May 30, 2023, and failed to receive a timely response with a plan of action, the group decided to fill the void left behind by lack of leadership and attention to the crisis.


Fishing in Montana generates nearly $1 billion in economic activity annual according to the state Fish, Wildlife, and Parks. Fly fishing, hunting, and outdoor recreation generates $167 million annually and supports 1,400 jobs in Beaverhead County alone.


“The world-class Big Hole River and the entire Jefferson Basin is our Canary in the coal mine moment but we aren’t alone and this won’t be the last crisis facing wild trout. What we do now will determine our future because dead rivers are in no one’s interest,” said Fellin.


Save Wild Trout will convene an independent, multi-disciplinary experts panel to study SW Montana’s trout population collapse, identify causes, and propose solutions, including discrete legislative, regulatory, and/or policy reforms. Experts will commission a report presenting findings and recommendations to restore and conserve SW Montana’s wild trout fisheries, which will then provide the basis for targeted coalition advocacy.


Additionally Save Wild Trout will work to:

  • Conserve wild trout habitat and work to protect wild trout habitat by advocating for policies that reduce pollution, improve water quality, and protect streamside land.

  • Educate the public about the importance of wild trout and the threats they face. The organization will produce educational materials, host events, and work to raise awareness of challenges and wild trout conservation.

  • Advocate for policies that support wild trout populations, working with policy-makers and decision-makers to enforce, develop and implement laws and regulations that protect wild trout habitat and promote sustainable fishing practices.

  • Develop models, understanding, expertise, policy, and resources to replicate nationally.


These partners have already joined Save Wild Trout, and others can sign on through the website. To learn more, visit


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