FWP News: Warm water, low flows prompt hoot-owl fishing restrictions on Sun, Madison rivers
By angelamontana

Posted: July 11, 2023

Fishing closure daily from 2 p.m. to midnight

HELENA – Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks is advising anglers that portions of the Sun and lower Madison rivers will close to all fishing daily from 2 p.m. to midnight, beginning Wednesday, July 12. The restrictions will stay in effect until conditions improve.

The hoot-owl restrictions are issued for:

  • Sun River – from the Highway 287 Bridge to the mouth of Muddy Creek.
  • Madison River – from Warm Springs Boat Launch to the confluence with the Jefferson River

FWP’s drought policy provides for angling restrictions when flows drop below critical levels for fish, when water quality is diminished or when maximum daily water temperatures reach at least 73 degrees for three consecutive days. Water temperatures of 77 degrees or more can be lethal to trout.

Restrictions of this nature are designed to protect fish that become more susceptible to disease and mortality when conditions like this exist. FWP officials said one short-term strategy to address heat-induced stress in Montana’s wild trout is to reduce catch-and-release mortality by alerting anglers to fish only in the morning.

“Limiting fishing to only the cool morning hours can help a lot,” said Eric Roberts, FWP’s Fish Management Bureau Chief. “We’re trying to minimize any additional stress on wild trout during these mid-summer conditions of high-water temperatures and low flows.”

Anglers can reduce stress on fish at all times of the year by getting fish to net or hand quickly, keep them in the water, and revive them prior to releasing them back to river.
In addition, anglers can also help reduce stress and mortality 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.
  • Keep the fish in water as much as possible.
  • Let the fish recover before releasing it.

If high temperatures and extremely low flows persist, anglers may want to consider fishing areas with less stressful temperatures and conditions, such as larger lakes or reservoirs, or higher elevation waterbodies.

These are the first restrictions imposed this year by FWP, but probably not the last. For the latest waterbody restrictions and closures, click here.


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