HELENA – Montana’s famed fisheries provide amazing recreational opportunities, from blue ribbon trout streams in the west, to the world-famous Fort Peck Reservoir in the east. Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks provides abundant fishing opportunities, while protecting native fish species, and critical aquatic habitat. This includes managing fisheries under drought conditions.
A new draft comprehensive statewide fisheries management plan is a key piece of that management and is now out for public comment.
“The intent of the statewide management plan is to let people know not only what FWP does but also why FWP does it,” said FWP Fisheries Division administrator Eileen Ryce. “The tremendous fisheries resources of the state do not happen by accident. This includes working with a long list of private and public partners.”
The plan outlines the six main fisheries programs at FWP, including aquatic habitat; aquatic invasive species and fish health; fish propagation, allocation and distribution; fish management tools and techniques; youth and family fishing; and species management.
The plan also proposes fisheries management direction for 40 drainages in Montana. Each drainage section of the draft plan includes a map, fisheries management information, and special management issues, among other things. FWP’s fisheries management philosophy is focused on wild fish management, meaning that fisheries are sustained through wild fish reproduction as much as possible. This management philosophy takes a comprehensive approach to fisheries management requiring adequate water quality, complex and connected habitat, protection from pathogens and invasive species, angler management, and stocking of quality and appropriate fish species only where and when necessary.
The first statewide fisheries management plan was implemented in 2013. This is the third edition of the plan. The plan will be updated every four years with extensive input from the public.
Public comment on the draft statewide management plan and accompanying environmental assessment (EA) will be taken until Sept. 25. FWP staff are looking for the public to comment on all aspects of the draft management plan. For the EA, staff are looking for comment specifically on the environmental impacts of adopting the plan.
Public meetings are scheduled around the state as follows:
- Aug. 28, 6 p.m., Region 6 Headquarters Office, Glasgow
- Aug. 29, 7 p.m., Region 4 Headquarters Office, Great Falls
- Aug. 29, 6 p.m., Region 7, Miles City Community College
- Aug. 30, 6 p.m., Region 3 Headquarters Office, Bozeman
- Aug. 30, 6 p.m., Region 6, Havre, Best Western Great Northern Inn
- Aug. 31, 6 p.m., Region 3, Butte Forest Service Office
- Aug. 31, 7 p.m., Region 4, Lewistown, Yogo Inn
- Sept. 5, 6 p.m., Region 5 Headquarters Office, Billings
- Sept. 6, 6:30 p.m., Region 2 Headquarters Office, Missoula
- Sept. 7, 6 p.m., Region 1 Headquarters Office, Kalispell
To view and comment on the management plan and EA, go to fwp.mt.gov/aboutfwp/public-comment-opportunities/fisheries-mgmt-plan.
The statewide fisheries management plan will be critical for the comprehensive look at fishing regulations FWP will undertake in 2024. However, in the interim, staff are proposing 42 fishing regulation changes for this coming year.
Those changes include:
- Changes to increase clarity and compliance, for example simplifying ice shelter language (proposal 1)
- Restrictions for transport and use of live crayfish due to increasing concerns to native populations and risks associated with the transfer of pathogens (proposals 5 and 3)
- More fishing opportunity, such as allowing for northern pike spearing in the Western District (proposal 4) and year-round fishing on Bootjack Lake (proposal 9)
- Updates to the Big Hole and Beaverhead rivers to allow for responsiveness to changing population trends and to study the impacts of different types of angling on trout populations. (Proposal 27 and 28)
- Increased protection for spawning rainbow trout with seasonal closures on Clark Canyon Reservoir (proposal 29), Red Rock River (proposal 34) and Ruby River Reservoir (proposal 35)
FWP will take comment on the fishing regulation proposals through Sept. 19. The Fish and Wildlife Commission will make a final decision on the regulations at their Oct. 19 meeting.
For more information and to comment, go to fwp.mt.gov/aboutfwp/public-comment-opportunities/fishing-regulations.