As Montana creeps into the dog days of summer, state fisheries managers continue to monitor wild and native trout streams that have endured nearly two months of stressful low and warm water conditions.
“It’s always encouraging to see our anglers’ willingness to help Montana’s trout beat the heat,” said Bruce Rich, FWP’s chief of fisheries. “We appreciate everyone’s effort to help spread the word about what we can all do to help conserve Montana’s wild and native trout.”
Rich said FWP is committed to trout conservation will remain vigilant this summer as many Montana streams chart record low flows.
Earlier this month FWP placed “hoot owl” fishing regulations on 13 western Montana streams to reduce impacts on drought-stressed fish. The regulations allow fishing during the coolest hours of the day between midnight and 2 p.m.
“We’re just now heading into what are typically the toughest weeks of the summer for water temperatures and flows,” Rich said. “At this point, we’re not expecting any new fishing restrictions. Rather, we’ll continue to closely monitor conditions and always err on the side of wild fish conservation when additional measures are warranted.”
Rich advises anglers to be extra cautious handling trout, urging the use of heavier-than-usual gear and tackle to land fish quickly, rubber-bag landing nets, and keeping fish in the water while the hook is removed and the fish released.
Here are some catch-and-release fish handling techniques anglers can follow to help conserve Montana’s wild and native trout populations and minimize the stress on fish:
- Use barbless hooks.
- Land fish quickly once they are hooked.
- Keep fish in the water as much as possible and avoid handling them if you can.
- If you do handle a fish, wet your hands before touching it and do so gently.
- Take care not to touch a fish’s gills.
Low flows, high water temperatures, and competition for space and food stress most fish, and especially trout. When the need arises FWP’s drought policy provides for the use of angling closures when flows drop below critical levels for fish, when water quality is diminished, or when maximum daily water temperatures in a stream reach at least 73 degrees for three consecutive days.
The preferred water temperature for rainbow and brown trout is about 55-57 degrees. Water temperatures of 77 degrees or more can be lethal to trout.
While air and water temperatures have moderated to more seasonal norms recently, stream flows are still critically low.