MISSOULA — State wildlife officials have announced fishing restrictions are going into effect on a pair of Western Montana rivers.
Montana Fish Wildlife & Parks (FWP) is advising anglers that the entire main stem of the Bitterroot River will close to fishing daily from 2 p.m. to midnight, starting Monday due to warming water temperatures and low flows.
New restrictions have also been added for the Clark Fork River from its confluence with the Flathead River upstream to Rock Creek. The rest of the Clark Fork has already been under restrictions since July 1.
The current "hoot-owl" restrictions in west-central Montana include:
- Bitterroot – The entire main stem (which excludes the East and West Forks).
- Clark Fork- The entire river from its confluence with the Flathead River upstream to the confluence with Warm Springs Creek.
- Silver Bow Creek, including Warm Springs Ponds -- From the creek’s confluence with Warm Springs Creek to Montana Street in Butte.
FWP’s drought policy calls 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° for three consecutive days.
FWP notes limiting fishing to the cooler morning hours helps to reduce stress on fish. Anglers can also help reduce stress and mortality for fish by following these practices when catching and releasing fish:
- Fish during the coolest times of the day, where permitted.
- Keep the fish in water as much as possible.
- Remove the hook gently. Using artificial lures with single and barbless hooks can make hook removal faster and easier.
- Let the fish recover before releasing it.
- Consider fishing areas with less stressful temperatures and conditions, such as larger lakes or reservoirs, or higher elevation waterbodies.
A full list of FWP restrictions can be found here.