Outdoors

Montana lifts fishing restrictions on Clark Fork River

Sparse numbers of big brown trout lurk in the upper Clark Fork River. (The Spokesman-Review)
Sparse numbers of big brown trout lurk in the upper Clark Fork River. (The Spokesman-Review)

FISHING — Fishing restrictions have been rescinded for the Clark Fork River as water temperatures have cooled, Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks officials announced this afternoon.

Water temperatures are holding below 70 degrees, and weather conditions have moderated enough that further restrictions are not likely, they said.

The Clark Fork from Perkins Lane Bridge downstream to Flint Creek and from the confluence with Bitterroot downstream to the Flathead River had been closed to fishing from 2 p.m. until midnight since July 25 to reduce the impact on drought-stressed fish.

Other west-central Montana rivers that remain under these “hoot owl” restrictions include the main stem of the Bitterroot River and the bull trout tributaries in the Blackfoot Drainage.

On the Bitterroot, fishing is prohibited from 2 p.m. to midnight on the entire length of the river, excluding the East and West Forks.Region 2 FWP Fisheries Manager, Pat Saffel says that criteria for removing restrictions on the Bitterroot have not been met.

“We’re looking for water temperatures to stay below 70 degrees for three consecutive days in the lower Bitterroot near Missoula, and we’re thinking we might be there next week if cooler air temperatures hold,” Saffel says. 

In the Blackfoot drainage, fishing is closed from 2 p.m. until midnight on important bull trout streams including Morrell, Gold, Belmont, Cottonwood, Copper, and Monture Creeks; the North Fork of the Blackfoot River; and Landers Fork. 

On the main Blackfoot River, temperatures are declining and flows are holding steady just above the trigger point for fishing restrictions.  The Blackfoot Drought Response Plan calls for a “shared sacrifice” approach to improve stream flow and reduce stress on the trout fishery.  Water contributions from irrigators have kept flows high enough to avoid restrictions, but Saffel points out that the water is still low and temperatures warm.

“We encourage anglers on the Blackfoot to reduce fish stress by fishing during the coolest parts of the day, and to handle and release fish as quickly as possible,” Saffel says.

  • Anglers can check for details on fishing restrictions or closures on theFWP home page at fwp.mt.gov. Select Drought & Fire under the Hot Topics heading, or check the FWP online fishing guide.



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Rich Landers

Rich Landers’ Outdoors blog


Rich Landers writes and photographs stories for a wide range of outdoors coverage, including a Sunday feature section and a Thursday column. He also writes the Outdoors Blog.


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