Low River Levels And Higher Water Temperatures Signal Possible Restrictions
As the weather warms and summer deepens, river levels around western Montana continue to drop, and water temperatures rise.
Regional Fisheries Manager for Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks in Missoula, Pat Saffel, said his agency has been watching the river levels closely.
"We didn't get much snowpack and a lot of the snow that we got melted early," Saffel said. "Ever since summer has kicked off we've had some pretty cool temperatures and intermittent rain, so we've been able to hold off really warm water temperatures, but it looks like that'll be turning around here in the next few days."
Saffel said river use restrictions, commonly called 'hoot-owl restrictions', could be on the way.
"We're probably going to be looking hard at drought restrictions early next week, and possibly implementing by late next week, but that all depends on the weather and how accurate the forecast is," he said. "If those restrictions are imposed, angling would be prohibited after two p.m. and that's typically when we see the highest water temperatures and the highest stress on fish, so angling would be allowed until two o'clock. That's all yet to be determined early next week, but the rivers we're looking at are region-wide, the Blackfoot,. the Bitterroot and the Clark Fork, and we'll just wait and see how the temperatures turn out."
Saffel laid out a timeline of how the restrictions would be put in place, if necessary.
"I'll start getting the information in on Monday or Tuesday, I kick off all our internal work on Wednesday and we usually give a day or two lead-time, so they probably wouldn't be in place until Friday or Saturday, but we probably wouldn't announce it until Wednesday or Thursday, just to give people a few days to be educated about it," Saffel said.
Saffel said the fishing is still excellent in the higher mountain lakes, should restrictions be placed on the rivers.