An error in water flow could cause some some problems for future fishing opportunities on a popular Montana river.

Our friend Brett French, the Outdoor Editor of the Billings Gazette, reports that low flows on the upper Madison River are being blamed on a faulty shaft that holds up a gate on Hebgen Lake Dam. That piece broke sometime early Tuesday morning, cutting off water to the river.

Fish have been stranded and brown trout eggs were exposed as the river dropped. The long-term effects of the drawdown are uncertain. In the short term, at last report, NorthWestern Energy was working to resolve the problem and get water flowing as soon as possible. The closure will remain in place until the issue at the dam is resolved and flows are fully restored to the river.

Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks staff and lots of volunteers got on the river Wednesday moving stranded fish back into the river channel. Because flows were unable to be restored immediately, it’s likely that cold temperatures will have a greater impact on spawning redds (where a fish has turned onto its side and used its tail to clear a spot in the gravel bottom to spawn) than will foot traffic.

The full fishing closure went into effect for the upper Madison River from Ennis Lake upstream to the Hebgen Dam. A lot of anglers at the river were leaving rods and reels behind, replaced with nets and buckets. Once netted and in buckets, the fish were released back into the main stem of the river.

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