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Fish biologists relocating catfish to Musselshell River - KBZK.com | Continuous News | Bozeman, Montana

Fish biologists relocating catfish to Musselshell River

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For the first time in more than 20 years the middle part of the Musselshell River has native catfish. 

This relocation was made possible by a natural disaster and the response by water users to improve the river.

"So the neat part of this is we have some dams that were lost, unfortunately to the landowners," Mike Ruggles said. "But for the fishes' sake now we have opened up larger chunks of habitat that we hope these fish can recolonize and become part of a fishery up there that's really been lost in the last twenty years."

This catfish relocation is part of a broader initiative to restore the Musselshell River.

"Through the Musselshell Watershed Coalition's efforts to improve water delivery for irrigation they have also improved water delivery for fish," Ruggles said.

One of the main reasons for the Musselshell's improvement was a 2011 flood that damaged many of the agriculture diversion dams along the river. Since then the Watershed Coalition has worked with landowners to improve irrigation systems and in some places provide fish passage.

"I think there is more buy-in because people really realize the value of the river and especially a couple of years there it had those huge floods and it affected everyone in a major way," Roy O'Connor said.

As more improvements are made along the river the Musselshell could one day become a complete fishery throughout its entire range. 

"It's always fun to look at a river like this and think there really are some fun fish in there, some edible fish, catfish, sauger. Hopefully they will be here in the future and ling.

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