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Fishing still 'really good' on Madison River after 2021 Hebgen Dam malfunction

Local fisherman says the fish are still biting and healthy in the Madison this year
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Posted at 3:44 PM, May 25, 2023

In November of 2021, an equipment malfunction at the Hebgen Dam caused river levels below the dam to drop. Fly fishing guide Coleman Savage says when the water went down, the fishing community was unsure of the future of the fish.

“I think we were worried about the next generation of fish for that year," says Savage. "We were worried that a lot of those fish that got displaced might die, but I think in the long run, we know that it's a resilient fishery.”

Savage says the fishing this season has been great so far.

“The fishing has been really good," says Savage. "The habitat still looks great. I would say that that dam failure fortunately didn't affect things too much at all.”

Montana Fish, Wildlife and Park's Morgan Jacobsen says that the impact of the dam malfunction wasn't severe.

“We did not lose an entire class of fish," says Jacobsen, "We were able to find fish of various age classes in sampling efforts.”

Jacobsen says in the area between Hebgen Dam and Quake Lake, they have found all age classes of fish for brown trout and rainbow trout. FWP and Northwestern Energy continue to work together to maintain the health of the Madison.

Northwestern Energy's Jon Hanson says, “We work very closely together, you know, pre-gate failure during gate failure, and still today. So, we are both out there doing a multitude of surveys together on this.”

Savage credits the community for helping ensure the health of the Madison after the dam malfunction.

“There was a really awesome coming together of the community between various organizations and river advocates and conservation groups," says Savage.