THREE FORKS — Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks said Thursday, July 24, 2022, that a daily fishing restriction is now in place for the lower Madison River to reduce fish stress and mortality during high water temperatures.
The hoot-owl fishing restriction, which prohibits fishing each day between 2 p.m. and midnight, applies from the Warm Springs Boat Launch to the Madison River’s confluence with the Jefferson River. Water temperatures in the lower Madison have exceeded 73 degrees for three consecutive days, meeting the criteria for the restriction.
Two years ago, the Montana Fish and Wildlife Commission adopted a permanent, seasonal hoot-owl restriction for the lower Madison that was in place each year from July 15 to Aug. 15. However, the commission is meeting today [fwp.mt.gov] to consider a proposal to remove the seasonal restriction. FWP has a proposal [fwp.mt.gov] out for public comment that, if approved by the commission in August, would broadly change rules to allow the department more flexibility when implementing hoot owl restrictions. These proposed rule changes would be in effect for all rivers statewide and would mean the seasonal restriction on the lower Madison would no longer be necessary.
Fishing restrictions, such as hoot-owl restrictions and full closures, are designed to protect fish that become more susceptible to disease and mortality when conditions, such as low flows and high water temperatures, combine with other stressors, including catch-and-release fishing. Restrictions may be put in place for other water bodies as warm temperatures continue in the coming weeks. Anglers can find a statewide list of current restrictions at fwp.mt.gov/news/current-closures-restrictions [fwp.mt.gov].
All stress to fish at this time of year is cumulative, and anglers should consider fishing in cooler waters during times of low flows and high water temperatures in rivers. Anglers can help reduce stress for fish by following these practices when catching and releasing fish, though fish mortality may still occur:
- Fish during the coolest times of day, where permitted.
- Land the fish quickly.
- Wet your hands before handling the fish.
- Keep the fish in the water as much as possible.
- Remove the hook gently. Using artificial lures with single and barbless hooks can make hook removal faster and easier.
- If the fish is hooked deeply, you may have to cut the line at the fish’s mouth or consider keeping it if regulations allow.
- Let the fish recover before releasing it.