Fly fishing

Fish Tales: How Can Anglers Help Save Montana’s Ailing Trout? | Local News

Eddie olwell

Courtesy photo


In this summer of unprecedented drought, fire and heat, we are seeing firsthand the social and economic impacts of global warming.

Two of Montana’s industries that depend on abundant drinking water, fly fishing and agriculture are particularly affected. Pastoralists are struggling with a shortage of hay, beekeepers are seeing a drop in honey production, and food producers are seeing a decrease in crop productivity.

Our trout fisheries are suffering terribly from the effects of low flows and high temperatures. Trout need cold, clean water and begin to be affected as water temperatures reach 60s.

Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks has instituted “Hoot Owl” restrictions and outright fishing closures on 17 of the state’s rivers and streams to protect stressed trout populations.

Along with this year’s drought, the FWP has seen a sharp decline in brown trout populations in many large trout streams in the upper Missouri watershed. This is of particular concern as brown trout are more resilient and can survive poor water quality and higher temperatures than our native trout. Many thought browns would be better off in a warmer climate.

Biologists are studying the decline of brown trout in these rivers but have yet to find a smoking weapon. One theory is that brown trout are less successful at spawning due to the low flow rates in the fall when they spawn. These problems can be overwhelming for the average fly fisherman and seem like a solution beyond our control.

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