Warm water, low flows prompt hoot-owl restrictions on Jefferson
July 26, 2023
Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks is advising anglers that the entire Jefferson River and portions of the Beaverhead River, Bitterroot River are closed to all fishing daily from 2 p.m. to midnight. The restrictions will stay in effect until conditions improve.
The hoot-owl restrictions are issued for:
• Jefferson River – the entire river, from the Missouri River to the confluence of the Big Hole River and Beaverhead River
• Beaverhead River –from the confluence of the Big Hole River to Anderson Lane.
• Bitterroot River – from Veteran's Bridge at Hamilton to the confluence of the East and West Forks Bitterroot River
FWP's drought policy provides for angling restrictions when flows drop below critical levels for fish, when water quality is diminished or when maximum daily water temperatures reach at least 73 degrees for three consecutive days. Water temperatures of 77 degrees or more can be lethal to trout. The upper Bitterroot restriction is based on criteria for cutthroat trout, which is temps reach or exceed 66 degrees for three consecutive days.
Restrictions of this nature are designed to protect fish that become more susceptible to disease and mortality when conditions like this exist. FWP officials said one short-term strategy to address heat-induced stress in Montana's wild trout is to reduce catch-and-release mortality by alerting anglers to fish only in the morning.
Anglers can reduce stress on fish at all times of the year by getting fish to net or hand quickly, keep them in the water, and revive them prior to releasing them back to river.
In addition, anglers can also help reduce stress and mortality 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.
• Keep the fish in water as much as possible.
• Let the fish recover before releasing it.
If high temperatures and extremely low flows persist, anglers may want to consider fishing areas with less stressful temperatures and conditions, such as larger lakes or reservoirs, or higher elevation waterbodies.