Big Hole River anglers who fish between Maiden Rock and Browne’s Bridge will be able to launch earlier in 2022, but will have to get off earlier.
The change comes after the Montana Fish and Wildlife Commission on Monday decided to change a decision it made in August.
In August, the commission approved new regulations to try to protect brown trout during their fall spawning season by closing the Maiden Rock fishery at Browne’s Bridge from November 1 to the third Saturday in May. This section of water has the highest density of brown trout, according to research by biologists at Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks.
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On Tuesday, due to continued public participation, the panel decided to change the dates.
The panel’s review will now close the Maiden Rock section at Browne’s Bridge earlier, starting September 30, to “reduce the impacts of angling on brown trout spawning and minimize disturbance to spawning grounds.” , according to the FWP agenda item. Spawning grounds are spawning grounds for fish. “Most brown trout spawning in the Big Hole takes place in this section in October.”
Commissioner Pat Byorth asked if the earlier opening was safe given that brown trout would be in poor condition after winter and rainbow trout spawn in the spring.
“So are we just shifting the pressure off the spawners and the post-winter brown trout in a way that offers more opportunities?” He asked himself.
Eric Roberts, fish management supervisor for FWP, said opening earlier is not controversial as water flows can be high and fishing pressure low, resulting in few “biological consequences” . Closing the water section earlier in the fall provides protection that “reduces a stressor during peak spawning season,” he added.
However, Roberts said the advisory group that was considering changes to protect brown trout in southwest Montana had not authorized the specific change. Given this situation, Byorth said he believed the public had not had enough time to weigh in on the proposal.
“When we go through these motions and think about it and listen to public commentary, reversing them a month later based on a few rare public comments is not always a good thing,” Byorth said.
Clayton Elliott, of Montana Trout Unlimited, said his group supported the change but also felt the public should have been given more time to speak out.
Commissioner Pat Tabor said he had no issues with the changes, noting that the Big Hole and Beaverhead were being considered at the same time in August, which may have resulted in some misunderstanding.
“I think the verification took place, we did the whole process, it was just that the two rivers were merged and inadvertently the Big Hole was subjected to those extra thirty days which created an unnecessary penalty and no ‘haven’t really accomplished anything biologically, “he said. “So we make this correction. “
Brown trout numbers are declining in southwestern Montana streams and fishery biologists are unable to identify a specific cause. Rather, it is believed to be a combination of factors ranging from warm water, low flow rates and increased fishing pressure. In the more popular section of Big Hole, near Melrose, the number of adult brown trout has increased from 1,800 to 400 in the past six years.
Commissioner KC Walsh said he wanted to inform the public that similar regulations on the Dickie Bridge to Jerry Creek section of the Big Hole would be considered in the future with an opportunity for the public to comment.
This was good news for Butte fisherman Paul Siddoway, who said this section was also highlighted by the brown trout focus group in its discussions.
Noting that the Big Hole brown trout population has suffered a “catastrophic drop,” he urged greater protection of the resource.
“We must always remember that river fish are a gift and should be treated accordingly,” he said.