Montana Wildlife Officials Consider Rules to Protect Trout

Biologists have tracked declining numbers of juvenile brown trout in southwest Montana rivers

By Associated Press

BOZEMAN — Wildlife officials in Montana are seeking feedback on a proposal to expand fishing restrictions to protect declining brown trout populations.

Biologists with Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks and the U.S. Geological Survey have tracked declining numbers of juvenile brown trout in southwest Montana rivers, including the Big Hole, Ruby, Boulder, Beaverhead, upper Yellowstone and upper Stillwater rivers, the Bozeman Daily Chronicle reported Wednesday.

Eric Roberts, fish management bureau chief with Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, said it is concerning because low numbers of younger fish indicate that older fish are not being replaced.

Biologists are now gathering public comments on the proposed changes, which include seasonal fishing closures from September to May, catch and release requirements and evening fishing restrictions from 2 p.m. to midnight daily. The changes could also apply to the rivers’ tributaries.

Residents can submit comment online, by mail or by attending public meetings June 22 and June 23. Department officials will then develop proposals to be considered in August.

Roberts attributed the trout population decline, in part, because of changing water temperatures and habitat alterations. He said there are long-term plans in place to address stream flows and enhance habitat; however, angling restrictions are short-term ways to address the declining population.