One Door Opens As Another Closes

Rocky Mountain brown trout release

Brown trout in Montana are spreading to new waters in western part of the state, while officials are closing rivers to spawn and winter fishing to protect declining numbers in the south west.

Sections of the Big Hole and Beaverhead will be closed from Nov. 1 until April 1. Catch and release will be mandatory, and only artificial flies and lures can be used the remainder of the year.

Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks officials told the Ravalli Republic said brown trout have been expanding their range into tributaries where the waters were once thought to be too cold for browns to prosper, potentially threatening native species including bull trout.

Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks fisheries research coordinator David Schmetterling said those native fish strongholds in tributaries were considered to be places where brown trout couldn’t survive.

“It was the habitat we thought was unsuitable for brown trout,” he said “Water temperatures were cool enough that we thought it would be inhospitable for brown trout. What we started to see — and it happened pretty rapidly — brown trout were showing up and it didn’t take them long to get established.”

Montana FWP officials had proposed a plan to ban fishing during the brown trout spawn in fall to help arrest plummeting numbers in some of the State’s best known streams. After public pressure the measures were widened to add the ban on bait to what was initially a 5 months closure. But on Monday the FWP Commission voted to wind back the closure from the third Saturday in May back to April 1.

All harvest of brown trout is now outlawed and bait fishing and treble hooks are also banned.