Falling River Levels Bring Fishing Restrictions and Float Danger
KGVO News spoke to FWP Fisheries Manager for Region 2 Patrick Saffel in the Missoula office on Friday as a blistering weekend approaches, who described the conditions for the main rivers in western Montana.
Temperatures in the 100's have Caused Hoot-Owl Fishing Restrictions
“We're just heading into the warmest time of year in our local rivers, which is typically the third week in July to the middle or third week in August,” began Saffel. “We're coming out of what was a pretty good snowpack year but the snowmelt was early and then the rains kind of held off the high temperatures but those seem to be going away as well, so water levels are dropping fast and temperatures are rising.”
Because of the high temperatures, Saffel said what are called ‘Hoot-Owl’ restrictions have been imposed for fishermen.
Main Rivers are Restricted with No Fishing after 2:00 p.m.
“We've implemented Hoot Owl regulations which means no fishing after 2:00 p.m.,” he said. “That’s in effect for the Upper Bitterroot at the Veterans Bridge up to the west and east forks confluence this last week and then we're anticipating a lot more this coming week. I really can't think of a water in the region that we're not watching closely but in particular the Blackfoot and the Bitterroot have particularly low flows, and then other areas are of concern as well.”
Experienced fishermen are aware of the Hoot Owl restrictions, but others may not be. Saffel encouraged those who see violators to contact the local FWP office rather than confront them directly.
“It’s probably best just to call our regional office at 406-542-5500 or call 1-800 Tip-Mon, he said. “I don't think it's dangerous necessarily to approach people but it also may not be a citizen’s job to do that, but I'll leave that to their discretion.”
Caution is Urged for Floaters even When River Levels Fall
Saffel said when river levels drop there can be just as many dangers for those that float the rivers as during the high water levels.
“Whereas there's less flow in the rivers they shrink or become more narrow and oftentimes there are debris hazards or other things because that's where the water is drawn,” he said. “There's actually sometimes less space to get around some of those hazards. A lot of people do think that high water is when it's most dangerous, maybe because you're moving fast, but the low water presents other dangers and you’ve just got to be careful every time because conditions are always changing. We do try to keep up on where hazards might be, but it's just pretty much impossible because things are changing so quickly, in different places.”