Montana FWP to use drought restriction criteria as in years past

Montana FWP to use drought restriction criteria as in years past

HELENA – Last year, the Fish and Wildlife Commission approved an amendment to the “hoot owl” rule that directs fishing restrictions during drought. The amendment allowed Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks to implement restrictions in designated reaches of Montana streams according to the Statewide Fisheries Management Plan.

The Statewide Fisheries Management Plan is scheduled to be finalized later this fall after public review and comment this summer. Given this timeline, hoot owl restrictions this summer will continue to be implemented as they were in past years. Hoot owl restrictions prohibit fishing between 2 p.m. and midnight on drought-impacted streams until conditions improve. There are four criteria FWP biologists consider for setting hoot owl restrictions:

  • species of interest are present in significant number
  • temperature criteria have been met
  • fishing pressure is high
  • stream flow conditions

These restrictions are designed to protect fish that become more susceptible to stress, disease and mortality when low and warm water conditions exist.

Anglers can help reduce stress 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
  • land the fish quickly
  • keep the fish in water as much as possible
  • remove the hook gently; using artificial lures with single and barbless hooks can make hook removal faster and easier
  • let the fish recover before gently releasing it