Fish (and now fishermen) are starting to get stressed due to the warm weather and low water levels in many of Montana's steams and rivers. The Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks has issued new restrictions this week, including some full fishing closures.

Full closure is happening on the Upper Big Hole River from Saginaw Bridge on the Skinner Meadow Road to the North Fork of the Big Hole River. There are "hoot owl" restrictions on the Lower Big Hole River from the confluence with the Beaverhead River to the Notch Bottom fishing access site. Hoot owl restrictions have also been implemented on the Beaverhead River from the mouth of the river to the Laknar Lane Bridge. Hoot Owl restrictions general means No Fishing from 2 p.m. to Midnight.

The Shields River is closed from the mouth to Rock Creek. Hoot Owl restrictions have also been announced for these rivers: the Smith River from the confluence of the North and South Forks to Eden Bridge south of Great Falls; the entire length of the Jefferson River; and the Sun River from the mouth of Muddy Creek to the Highway 287 Bridge.

This list will lengthen as the hot summer takes the water temperature above 73 degrees for three consecutive days and when the low water levels drop below critical heights for fish. FWP closes some rivers to protect fish that "are more susceptible to disease and mortality when drought and warm water conditions exist." Even now, anglers should fish in cooler water and fish during the coolest times of the day, and should land the fish quickly, remove the hook gently and let the fish recover before releasing it back into the river's flow.

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