Officials Concerned About Montana Rivers
Reports dealing with water levels and fish populations are showing changes in this year's conditions of Montana's rivers heading into summer. In the statewide reports, the Smith River floating season has come to a sudden stop with low flows reported by Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks.
The Smith River showed a low flow of 116 Cubic Feet Per Second (CFS) last week at the Eagle Creek gauge, which caused the closure of the season. Usually at this time of year, the flow is over 500 CFS. The level was even too low for canoes and kayaks, which FWP sets at 150 CFS and definitely too low for rafts, which require 250 CFS.
Another river was closed due to low flows. About 14 miles of the Ruby River was closed last week because the reservoir was low this season. And other streams in the Big Hole area are experiencing low water levels, too.
On the other hand, according to the Bitter Root Trout Unlimited newsletter this month, Painted Rocks Dam is full, with water coming over the spillway. That will be changing as the summer continues, with water instead moving to the low level outlet, which is expected.
FWP is also concerned with a decrease in Brown Trout numbers in various streams. The numbers of juvenile brown trout have declined. The biologists are looking at possible fishing season changes - such as seasonal closures from September to May, evening fishing restrictions from 2 pm to midnight and new catch and release rules. In the Bitterroot, however, the brown trout numbers have been steady, again according to Bitter Root Trout Unlimited. However, the brown trout are showing up in areas of the river they are not normally found, such as the upper East Fork. That's usually the main home for native bull trout. They'll be watching that development.