GREAT FALLS — "Hoot-owl" fishing restrictions took effect on Tuesday, July 20, for the Missouri River near Craig.
Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks said in a news release that under hoot owl restrictions, fishing is not allowed from 2 p.m. to midnight. The restrictions are in effect between Holter Dam and the town of Cascade boat ramp and are meant to keep anglers from stressing fish already struggling with warm water and low oxygen levels.
Flow below Holter Dam is near the 10th percentile for the daily average on record and the temperatures recorded throughout the section have exceeded 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Although flow and temperature are not exceeding established criteria for restrictions, continued forecast high temperatures coupled with high angling pressure could lead to excessive fish mortality, leading FWP to implement the restrictions.
These restrictions will remain in place until streamflow and water temperature conditions improve or until September 15.
FWP urges all anglers to minimize stress on fish by playing and landing them quickly, and not removing them from the water while unhooking.
Click here for a list of all current restrictionons on the FWP site.
What does the phrase "hoot owl" mean in this context? From a now-archived article on the FWP website:
The term “Hoot Owl” comes from logging operations in the early 1900s. During the summer months, western forests typically are extremely dry and hot and fire potential is correspondingly also very high. Loggers working in the forests to cut and move trees used a variety of equipment that generated sparks (chain saws, vehicles, metal on metal contact between chains, chokers, and similar).
To help prevent fire when conditions were extreme, loggers would stop operations in the afternoon to avoid working in the driest and hottest parts of the day. Morning hours were somewhat safer because of dew and cooler temperatures. Working in these early hours, people would encounter owls that were also active in the morning.
Their calls (hooting) lead to reference to the morning work window as the “Hoot Owl.” The term stuck and later came to be associated with human activity conducted only during early hours of the day. At FWP, we use the term “Hoot Owl” to reference drought-related restrictions that allow anglers to fish in the morning (for reasons similar to why loggers would work in the morning incidentally), but not in the afternoon.