DIVIDE — Brown trout numbers in the Big Hole and Beaverhead rivers have been on a steady decline, so wildlife officials have added regulations to try to protect this valuable fish.
Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks biologists have required catch and release for all brown trout. Fishing can only be done with single-hook fishing lures and no live bait and no fishing in the spawning areas between Maiden Rock and Melrose on the Big Hole River.
“The new regs are good, I think it’s a positive thing for this river that it’s such a special place that we should take extra measures to take care of it,” said Craig Jones, owner of Great Divide Operators.
Jones, who has guided this river for 20 years, said he’s noticed the brown trout decline.
“Here in the last five years we’ve watched a significant change from mostly brown trout to mostly rainbow trout and some of the other species are showing back up because there are less brown trout in the river,” said Jones.
These anglers just learned about the new regulations but say they support them.
“Considering the weather and the water, both the temperature and the water levels, I can understand why they’re doing that. That’s fine, I mean we’re used to catch and release anyways,” said Kirstin Holtberg of Dewey.
And those in the fly fishing industry say they welcome whatever regulations are needed to save these brown trout because it’s a very special fish for this region.
“The brown trout in this river are definitely why people come down here. It’s one of the staples of the outdoor industry in this valley, so, hopefully, we can do everything we possibly can to keep the trout healthy and happy, which means we’ve got to keep the water clean and clear,” said Jones.