Warmer water temperatures have triggered an afternoon fishing restriction on an 18-mile stretch of the lower Big Hole River.
A hoot owl restriction will go into effect Thursday from the Notch Bottom Fishing Access Site to the confluence with the Beaverhead River. Hoot owl restrictions prohibit fishing each day between 2 p.m. and midnight when water temperatures are at their highest.
Fish, Wildlife and Parks, Region 3 Spokesperson Morgan Jacobson says the restriction is meant to protect cold-water fish species like Arctic grayling, rainbow trout and brown trout.
“When certain stressors come like low water flows, high temperatures, and then on top of that you put things like angling and other recreation activities, it becomes harder for those fish to recover from those stressing events,” says Jacobson.
Higher stress makes fish more susceptible to disease and mortality. FWP spokesperson Greg Lemon, says higher water temperatures also decrease the amount of oxygen available for fish.
“Water temperatures in rivers around the state are starting to creep up. [Even though] we might not have any other hoot owl restrictions in place, it’s a good idea for a fisherman who are catch-and-release fishing on those cold water fisheries to focus their efforts in the early morning,” Lemon says.
The closure is in accordance with the Big Hole Watershed Committee Drought Plan, which calls for a hoot owl restriction when water temperatures exceed 73 degrees for three or more consecutive days, or when other thresholds are met.
This section of the river will reopen when daily peak temperatures are below 70 degrees for three consecutive days, but no later than September 15.
The Big Hole River’s restriction is the first of the season.