The continuing drought and the early fire season continue to cause major restrictions throughout Montana. In Western Montana, Stage 2 fire restrictions have been put on most lands, including, most recently, on those of the Bureau of Land Management. But, starting in southwest Montana and on into eastern Montana, it's the rivers that are, literally, taking the heat.

When Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks receives word that a river has dropped below a critical level for fish survival or the stream's daily water temperature is at least 73 degrees for three days in a row, that river is closed to any fishing.

So far, full fishing closures include:

  • The entire Jefferson River.
  • Portions of the Big Hole River from the confluence with the Beaverhead River to Tony Schoonen Fishing Access Site.
  • Portions of the Shields River from the confluence with the Yellowstone River to the Forest Service Crandal Creek Bridge.
  • Portions of the Gallatin River from the river mouth to Highway 84 Crossing.
  • Hoot Owl Restrictions (where you cannot fish from 2 p.m. to midnight) are at:

  • The Madison River from its mouth to Yellowstone National Park.
  • Portions of the Beaverhead River from its mouth to State Highway 91 South.
  • Portions of the Missouri River from the Cascade town boat ramp to Holter Dam.
  • Portions of the Stillwater River from the confluence with the Yellowstone River to Absaroka Fishing Access Site.
  • Portions of the Yellowstone River from Highway 212 bridge in Laurel to Yellowstone National Park.
  • The restrictions are in effect immediately.

    On rivers that are not restricted, anglers need to reduce stress on the fish by using barbless hooks, fish in the coolest times of the day, land the fish quickly, keep it in the water as much as possible, and let the fish recover before releasing it. Also, you can fish in ponds, lakes and reservoirs (which are also warming up, but not as fast) and in the higher elevation streams with colder water, according to Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks.

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