July Missouri River Water Trends
Lots of questions as we move into the month of July here in central Montana this hotter and water starved 2021 summer season. While there is wild and rampant speculation about the possibilities and outcomes we should first think about the factors before spinning misinformation recklessly about. Read the link info below and make your own decision.
We do not know what will happen. We are simply outlining the data for you to digest. We cannot speculate about what may happen as none of us sits at that table. So we won’t. We will show you the data available and you can speculate. All of the links on this page hold lots of info regarding this delicate balancing act for FWP trying to placate many parties along the way.
The only previous Missouri River heat related closure came in the summer of 2000. Or 2001. I believe the former not the latter. Hoot Owl 12pm closure from mid August through mid September. It was a weedy summer, hot, lots of forest fires burning in the west specifically in Montana and Idaho.
Has not happened since. But the past does not play role in what Mother Nature has in store for us in the future. None at all. Precedence does not matter.
All of the links referenced in this article are interesting and important if you want to develop your perspective, understanding, deeper knowledge of the current status and possible future outcomes.
We know that the water temperatures are higher than average for this time of year based on a several factors. Higher nutrient load, lesser volume of water, and warmer air temperatures. All three listed not including the unknowns lets us believe that while certainly attractive sticking your head in the ground and hoping that nothing happens may not be the correct path.
The current water temps are 65F. Rose 3 degrees today. 4 total in the past 2 days. Check out the last 9 years of temperature data here. That all that is available for the water temp gauge from USGS.
The current flows at Holter Dam are 3200cfs. About 50% of what we have historically at this time of year. So that is not helping either.
The inflows above us here below coming in at Toston are 1620cfs. About 20% of historical numbers. Frightful. Again, not speculating here, but will say that has spooked us.
The trigger for some type of management, whether it be a Hoot Owl Restriction with river closure from 2pm til 12am Midnight or a full closure is stated below…
Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks’ drought policy provides for angling closures when flows drop below critical levels for fish, when water quality is diminished, or when maximum daily water temperatures reach at least 73 degrees for three consecutive days.
Will the water temps reach 73F for 3 consecutive days? We know it is dam hot for the next ten days at least. And the long term is probably not too terrific. Want to scare yourself? Look at this comprehensive NOAA page and the tabs too. NOAA Montana Statewide Forecast.
So what does all of that scary data mean? Only Mother Mo knows. But we can speculate that it is a possibility that even the Mighty Mo could see some sort of river restriction during this summer of 2021.
There have been several Montana river closures and hoot-owl restrictions levied by the FWP in the past few days. Check them out as this FWP News page is updated as Montana River conditions and restrictions change daily.
We do not know what will happen. We are simply outlining the data for you to digest. We cannot speculate about what may happen as none of us sits at that table. So we won’t. We will show you the data available and you can speculate. All of the links on this page hold lots of info regarding this delicate balancing act for FWP trying to placate many parties along the way. Tourism in Montana is huge. But killing the trout that grace our streams and lakes is not the preferred outcome for any party from angler, kayaker, swimmer, or bank sitter. So protect FWP will as protecting the resource is the ultimate concern. We agree.
Headhunters Fly Shop is your Missouri River information source and will keep you up to date as conditions and regulations change here on the Missouri River near Craig Montana.
The most interesting piece I read all day long researching this report is from the Missouri River Water Keepers. Missouri River Headwaters Sub-Basin Report – Summer 2021. Released 2 days ago this comprehensive article will richen your understanding of the whole picture. A must read.
From Montana FWP
HIGH TEMPS PROMPT ADDITIONAL FISHING RESTRICTIONS IN SOUTHWEST MONTANA
Jul 1, 2021 2:33 PM
HELENA – Angling restrictions on several additional rivers in southwest Montana go into effect today due to warming temperatures and low flows.
The restrictions include what are commonly known as “hoot owl” restrictions, which means fishing is closed from 2 p.m. to midnight each day. Some waters are under full fishing closures, which prohibit fishing at all times of day. These closures and restrictions will stay in effect until conditions improve.
These restrictions and closures go into effect today:
- A hoot owl on the Big Hole River from the North Fork of the Big Hole River downstream to Dickie Bridge, and from the Maidenrock Fishing Access Site downstream to the Tony Schoonen Fishing Access Site.
- A full fishing closure on the East Gallatin River from Penwell Bridge Road downstream to the confluence with the Gallatin River.
- A hoot owl on the East Gallatin River from the confluence of Bear Creek and Rocky Creek downstream to Penwell Bridge.
- A hoot owl on the Shields River from the U.S. Forest Service Crandal Creek Bridge downstream to the confluence with Rock Creek.
- A hoot owl on the Gallatin River from Montana Hwy. 84 in Four Corners downstream to the confluence with the Missouri River.
- A hoot owl on Upper Clark Fork – From the confluence of Rock Creek near Clinton upstream to the confluence with Warm Springs Creek.
- A hoot owl on Silver Bow Creek, including Warm Springs Ponds — From the creek’s confluence with Warm Springs Creek to Montana Street in Butte.
These closures and restrictions were enacted earlier and remain in effect for southwest Montana waters:
- A hoot owl on the Beaverhead River from Laknar Lane Bridge downstream to the confluence with the Big Hole River.
- A full fishing closure on the Shields River from Rock Creek downstream to the confluence with the Yellowstone River.
- A hoot owl on the lower Big Hole River from the Tony Schoonen Fishing Access Site downstream to the confluence with the Beaverhead River.
- A full fishing closure on the upper Big Hole River from the North Fork of the Big Hole River downstream to Saginaw Bridge on Skinner Meadow Road.
- A hoot owl for the entire Jefferson River.
- A hoot owl on the Madison River from Ennis Dam downstream to the confluence with the Jefferson River.
- A full fishing closure on the Ruby River from the Duncan District Road crossing downstream to the confluence with the Beaverhead River.
Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks’ drought policy provides for angling closures when flows drop below critical levels for fish, when water quality is diminished, or when maximum daily water temperatures reach at least 73 degrees for three consecutive days. Warm and dry conditions are expected to continue during the coming weeks.
These restrictions and closures are designed to protect fish, such as trout, that become more susceptible to disease and mortality when drought and warm water conditions combine with additional stressors, including catch-and-release fishing.
All stress to fish at this time of year is cumulative, and anglers should consider fishing in cooler waters during times of low flows and high water temperatures in rivers. Anglers can help reduce stress for fish by following these practices when catching and releasing fish, though fish mortality may still occur:
- Fish during the coolest times of day, where permitted.
- Land the fish quickly.
- Keep the fish in water as much as possible.
- Remove the hook gently. Using artificial lures with single and barbless hooks can make hook removal faster and easier.
- Let the fish recover before releasing it.