What are "Hoot Owl" Restrictions and can I still fish?

With lower than average water flows and higher than average air temperatures, Southwestern Montana has been feeling quite a bit different this summer than most. Lower flows and warmer air temps leads to warmer than normal water temperatures which can put undue stress on the trout living here in Montana. When water temperatures are cool, 50s to mid 60s, trout are fairly happy, but when temps creep up into the 70s that's when problems can arise. Trout, for the most part, will still happily eat during periods of warmer water temps and may often in fact fight just as hard as when the water is cooler. The problem comes with recovery. After expending that kind of energy being caught, when the water is warm, they often have trouble recovering from a valiant effort of being caught and released. In order to protect the trout populations of Montana, Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks (FWP) has the ability to enact "Hoot Owl" restrictions on fishing on some or all of the rivers in the state.

What does that mean?
"Hoot Owl" restrictions mean you can still fish during periods of the day when the water is cooler, from Midnight, through the morning hours and into the early afternoon until 2:00 PM, but once the water starts to warm up to the critical temperatures, from 2:00PM to Midnight, you must stop fishing. 

Are all of the rivers on "Hoot Owl"?
All of the rivers in our area are not currently on "Hoot Owl", but many are and the list keeps growing with our warm summer continuing. You can visit the Montana FWP web site for the most accurate information. Also, keep in mind that some of the smaller streams in our area are a great option and still running ice cold in many cases.

Should I even go fishing?
Certainly, fishing is still a great outdoor activity in our area. Water temperatures can vary greatly throughout the day, in some cases as much as 6 or 7 degrees. When the temps are cooler, the fish are much more likely to recover well from being caught. We do stress the importance of using proper catch and release techniques when out on the water as well as landing your fish quickly and keeping them wet while releasing them. This may not be the summer to get your "hero" camera shots holding trout out of the water.


For more questions regarding "Hoot Owl" restrictions or fishing closures, you can contact us at either shop at 406-586-5373 or 406-584-2401 and we'll do our best to answer your questions.

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