We had a great day on the lower Madison yesterday, lots of hungry rainbows and a couple nice browns. Afterwards I attended a Fish Wildlife and Parks meeting in Bozeman regarding changing the rules on the entire Madison River. It looks like it is coming in 2013. They want to limit the number of people using the river because of over crowding. They seem to be focusing on limiting the amount of non-residents and guided trips on the river. Because commercial use is regulated by their licensing they can limit or eliminate guided fishing trips on the most popular river in Montana quite easily.
They didn’t mention too much about the thousands of people inner tubing, littering, and partying on the river every summer. It was clear their focus is on limiting the outfitting industry and tourists which is the lifeblood of many local businesses in Montana, not to mention the entire town of Ennis. They stated at the meeting that there has been little impact on the quality of the fishery with the large numbers of anglers, mostly because of the outfitting industry’s commitment to catch and release fishing. After the whirling disease problems of the early 90’s when fish populations plummeted to around 500 fish per mile, the river has recovered to about 2,500-3,000 fish per mile.
These new rules could look like the Big Hole/Beaverhead rivers where they have restricted which days non residents/guides can use the river. They said they could also “bring a bigger hammer” if needed and said that in the 60’s outfitting and guiding was banned altogether on the Madison. It was stated they have the funding now and the manpower to make these changes and they are going to go ahead with them.
This is obviously a big issue for us and we will be following it very closely. If you have ever fished the Madison River you should go to www.fwp.mt.gov and fill out the survey on the Madison River recreation use plan. Give them your thoughts on using tax money to shut down public access on one of the best rivers in the West.