State Fish, Wildlife and Parks officials are considering permanent restrictions on fishing hours during the summer months on the lower Madison River. Though it’s just a proposal and open for public comment, it has already been met with cynicism from some quarters.

The condition of the fishery in the Madison has become the subject of concern as angling pressure has mounted. FWP proposed limits on commercially guided fishing days last year. But that was met with so much pushback from the guiding industry the Montana Fish and Wildlife Commission rejected the limits and opted instead to appoint a panel to reach a consensus on fishing limitations to recommend to the commission.

That group, which included representatives from the guides and other who have a stake in the river’s future, met a number of times earlier this year but disbanded without reaching a consensus on ways to cut down on the fishing pressure. Now biologists are going to back to the drawing board to find ways to address the situation.

Many of those who recreate and guide fisherman on the Madison are in denial. A trout fishery is a fragile thing. One need only take a drive along the river at the height of the summer to see just how heavily anglers and recreational floaters use this body of water.

The so-called “hoot owl” restrictions would limit fishing to the hours between midnight and 2 p.m., during the months of July and August. This would spare the fish the additional stress of being caught and released during the time of day when the water is warmest. Trout are a cold water species and warm water – above around 70 degrees – subjects them to duress.

Anglers and outfitters should find it easy to get on board with this idea. It may an effective way to reduce pressure on the fishery without limiting the numbers of anglers on the river.

It’s past time to accept that something has to be done to prevent degrading the Madison’s fish population. Hoot owl fishing restrictions could be part of the solution.

Editorial Board

  • Mark Dobie, publisher
  • Nick Ehli, managing editor
  • Bill Wilke, opinion page editor
  • Don Beeman, community member
  • Richard Broome, community member
  • Renee Gavin, community member
  • Sarabeth Rees, community member
  • David Swingle, community member

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