Scott Vollmer

Support Local Journalism


Last week an editorial titled “An attempt to reverse progress on the Madison River” was published in the Bozeman Daily Chronicle by the editorial board. Unfortunately, this article was based on misinformation that is not consistent with the ongoing efforts of the Madison River Work Group (MRWG) or the Montana Fish and Wildlife Commission. The intent of the MRWG is to provide the commission with a more detailed review of the rules that were created in the waning hours of the prior commission, while also considering alternative rules that may work better for the future of the Madison River. This issue is complex, has been debated for many years, and is filled with contention and divisive rhetoric.

The editorial board was critical of the recommendation to eliminate the brand new “rest-and-rotation” regulation, which was primarily advocated for by the Trout Unlimited chapter from Butte during last year’s process. It was never argued that this new regulation would give sections of the Madison a “rest” from commercial fishing, as stated in the article. Instead, the argument was simply a desire to have sections “free from commercial outfitter use.” However, over the past three years, concerned citizens have repeatedly proven, with commercial outfitting data, that any type of rest-and-rotation would only create a significant amount of increased crowding on those sections of the river that are not “rested.” Meanwhile, the growth in the population of southwest Montana and increased demand for river recreation of all types are certain to increase traffic on the “rested” sections, which would be unregulated for non-commercial users.

The prior commission understood that implementation of rest-and rotation would create further crowding everywhere on the Madison River. They envisioned a tradeoff in the new rule to alleviate some of this crowding by allowing, for the first time in over 30 years, fishing from boats on the Raynolds Pass to Lyons Bridge section of the Madison on weekends from June to September. This idea may sound good on paper, but a further examination done by the MRWG reveals problems that were not considered when this rule was hastily created. For starters, the Raynolds Fishing Access Site could not possibly withstand the new level of boat traffic that would be expected when the Lyons Bridge section is “rested”. Without a major investment prior to the start of our 2022 season, implementing new walk/wade rules in this section of river would be impossible.

With this information considered, the recommendation by the MRWG to the Commission was to not allow fishing from boats on either walk/wade section of the Upper Madison. The editorial board erroneously stated that the commission is proposing to “lift a longtime ban on fishing from boats on two stretches of river.” Instead, the commission has followed the recommendation of the MRWG and simply proposed to keep the walk/wade sections of the upper Madison as the status quo regulations that have existed for over 30 years. Anglers will continue to be allowed the use of boats through the walk/wade sections as “transportation,” but fishing can only occur when an angler is completely out of the boat.

The MRWG also considered the total lack of support for the rules that were passed by the prior commission on rest-and-rotation and walk/wade. The most recent scoping survey done by FWP shows that close to 80% of those who commented on rest-and-rotation do not support it, with only about 20% supporting it. Likewise, a Helena sportsman testified to the lack of support for allowing fishing from boats on the walk/wade sections. As directed by the commission, the MRWG used this comprehensive review process to make recommendations that the commission has now approved for public comment.

As the article correctly states, the Madison River is a world-famous trout fishery loved by many. As such, it deserves a deliberative approach, especially when considering the impact these rules may have on future river recreation rules in other areas of Montana. The MRWG and commission are not attempting to reverse progress; instead, they are attempting to make progress on the most effective way to address crowding on the Madison River. This cannot be accomplished with rules that were hastily considered and promoted by groups that have little practical knowledge of the Madison River.

As the article states, if you value this resource, you should become informed and let the commission know your thoughts. Do this from a careful examination of the facts and underlying intent of what is being proposed, not on misinformation and emotional rhetoric intended to inflame.

Support Local Journalism

To see what else is happening in Gallatin County subscribe to the online paper.

Scott Vollmer is an outfitter from Gallatin Gateway. He was a member of the Madison River Negotiated Rulemaking Committee in 2019.