Unfortunately, we are approaching the time of year when Hoot Owl restrictions begin to be placed on rivers around us in order to protect the fish we so dearly love. Typically, we see the Lower Madison and East Gallitan River listed first. These fisheries are extremely susceptible to Hoot Owl closures because of their depth and water volume/speed. It goes without saying that the rivers with less depth, water volume, and speed are more prone to more quickly reach high temps than faster and deeper rivers. The restriction is put into place beause of one thing, oxygen. As the water heats up, less and less oxygen is available for the fish to utilize, making a fight with your 6wt and chubby dropper rig potentially deadly for them. Usually, the Montana FWP waits for 3 consecutive days of, at minimum, 70 degree water before closing a river off on a Hoot Owl restriction. This disalllows fishing from 2pm until midnight, covering the hottest hours of the day and leaving the fish to their peace. If on a river with a Hoot Owl closure during legal fishing hours, we reccommend that you de-rig your rod 5-10 minutes before 2pm. A single false cast or drift lasting into 2pm is a great way to get a fine of, at least, 135 dollars. Floating during closed hours is permitted but you'd better put the rods away (like de-rigged away) so as to not be hassled by the Montana FWP. Another good idea is to have a thermometer with you, take consistent measurements, and be ready to throw in the towel. If you are on a river and the temperature is anywhere from 68-70 degrees and above, even if there is no closure, it's best for the fish if you reel up and come back early the next morning. The Gallitan River in the canyon is always a good alternate for cold and clear water; but the sections below the mouth of the canyon get warm quickly and can definitely be put into the same restriction category. For updated info on water levels, temps and hoot owl closures, call us at the shop at 406-587-4707. Keep 'em wet and tight lines!
- Will W.
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