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Anglers in a raft float the lower Blackfoot River

Anglers in a raft float the lower Blackfoot River recently. After Robert Redford’s movie came out in 1992, fishing and floating on the river increased dramatically.

Cooler weather and more moisture have allowed fishing to resume on the Blackfoot River and its tributaries.

Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks officials closed the river and its major tributaries on Sept. 4 to all fishing, after water levels dropped below 500 cubic feet per second at Bonner. At that level, the drainage’s bull trout populations become stressed and concentrated in the few remaining deep, cold pools.

“River flows are steady to increasing and improving conditions for fish,” FWP Region 2 fisheries manager Pat Saffel said Tuesday. “In addition, irrigation demand is declining. Still, drought conditions remain, and we encourage anglers and irrigators to take measures that can reduce their impacts on fish and the river.”

The Blackfoot Drought Committee has worked out a response plan to low-water situations that includes sacrifices by both agricultural users and recreationists.

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Anglers are still asked to avoid fishing where water is particularly low. Irrigators are helping by curtailing their water use and shutting down canals early, Saffel said.

“The addition of flows from these irrigators has been a big relief for the fishery,” Saffel said. “We want to thank the irrigators and anglers for helping reduce stress on the fish this summer.”

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Reporter Rob Chaney can be reached at 523-5382 or at rchaney@missoulian.com.

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Natural Resources & Environment Reporter

Natural Resources Reporter for The Missoulian.