Five Things We Like in the 2023-24 Proposed Fishing Regulations

Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks (FWP) is undergoing the now biennial review of fishing regulations and has proposed changes for the 2023-24 seasons. We support the vast majority of the proposed regulations and encourage our members and the public to get involved in the process. While FWP is hosting a series of Open Houses around the state, with opportunities to ask questions, we strongly recommend that interested citizens submit formal comments on issues they care about. Comments will be accepted until September 22, 2022 at 5pm. Visit for a complete list of the proposed changes and opportunities to comment online on each proposal.

Invasive Smallmouth Bass

Here are 5 things we are happy to see and support in the new proposed regulations:

  1. Fighting Illegal Introductions – Many of the proposed changes strengthen FWP’s commitment to proactively managing against illegal fish introductions. We support the efforts to suppress fish populations, like walleye, northern pike, and smallmouth bass, that have resulted from those illegal introductions.
  2. Stopping Illegal Bait Transport and AIS – Fishing regulations, particularly around live and dead bait, are an important tool in combating the spread of aquatic invasive species. Several proposals offered here provide strong protections in that regard. We support all efforts to combat aquatic invasive species from entering our waterways.
  3. Conserving Sustainable Wild Trout Fisheries – Based on sound scientific research conducted by FWP, a number of proposals seek to support natural reproduction in southwest Montana reservoirs by protecting spawning fish in tributaries through the third Saturday in May. We support efforts to create sustainable, wild populations of fish.
  4. Protection for Struggling SW MT Wild Trout – Faced with troubling declines in trout populations in many southwest Montana rivers, FWP biologists have developed a science-based, data driven approach to managing fisheries on the Ruby, Beaverhead, and Big Hole rivers. These are adaptive strategies that will evolve as the fish populations rebound, but we support the current more restrictive regulations proposed on these rivers. Further we appreciate the ability to learn from these proposals as to what types of regulations may help support fish population recovery.
  5. Expanding Angler Opportunity – We are supportive of efforts to expand angler opportunity and harvest where appropriate, namely in several put-and-take fisheries and lakes that experience frequent over-winter kills.

We hope all interested members of the public take the opportunity to get involved in this important process. If you have any questions, please reach out to us directly at [email protected].

Be A Boat Inspection Station Pro

This August 2-8, we’re celebrating the first ever Watercraft Inspector Appreciation Week with our partners at Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks and Protect Our Waters Montana. Thanks to our inspectors, aquatic invasive species (AIS) spread is being reduced in our waterways, and we owe them our gratitude and our courtesy when we pull through the station. We know it’s tough to be patient at the boat check when you’re excited to get out on the water, so here are a few tips to make your inspection a breeze.

Clean, Drain, and Dry your gear and watercraft after every use!

Thanks to the magic of self-serve carwashes, this step is easier than ever! Find the closest wash bays near your home (most take credit cards now) and make cleaning out your boat part of your chores at the end of a day on the water. The best time to wash everything is right before you put your boat into dry dock. Pull the plugs on your vessel and allow all water to drain out of your bilge, live wells, bait wells, and motor. Store your boat with the motor in the down position. All inspectors check your motor and if it’s already empty, you just saved yourself a few minutes waiting for it to drain.

Make sure your anchor and anchor rope are clean of mud and vegetation.

If you’ve got some mud and weeds on there, clean them off and also mind your anchor rope to make sure it’s also clean and dry. It’s easy for small bits to get stuck in pulleys, cleats, and fasteners. Anytime you pull your anchor up off the bottom of the lake or river, make sure to get it clean before you put it back in the boat. Makes cleaning up later even easier. This also goes for removing weeds from your lure. Keep the weeds in the water, not in your boat.

Ask yourself “Where and when did I go boating last?”

If you know you’re about to hit the check station, run through your memory banks before you pull in. Inspectors will always ask where you were, how long it’s been, and where you plan to go next. If you’ve recently been in a waterbody with AIS concerns, know that you’re going to get some extra scrutiny. It helps if all your gear is clean and dry!

Get an Inspection Passport for Each Boat and Keep them Handy

If you’re a “frequent flyer” ask your inspector for a Boat Passport for each vessel. Keep them in the glove box of the car you use to tow. Then you’ll always have them for the inspectors when you pull through.

Be courteous!

No body likes a grumpy person. When you remain polite and courteous to your watercraft inspectors, they will get through your inspection faster, guaranteed. The only thing you get out of making a fuss is a longer inspection. Be prepared, answer the questions you’re asked, follow instructions, and they’ll get you on your way as quick as they can.




Stop Transboundary Pollution: Sign Our Petition to DEQ

I was lucky enough to get the chance to fish the Kootenai River this summer with one of the people that knows the river and its fish better than just about anyone. Between reminders to “set” and “skitch” our dry flies, Tim Linehan shared with us nearly a lifetime of knowledge about a wide range of topics from hatches to patterns, as well as stories about friends and fish. While Tim’s homewaters are wonderfully remote and wild, they also face challenges.  So our talk also turned to the very real and persistent threats facing the Kootenai and Lake Koocanusa from foreign mining companies in Canada. Of course, we had a banner fishing day, but it also doubled down my personal commitment to stand up for these coldwater fisheries.

For more than a decade, Montana Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) has led an effort with partners in government, science, and communities to develop a site-specific standard for selenium pollution that flowing into Koocanusa and the Kootenai from coal mining in British Columbia. At the levels already present in this lake and river system (with more on the way from four new coal mines in the permitting process), selenium poses significant threats to aquatic life as it moves through the food web. As fish tissue concentrations of selenium rise, they can experience liver damage or failure, growth deformities, and stunted growth and fitness. Ultimately, mature female fish with toxic levels of selenium in their system experience drastically reduced production of viable eggs to the point of entire spawning seasons of fish being unsuccessful. As selenium moves through the aquatic and terrestrial food web, many other species are susceptible to a similar fate – population crash.

MTU has reviewed, participated in, and encouraged this process from the beginning with an emphasis on the goal of having DEQ set a site-specific standard for selenium in the lake and river that is based on sound science in the interest of protecting one of northwest Montana’s most valuable and intact wild and native trout fisheries. The current standards being proposed by DEQ do just that. MTU fully supports this proposed rule amendment and the site-specific selenium standard it proposes.

Unfortunately, there are a small group of special interests that are attempting to derail this important rule at the last minute. The DEQ needs to hear from Montana anglers now that our coldwater fisheries should not be the dumping ground of polluted mine waste. Despite what the opponents say, the public process to get here has been fair, open, transparent, and collaborative. This is our chance to stand up for our water and fish – please join me and add your name to our petition by clicking the picture link above.

Clayton Elliott, Conservation Director