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Madison River Regulations Proposed For 2020

Tuesday, December 03, 2019

The Madison is the most heavily used river in the state. From FWP (Fish Wildlife and Parks) numbers.

Over the last four years the upper Madison River has seen a steep increase in use, doubling from 88,000 to 179,000 angler days from 2011 to 2015. Estimates for angler use during 2017 were 207,000 angler days and were obtained from FWP. Outfitted angler days during 2016 and 2017 on the Upper Madison River was 20,018 and 19,662, respectively. The Lower Madison River extends from the outlet of Ennis Lake to the beginning of the Jefferson River. Recreational use numbers on only the lower Madison River were estimated at 750,000 user days during 2017. Outfitted angler days during 2016 and 2017 on the Lower Madison River was 2,284 and 2,724, respectively.

FWP is considering this a “social” problem and not a biological one. FWP has said that the river is healthy and fish counts are at an all time high. So, they want to limit the crowding on the river. Even though the commercial users (guides and outfitters) usage is about 13% of the total of 207k of total usage, the public and FWP wants to implement new regulations on the commercial users and out of state visitors.

They developed a special interest group with varying concerns to try and come up with a plan this spring. They have held town meetings in various locations in SW Montana. FWP has proposed their own regulations. They all have failed in one way or another over time.

FOAM, (Fishing Outfitters Association of Montana) wanted to get ahead of these new regulations and has made concessions to what we can do as a group to help alleviate some of the over crowding issues. They drafted a proposal with the members support, and submitted it to the commissioners for the November 12th meeting.

Two other groups, the Madison River Foundation and the Butte Sportsman group each filed a petition. These petitions were almost identical to what the Fish and Wildlife proposed in 2018. Many of their proposals where unfounded and the plan was shot down by the commissioners last year.

This past week there was a commissioners meeting to go over the three petitions submitted by the groups mentioned above. To make a very long story short, the commissioners denied all the petitions, listened to two hours of public comment and decided to go ahead with a 30 day scoping. The scoping will be handled by FWP and you may submit comments online. I urge you to please go to the FWP site, and complete the survey. We would like to ask for your support in this process, and to do so, urge you to complete the scoping survey and submit comments to FWP. This will help to insure your ability to continue fishing the Madison River with us.

Many of the questions may be about what they call “rest and rotation” or a “citizens day”. This can be explained as closing off sections of the river to commercial use (guide trips) and to non-residents. In my opinion, this will do nothing more but put more anglers in a smaller area, worsening the problem.

Another question is whether to exclude vessels (boats, rafts, canoes, pontoon boats) from the walk wade areas. This area is from the Quake Lake outlet to Lyon’s bridge and Ennis to the mouth of Ennis Lake. Using a vessel in this area allows access in many area’s that anglers cannot access by foot. Anglers cannot fish while floating, just use the vessel to get from spot to spot. Even though I have not utilized this in the last 10 years, it does open up more water for all anglers to utilize. Closing these sections may limit areas that all can access and fish. Consolidating the angler pressure into a smaller area.

They also are asking if one section 18 miles of the Lower Madison should be closed to guiding year round. This section see’s only 1% of the commercial pressure and is a not utilized very much. I cannot agree with closing off sections that do nothing more than take away available options to find some un-pressured waters to access.

Thank you for taking the time to respond to this scoping, it is vital to insure that non residents and guides can keep fishing and enjoying this pristine river.

Here are the answers for their questions I feel best represents the guiding and non resident concerns. Feel free to use your own judgment on the issues. Just please take the time to complete the survey.

1  5 1B.  1 2B.  5 3A.  1
2.  5 1C.  3 2C.  1 3B.  5
3.  1 1D.  1 2D.  1 3C.  1
1A.  1 2A.  1 2E.  1 3D.  1
4A.  1 4B.  4 4C.  1 4D.  1


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