Officials to Seek Input Ways to Regulate Madison River Use
HELENA, Mont. (AP) — Montana officials on Tuesday decided to seek public input on several suggestions for easing crowding on the scenic Madison River.
The state Fish and Wildlife Commission rejected petitions to limit guiding, bar boats from wade-only sections and limit overall angling use, saying none would work on their own.
Instead, they asked the state Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks to take public comment on aspects of the proposals to identify the best options in each plan, the Bozeman Daily Chronicle reported.
“It’s a way to coalesce everything we’ve heard,” said Eileen Ryce, FWP’s fisheries administrator. A full recreation plan probably wouldn’t take effect until 2021, she said.
The Madison River, known for its brown and rainbow trout fishery, starts in Yellowstone National Park and flows past Ennis and into the Missouri River near Three Forks. The state has been considering regulations as the river has become more popular.
Business owners in Ennis who cater to anglers are concerned any regulation will hurt their bottom line. The number of fishing trips by commercial outfitters increased 72% between 2008 and 2017, the state said.
Commissioners in April 2018 rejected a plan to limit the number of commercial fishing guides, saying guides were being unfairly singled out.
The 2018 plan would have capped the number of commercial fishing guides at the current level of about 200 and banned them from certain sections of the river on certain days. Opponents said that wouldn’t work without limiting the number of daily trips guides could offer. It also didn’t address private, noncommercial anglers who make up more than 80% of the year-round use, officials said.
On Tuesday, commissioners again heard support for the agency’s earlier proposal from the Madison River Foundation. Some Butte-area conservation groups didn’t want to leave room for major growth in the number of guided trips and didn’t want to bar boats from wade-only sections of the river, saying that could close off some sections of the river entirely.
The Fishing Outfitters Association of Montana called for a tiered permitting system based on the number of guided trips they run each year but did not propose a cap on the number of trips.