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Sections of Big Hole, entire Jefferson fully closed to fishing


Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks has closed two sections of the Big Hole River and the entire Jefferson River to fishing.

FWP’s regional fisheries manager Travis Horton said low flows forced the closures and that they are likely to stay in place for a while. 

“Unless we get some significant rain, it won’t change,” Horton said.  

Both rivers have drought management plans that tell irrigators when to stop pulling out water and set guidelines for when partial and full fishing closures go into place. In both cases, flows dipped below a threshold set for when the stream or sections of a stream will be closed. 

The sections of the Big Hole now closed to fishing are its very upper section and lowermost section: 

  • From Saginaw Bridge on Skinner Meadows Road to the confluence with the North Fork Big Hole River.
  • From Notch Bottom Fishing Access Site to the confluence with the Beaverhead River. 

In the lower section, the flows have dipped below 89 cubic feet per second. The the uppermost section has seen flows below 20 cubic feet per second.

A population of native arctic grayling live in the upper section, and Horton said the current river conditions could result in poor recruitment of young fish. 

“It’s certainly not good for any fish when we’re getting this low,” Horton said. 

Fish can become stressed and die in warm, low water. FWP instates these restrictions as a way to prevent fish kills. 

The Jefferson River’s flow dipped below 280 cubic feet per second, leading to the full closure. 

The agency also announced more hoot owl restrictions, which ban fishing from 2 p.m. to midnight every day. The nighttime fishing closures will go into effect on Tuesday on the following river sections:

  • The Big Hole from the North Fork Big Hole to Dickie Bridge.
  • The Beaverhead River from Anderson Lane to the confluence with the Big Hole.
  • The Yellowstone River from Carter’s Bridge Fishing Access Site to the confluence with the Clark’s Fork of the Yellowstone east of Laurel. 

Previous hoot owl restrictions remain in effect on other streams. 

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