SW Montana fly fishing took a big blow last week when the MFWP closed the Yellowstone River and all its tributaries indefinitely from Gardiner to Laurel (~183 miles). The river is closed to ALL recreational activities. The closure is due to a massive fish kill–tens of thousands–of mostly whitefish, but rainbow and cutthroat trout have been impacted. The die off is associated with a parasite that causes Proliferative Kidney Disease within salmonids. It is usually 90% fatal. The closure will obviously have adverse impacts on the businesses and outfitters in the area. Having talked with a number of outfitters since the closure, some will fare OK as they can shift clients to other rivers. Others however may not be permitted for some of the obvious alternatives like the Missouri and Madison. They will suffer. One outfitter was overly optimistic that the river might open by mid-September, but a reliable source told me the MFWP won’t open the river until there are three consecutive days of 35 degree or less water temps. That temperature will kill the parasites, but that won’t happen until late December or January. It will be interesting to see the rationale when the river is reopened. On the good side, there has been a concerted effort by all interested parties to establish and promote disinfecting and cleaning stations for boat sand gear throughout the regions.
The real adverse impact on anglers here beyond the closure of the Yellowstone will be the added pressure on the few other rivers still open—the Upper Madison, Missouri and Bighorn as well as the park’s waters. Popular places are likely to get real crowded. September will most likely be a zoo on the Lamar and Slough Creek. Although its cynical in a way, having the Yellowstone Brown trout population (not susceptible to the parasite) go through an entire fall spawning season without any angler interference might bode well for future seasons. Time will tell.
Strategy without Tactics is a Slow Route to Victory, Tactics without Strategy is the Noise Before Defeat - Sun Tzu