Wolf carnage may reduce public support for hunting in general

I'm a bit "meh" about wolf hunting and population control in general. The origin story of wolf reintroduction in the Northern Rockies included the bargain that hunting would be used as a means to manage the species, and generate revenue for state wildlife agencies. I'm not a participant, but I recognize some management (killing) is part of the reality of having wild wolves in Montana and the West

Recent plans to increase the wolf death toll in Montana is another matter. This column by Matt Barnes in the Missoula Current spells out the irrationality or the policy. Barnes makes a good point about the potential damage of widespread wolf killing: it will likely further damage the public perception of hunting among the non-hunting public.

Whether we like it or not, support from the non-hunting population is essential for the survival of the sport in a world in which most people do not hunt.

Southwest brown trout on the ropes

Here's some good reporting by Montana Standard reporter Michael Cast on the decline of trout numbers, especially brown trout, on rivers in the southwest part of the state.

There's bad news on the Big Hole, Ruby and Upper Clark Fork rivers. The numbers on the Madison and Yellowstone are also declining. Biologists don't yet have a good idea what is driving the population trends, since the numbers have been poor even in good water years.

FWP is considering changes to fishing regulations on the Big Hole River in the popular lower river near Melrose, where brown trout have declined from 1,800 to 400 in the last six years.

FWP restricts or closes rivers due to heatwave

When Montana cities are registering new all-time high temperatures in June — Kalispell reached 101 on June 29, breaking the previous record of 95 set in 1979 — things are going to be bad for rivers. To protect fisheries, Montana FWP imposed restrictions on especially imperiled rivers across the state earlier this week.

I can personally attest to the conditions in the now closed section of the upper Big Hole River. I fished just downstream from the closed section, which felt like a bathtub, or at least a heated swimming pool when I hit it last week. I'm glad I didn't catch any trout. A fight and release is likely a death sentence in these conditions.

Commission delays guided trip regs on Madison

The FWP commission has voted to delay regs that cap guided trips on the Madison River for another year. The rules, which would limit outfitters to the number of trips they led in 2019 or 2020 (whichever is higher) were to go into effect on Jan. 1. 2022. The rules now won't become law until 2023.

The commissioners voted 4-1 for the change, saying the delay would allow the newly formed Madison River Commercial Use Work Group to review the plan.

Back to the River

A lovely interview and story from Billings Gazette outdoor writer Brett French with author John Maclean, as he reflects on his family's legacy. John Maclean's “Home Waters, A Chronicle of Family and a River” looks back on his father, Norman's tribute to family and the brother he couldn't save, the classic, "A River Runs Through It."

Also, follow the links to read my reflections on "A River Runs Through It" written in the bleakest days of 2020 when the pandemic raged.

MT gov signs wolf reduction bill

Last week Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte signed into law a bill that instructs FWP to establish hunting and trapping seasons designed to reduce the wolf population to a sustainable level, but not so low as to warrant relisting under the Endangered Species Act. The bill also allows more aggressive methods for killing wolves, including unlimited take for individuals, using bait and night hunting on private land.