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Fish, Wildlife & Parks announces plans to study trout decline in southwest Montana


Outfitters, conservationists and citizens have been sounding the alarm about rapidly declining trout numbers in southwest Montana’s Upper Missouri Headwaters for years. But demands for the state to dedicate more resources to studying the problem largely fell on deaf ears.

On Tuesday, Montana Fish Wildlife & Parks (FWP) announced a marshaling of resources to research and monitor the decline, and proposed new fishing regulations.

The exact cause of the population crash is still unknown, but FWP said it is likely linked to low water flows and high temperatures.

Quentin Kujala, the department’s chief of conservation policy, said in a statement that they were committed to bringing more resources to bear to protect the remaining population and get to the bottom of the declines.

For a short term measure, FWP is proposing to limit angling during brown trout spawning season and lowering the number of fish anglers can keep in some stretches of the Big Hole, Beaverhead, and Ruby rivers. FWP commissioners will decide whether to implement the new regulations at their June 8 meeting.

Conservation nonprofit Upper Missouri Waterkeeper said it was notable that the department was publicly acknowledging the population decline, but argued the proposed measures are too generalized and don’t match the urgency of the crisis.

John joined the Montana Public Radio team in August 2022. Born and raised in Helena, he graduated from the University of Montana’s School of Media Arts and created the Montana history podcast Land Grab. John can be contacted at
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