The Montana Fish and Wildlife Commission’s proposal to repeal new fishing regulations for the Madison River before they are implemented has come with an added twist.
âI found it to be a real blockbuster to hear for the first time that the repeal of these sections in (Montana Business Rules) does not restore the walking sections,â said Hugh Zackheim, a Helena angler.
Zackheim spoke at a public comment meeting on Zoom on the issue of repealing the rules. He wasn’t the only one surprised.
Bozeman’s fly fishing outfitter Dave Kumlien also said it was “a bit of a surprise” and not what anyone was intending to call for the new rules to be repealed.
“I think almost everyone agrees that the pedestrian section above Lyon (bridge) needs to be maintained or restored, whatever it is,” he added. “I am clearly asking the commission to act as soon as possible to clarify the situation.”
The discussion was sparked by the committee’s decision at its October 28 meeting to repeal two rules implemented by commissioners appointed by former Governor Steve Bullock. The repeal recommendation came from the Madison River Work Group, which was formed to help the commission and the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife & Parks negotiate the controversial issue of reducing pressure on the popular southern trout stream. -Western Montana.
FWP paralegal Jessica Snyder took comments on the Zoom phone meeting on Wednesday and attempted to clarify the situation.
She told Zackheim that the option to revert to the rules of what was previously in place regarding the popular walking section would be available to the committee, but would not be listed as a specific agenda item. She also noted that several written comments already received also raised the same concern.
âIt’s not ideal, and we apologize,â Snyder said. “We were ourselves confused when this happened.”
She said the misunderstanding arose because there was a conflict between the repeal and what was approved by the previous commission, which was that the new rules replace the fishing regulations.
âSo what we’re trying to do nowâ¦ is clarify what people really want and what they don’t want,â Snyder said. “The commission can then make a decision on how to approach the walking section.”
The proposed repeal rules would have taken effect for the 2022 season and were drafted to allow boat fishing from the Raynolds Pass fishing access site to the Lyon Bridge on Saturdays and Sundays. from June 15 to September 30 as part of a trial program. At present, floating is permitted in this section, but fishing from a boat is not.
The other rule would prohibit outfitters and guides from doing business between June 15 and September 30 between the Pont de Lyon and the day-use area of ââthe Palisades on Sundays and the Raynolds Pass FAS at the Pont de Lyon on Saturdays.
The rules were drawn up after hours of meetings, discussions, public commentary and previously unsuccessful attempts to find a way to reduce fishing pressure on a 50-mile stretch of the popular river.
Two groups lined up on opposite sides of the proposals, asking the committee for suggestions that sparked the rule-making process. The commission drew up the rules which can now be appealed against in an attempt to find a compromise between the groups.
For the most part, fishing outfitters denounce the new rules, while a coalition of conservation groups say they don’t go far enough to regulate outfitters and guides.
Mike Bias, of the Fishing Outfitters Association of Montana, said the new rule of rest and rotation “will undeniably condense members of the general public.” As the population of neighboring Gallatin County continues to grow, he said, non-commercial use of the Madison River is growing twice as fast as commercial use.
On the other side of the argument, Steve Luebeck – representing the George Grant chapter of Trout Unlimited, the Skyline Sportsmen’s Association, and the Anaconda Sportsman’s Club – pointed out that the group’s combined 2,000 members are “overwhelmingly” opposed to it. ‘repeal.
“The commission has just gone through the most comprehensive public comment phase … in which none of us have ever been involved,” he said.
He urged the current commission, all but one of which was appointed by Governor Greg Gianforte, to review the work done by their predecessors, which included polls and public comment.
Walt Pease, while in favor of the repeal, said he “would like everyone to remember the importance of keeping the health of river trout intact.” Having the wading section up there gives the high pressure river to have an area where there is a lot of sanctuary for the fish. This will be even more significant following the drying up of the upper reaches of the river during a malfunction at the Hebgen Lake dam earlier this month.
The last day to comment on the proposals is Friday. Snyder said the committee could meet on Dec. 27 to vote on the repeal, but no meeting date has yet been announced.