Trout numbers are down while angling pressure has increased on the Boulder River south of Big Timber, but those aren’t reason enough to restrict commercial angling on the river in the summer, the Fish and Wildlife Commission decided on Thursday during their meeting in Helena.
“We’ve been sampling the trout community there for 30 years and the current population numbers are within the long-term range,” Bruce Rich, Fisheries Bureau chief, told the commissioners.
At the request of Fish, Wildlife and Parks’ staff, commissioners voted to deny a petition that gathered 67 signatures asking that commercial angling be restricted in the summer. Commissioner Dan Vermillion, of Livingston, excused himself from the discussion and vote because he is a fishing outfitter who operates on the stream.
One reason the trout numbers are down is that the size of the fish in the stream has increased, Rich said. Streams will only support so much fish biomass. He added that if the population doesn’t rebound that would be a “cause for alarm, but we aren’t there yet.
“There’s no concern from our fisheries folks in Region 5,” Rich said. “That therefore centers this (petition) on the social conflict, not on any biological problem.”
Rich added that although use of the river has increased, it is still relatively low compared to other rivers in the region.
The petition gathered 67 signatures and was initiated by area anglers as well as commercial outfitter Adam Wagner of Sweetcast Angler in Big Timber. The petition suggested reducing pressure by “prohibiting use of commercial floating on specific days of the week and after the date on which the water historically drops below 400 (cubic feet per second).”