Montana Standard, Butte, Mt. 3/29/2019…letter from Mr. Keith Shein:

Protect the Madison

“At the recent meetings in Ennis regarding attempts to put forth guidelines for protecting the Madison River from over-fishing, there was a hue and cry from guides and outfitters. They claimed that restrictions of any kind were not “Montanan.” They cried that their very livelihoods were being threatened, as if monetary interests trumped all others.

I’ve been fishing the Madison since the mid-’80s, before some of these guides were born. I’ve fished it before and after Whirling Disease. I’ve fished it over the last years when fishing has become worse, watching thousands of floated guide trips, each day with a daisy chain of boats. To claim that restrictions are not Montanan is ridiculous. The Madison is an iconic fishery precisely because of regulation. The river isn’t stocked because of restrictions. It is a catch-and-release fishery because of restrictions. Saving the river from commercial over-fishing, through prudent regulation, is precisely a Montanan thing to do. And as to whether the monetary interests of guides and outfitters are primary, again I say no. The health of the river and all the wildlife it sustains is paramount, over and above all interests. Our duty as citizens and conservationists is to protect the river, especially from greed.

And it irks me that the commercial interests of the guides is the only monetary concern being discussed. I own a home on the Madison River. I’m not rich. My wife and I worked all our lives to build our cabin. It represents nearly all of our life savings. And its primary market attribute is access to the Madison River. We’re not alone in this. Yet, if the guides over-fish the river and break it, and they surely will, what then? Well, nearby, there are the Gallatin and Yellowstone to over-fish. Or, the young guides can pick up stakes, rent in Idaho, and over-fish the Henry’s Fork. But we can’t do that. The Madison is our home. Once the river is broken through over-fishing, our property value will go bust. You think the guides and outfitters will be there to help us out? No, they’ll have other fish to fry.”

Keith Shein, Cameron


Since the Montana Standard may or may not print my rebuttal to Mr. Shein’s letter, I’m going to have a go at it right here:

First of all, Mr. Shein’s zip code is Cameron but his “cabin” is built in the Sundance Bench subdivision close to the Upper Madison near the Big Bend area below Three Dollar Bridge. The lot next to him is owned by Craig Mathews. He says “The Madison is our home” but he is from Novato, California and lives there, too. So to be honest, he means “The Madison and California are both our homes,” which is great…two houses, the best of both worlds. And Mr. Shein is not alone up there. The Sundance is part of a 27 lot subdivision with river access to the Madison, a public waterway. Adjoining it is the 138 lot Madison River Ranch Subdivision. Mr. Shein states “Our duty as citizens and conservationists is to protect the river, especially from greed.” A lot of folks would say chopping up the river bottom into 165 lot subdivisions and surrounding the river with homes is the worst kind of greed, the worst kind of river pressure. I would be one of those folks. I am a fishing guide…I am also a citizen and a conservationist.

They paved paradise and put in a subdivision.

So you choose to build a house on public water surrounded by a bunch of other folks with the same idea, and now you want the public to “keep out”. The folks you see in those “daisy chains” of guide boats are part of the public, just the same as the unguided boats and wade anglers are part of the public, and the bird-watchers and the hikers and the pontoon boaters…and the same as yourself when you walk down to the river. We are all the public. It’s public water. The Madison is not your own private fishing preserve.

You think you and your wife have more rights than the husband and wife who pay me to take them fishing? You don’t. We are equal. You want to shut down the guide boats simply because you bought property in there?

“Yet if the guides over-fish the river and break it, and they surely will, what then?”

Wow. FWP’s own numbers show that the majority of the use on the Upper Madison is not guides, it’s the non-guided public. So I guess if the river “breaks”, whatever that means, it will be everybody’s fault. Including yours.

“Once the river is broken through over-fishing, our property value will go bust.”

According to the property records, your three bedroom, three bath “cabin” was appraised at $322,071 in 2017. In 2018 it shot up to $440,191. You’re doing ok!

I feel your pain. You brag “I have been fishing the Madison since the mid-80s, before some of these guides were born.” So what? Does that make you better, smarter or just older? The 1980s are gone forever…so are the 90s and a chunk of the 2000s. It’s a good bet they are not coming back. Russell Chatham wrote in his Intro to “The Angler’s Coast” about a time-period fishing in Northern California in the 1960s and 1970s that he “naively assumed would continue to happen.” He was wrong. Nothing is forever.

By the way, how’s the fishing in Novato, these days?

Quit blaming the fishing guides for the crowding issues. We are all part of the problem including yourself and your subdivision. Pointing the finger does nothing.

Except make you look like a grumpy old man.

Good luck fishing. Hope to bump into you one day. Oh, and if you want to sell your “cabin”, I know a good realtor.

Randy Brown…Ennis, Mt.