‘Hoot owl’ restrictions lifted on portions of some Montana rivers – Montana Hunting and Fishing Information (montanaoutdoor.com)

FWP has lifted the Hoot Owl restrictions on the Upper Madison River. You can now fish 24 hours a day (or night) on the Upper Maddy from Yellowstone Park to Ennis Lake. The Lower Madison remains restricted from Ennis Dam to Three Forks. The closure on the upper river has been in effect for 29 days, a record. In fact, there has never been a hoot owl closure on the Upper Madison since I first fished it in 1972, 49 years ago.

What does it all mean?

It means Montana is in a severe drought and has been for a while. We are dry, dry, dry. We have heat, fires, grasshoppers and not much water. We have trout scurrying to find deeper water, cooler temps. Over on the Big Hole River things are so bad that FWP has closed entire stretches to fishing.

It also means too many people all fishing the same water.

When everybody has to quit fishing at 2:00 it creates problems. All the float boats and rafts hit the boat ramps at the same time. It looks a lot like the line-up at the west gate to Yellowstone, or the lift lines at Big Sky, or traffic jams at Main St. and 19 Ave. in Bozeman.

What it really means is that there are way, WAY too many people invading the outdoors in Montana…flooding the rivers, trails, ski hills and lakes…overrunning open spaces like lemmings. It’s awful. And it’s here to stay.

New homes, scrape jobs, subdivisions…cones, barrels and detours…more, more, more. The trout are scared, the grizzly bears are angry, the old timers are pissed off.

Must have looked the same to the Sioux and the Cheyenne, the Arapaho and the Apache 150 years ago, when they looked out over the rolling hills and saw the endless string of wagon trains, horses, bluecoats and pilgrims headed their way…and they looked at each other and said…”holy shit, we’re screwed!”