Much of Montana is affected by the 2017 wildfire season and prolonged hot and dry weather. The public should be aware that fire restrictions are in effect on many Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks properties.
When it comes to site-specific fire restrictions, FWP follows the lead of the county where the site is located. Currently most counties around the state are in Stage 1 fire restrictions. Several counties in the driest areas are in Stage 2.
Stage 1 restrictions ban campfires except where specifically exempted, allow cooking fires on propane devices that can be shut off and smoking only in vehicles and areas three feet in diameter that are cleared of flammable materials. People still may cook on an LP gas or propane stove that can be turned on and off.
Stage 2 restrictions start with regulations delineated by Stage 1 restrictions. In addition, Stage 2 restrictions ban welding, explosives, driving off established roads and use of internal-combustion engines, except for vehicles on established roads, between 1 p.m. and 1 a.m. each day. Generators used in enclosed buildings or in an area cleared of vegetation specifically are exempted from Stage 2 restrictions.
FWP sites that could be impacted by fire restrictions include fishing access sites, wildlife management areas and state parks.
The restrictions will be in effect until further notice.
Fire restrictions, at this point, will not impact hunting licenses or opportunities. However, as hunting season approaches, hunters should monitor the fire situation and any potential closures in areas they’re planning to hunt. Local FWP access coordinators will keep a list of any block management areas with fire restrictions.
Additionally, the hot weather has caused warm water conditions in many rivers and streams. Restrictions are in place on the following waterways:
- Smith River from the confluence of the North and South forks to Eden Bridge south of Great Falls
- Sun River from Highway 287 Bridge to the mouth of Muddy Creek west of Great Falls.
- Big Hole River from Saginaw Bridge on Skinner Meadows Road to the Mouth of the North Fork Big Hole River;
- Big Hole River from Notch Bottom Fishing Access Site to the confluence with the Beaverhead River;
- Lower Beaverhead River from Anderson Lane to confluence with Big Hole River;
- Lower Madison River from Ennis Dam to the mouth;
- Lower Gallatin River from the confluence with the Madison River at Three Forks to Sheds Bridge (Hwy 84) near Four Corners;
- East Gallatin River from Spring Hill Road Bridge (Hwy 411) to the confluence with the Gallatin River;
- The entire Jefferson River
- Clark Fork River from its origins at Warms Springs Creek to Rock Creek near Missoula
- Silver Bow Creek from its confluence with Blacktail Creek in Butte to where it enters Warm Springs ponds.
These restrictions prohibit fishing from 2 p.m. to midnight on all the affected waterways.
Even on waterways without restrictions, it’s important for anglers to understand how the warmer temperatures affect cold water species.
As water temperatures increase, the amount of oxygen available for fish decreases and recovering from being caught is more difficult. Anglers interested in fishing during these hot summer days should consider fishing early in the day whether restrictions are in place or not. Anglers might also try their hand at fishing one of Montana’s beautiful high mountain lakes. Anglers releasing fish should land the fish quickly and keep it in the water while removing the hook.
For more information about fire restrictions at FWP sites, go online to fwp.mt.gov and click on Restrictions and Closures.
For questions about fire restrictions at a specific state park, please check the individual park pages at stateparks.mt.gov.