Crowding on the Madison River, Montana - Page 2 - Spey Pages
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post #16 of 25 (permalink) Old 11-14-2019, 03:18 PM
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Originally Posted by Hardyreels View Post
Please remember that I didn't make the original post. I wrote something and some may not like the way I expressed my thoughts. I have not edited the writing but did read through once. It seems to have a goodly amount of run on sentences and comma splices but it's getting late here and I just punched it out. It is not my most positive work but like I said, I didn't start the thread

I've been fishing a long time, maybe not as long as some of you but for a while. Obviously the Madison River has changed in the amount of pressure that I witnessed during the 1981 through 86 seasons as has nearly every other river or creek that hosts a good population of target species.

I won't bore you or patronize by saying exactly how many years I've been tying flies and fishing America and Canada but have fished from Newfoundland to my current home waters here in Alaska and hit most provinces and states between the two. Over the past 15 years I have witnessed growing pressure on fisheries here in the 49th state and am not surprised that it is an epidemic nationwide.

Here's what I've resigned myself to: any attempt to regulate the flotilla's of drift boats and guides, to regulate the residential or non resident fishermen permitted on rivers will be met with a wailing, moaning and gnashing of teeth which will be deafening. While a few may welcome regulations as being a forward looking management tool to protect a species the vast majority, especially those who currently exploit the resource for personal financial gain will band together to create a political influence body.

The problem is a natural one, it is a predator prey relationship. At this point in time the prey have been identified as an important factor in corporate marketing. Whether the marketers are tackle manufacturers churning out 7 to 900 dollar single hand fly rods or 1000 to 13000 dollar Spey rods or they are guides, lodges, shops with guiding services or any other fishing related business it's all part of the predator side of the equation.

The associated marketing generated by this billion dollar adventure industry reaches more and more people every day, week, month and year and subsequently a percentage of those millions reached will enter into the fishing game thus becoming predators added to the overflowing mix already at hand. Multiple "Guide Schools" all over the west churning out more hopeful Hemingway types who want to live the dream only add to the feeding frenzy all ready underway. Those not scooped up by fly shops or lodges may try freelance operations and given the growing customer base some will survive. YouTube Videos and Face Book Pages filled with what many gleefully call Fish Porn help to fuel the average suburban dwellers thirst for becoming part of the scene, the adventure and the predators literally grow through a sort of binary fission……. In other words it ain't just the guides and lodges, it's everybody.

Yeah but what about the prey?

Well some rivers and creeks just happen to have a good population of trout, salmon or steelhead trout so those rivers and creeks will become ground zero for the predator / prey drama to be played out on. The fisheries will be used and in some cases abused so long as the prey species can survive the pressure. The use will be both residential and commercial in nature. Some of the prey species will die needlessly due to overhandling, some will bleed out from a bad hooking. I haven't even gotten to the current fad of bobber fishing which makes it even easier for the weekend warrior to get those fish and glory shots have I? Never has it been more likely for a first time steelhead fisherman to boat three or more on their first trip! Sorry but that's just unnatural when talking wild fish in the 21st century......

As long as the guides can fill the boats daily with hopeful sports and produce successful days of watching for the clients bobbers to bob there will be ever growing pressure. The private residential folks will keep buying drift boats and the lodges will thrive.

There's only one thing that can and will reduce the crowding on streams and rivers. That thing is when the fishery reaches the break point and numbers of the target species fall off dramatically. When that happens the predators don't catch on instantly, they keep coming and do so until it becomes obvious that they are not catching. At that point the search for scape goats usually begins because someone or something must be the target of blame for not only the fishery collapsing but the economies that have been growing off of it with total disregard for the imbalance of the predator / prey relationship that has grown under their own stewardship.

I began learning 30 years ago to find places that are not rated as fisheries for the species I enjoy fishing for. Places that have few fish but that fact is directly reflected by the fact that I am usually alone when I fish. The unfortunate intrinsic here is that where there are a large number of fish there will be a large number of predators trying to catch those fish. It's that simple, fewer fish equals fewer fishermen, period.

I fish for the shear joy I get from doing it, it's been that way since I was a little boy and never changed. I don't mind fishing where I may catch one or none on a given day so long as I can be alone. I am not a catcherman, I'm a fisherman. I don't fish the famous rivers here in Alaska for exactly these reasons which I've tried to outline in this rambling essay. I'm a slummer, I fish anywhere that no one else does and I enjoy every day.

Those who are young enough may live to see the crowding fade away because once the catching plummets you'll see lodges for sale with no buyers standing in line. You'll see Craigslist littered with drift boats and the users looking for an adventure will have quit. I may not be around to see it everywhere but it is happening here. Just a beginning, like a long freight train leaving the yard it'll take time to reach terminal speed but there's no stopping the trend I see in South Central Alaska at this time.

Yeah it's kinda sad but I do enjoy the solitude, so look ahead with a smile if you just love to fish. But if you're living to rail that fish that just made your Thigamabobber twitch and rack up the numbers because you and your buddies have a bet on low man buys the beer your numbers will go down, trust me on that.

Yours always,

The Ardster
That is the best thing I've read in a long time. Well said!
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post #17 of 25 (permalink) Old 11-14-2019, 03:23 PM
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Things change.
Montana will never again be as it was in the '70s and '80s, or the '90s or even the '00s.

There isn't really a problem beyond a population that wants to experience some connection to the natural world and its beauty and the northern Rockies has that in spades. It was inevitable that with continued population growth that the region would need to adapt in multiple ways to the changes that are occurring and the desire of people to experience all that the region has to offer.

Southwest Montana is experiencing unprecedented growth and has been growing since I moved here in the '80s. Bozeman's growth is off the charts. It's still a desirable place to live due to it's natural beauty and recreational opportunities and now it has the added benefit (or curse) of being a location in Montana where you can actually make money with a booming local economy.
With that growth and money has come a dramatic increase in river use by the locals. Everyone seems to have a drift boat or raft in the yard or garage. Even if we didn't have more people coming from the rest of the nation, and the world, that are serviced by the commercial use permit holders (outfitters and guides) there would still be a dramatic increase in traffic and use of the rivers.

It's interesting to note that guided trips make up something like less than 20% of the user day figures for the upper Madison, though guided trips do make up something like half of the user days on the float/fish section from Lyons to Ennis.
I'm tossing out these figures off the top of my head, anyone who knows or wants to look up the actual figures from FWP feel free to correct me.

Until recently I mostly blamed outfitters and guides for the crowding and was somewhat surprised at the actual numbers. Out of state fisherman make up the majority of the users on upper Madison.
Here's a link to the FWP survey and report for 2017.
http://www.madisoniannews.com/news/c...-madison-river

This article discusses commercial use numbers, it's not quite what you would expect given the finger pointing at outfitters of which I've been guilty of in the past though clearly commercial use plays a significant role in fishing pressure on the Madison.
https://mtstandard.com/news/local/th...40d442a7c.html

It should be noted that, so far, there hasn't been a decline in the overall fishery beyond the whirling disease issue. The river still fishes very well and the numbers of fish are still very good compared to historical numbers since records started being kept. The fishery isn't, at this point, in danger of some sudden collapse due to fishing pressure. It's remarkable really, how well it still fishes.
If you like fishing the upper and weren't here this summer you missed out, the hopper fishing was the best I've seen in a very long time. It was way, way, WAY better than the salmon fly hatch or any other hatch for that matter.

I personally stopped fishing the upper Madison years ago because I felt it wasn't the kind of experience I used to enjoy but it's been interesting watching younger people embrace the local fishing culture and seemingly enjoy it just as much as I did. They don't have my frame of reference and there's really no reason they should. Things change, I have to rein in the "back in the day" talk to avoid being too annoying.

The river and fishing is how it is now. The fishery is healthy. The pressure is high. While there's no going back I do think that some steps can be taken to control the ever increasing pressure though I do wonder if we are also seeing somewhat of a bubble related to the economy.
I'm not sure that pointing the finger at commercial users as the main source of pressure is accurate though. As I noted above they/we only account for less than 20%.

I started guiding this year. After going through a whole lot of stages of anger, annoyance and denial with how things aren't like they were back in the day I've come around to acceptance that this is now how it's going to be and pretty much has to be.
It was interesting to experience again the upper Madison on a regular, often daily routine. It fished great. I was often never out of sight of five other boats but if you launched after the guide rush you could be surprisingly alone.
What I was most impressed by was how much people enjoyed just being out there. The never-ever's were the most enthralled with the experience. From there point of view there was no crowding, they had nothing to compare it to. It was refreshing and actually really fun to see the river through their eyes and not my own jaded ones.

The one issue regarding regulation on the upper that I think everyone needs to be aware of is that if you close off the walk/wade sections to boats you effectively create private access to the upper Madison. This would appear to be the goal of the Madison River Foundation.
If the walk wade section around Reynolds pass is closed to boats land owners will have exclusive access to the Madison. You can't walk that whole stretch without trespassing. The same goes for the stretch between Ennis and the lake, commonly called Valley Garden. There are lodges and private holdings within those stretches. You can guess how they would like to see the river regulated.
This, in my view, is the single most important issue facing users of the upper Madison right now. NOT creating exclusive access by closing sections to navigation by watercraft. It may seem annoying to be at Three Dollar bridge and see a raft go by but those boats are spreading out the pressure and accessing water you can't get to on foot. If the walk wade section is closed to boats, keep in mind you can't fish from the boat, then the Madison will suddenly have water that only private land owners can access AND this will concentrate MORE pressure in the walk/wade stretch that can be accessed on foot.
This is not how we do things in Montana and never has been and never will be if I can help it.

It's important to understand that while it sounds like eliminating boats in the walk/wade sections means no annoying boats dropping into water near you it actually means creating private water in navigable streams in Montana which is in direct opposition to our state constitution.
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post #18 of 25 (permalink) Old 11-14-2019, 05:59 PM
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There have been some excellent points raised. One point that I have not seen mentioned is that I should think that reducing usage on the Madison may have the unintended consequence of pushing a lot of folks onto other area rivers that can not withstand such an onslaught. One thing the Madison has going for it is its size. Even with all those boats, I have always been able to find a spot to fish.

Jim
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post #19 of 25 (permalink) Old 11-14-2019, 07:57 PM
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There have been some excellent points raised. One point that I have not seen mentioned is that I should think that reducing usage on the Madison may have the unintended consequence of pushing a lot of folks onto other area rivers that can not withstand such an onslaught. One thing the Madison has going for it is its size. Even with all those boats, I have always been able to find a spot to fish.

Jim
That's something a lot of the guides have been arguing and that a rotating daily stretch closed to guiding and out of state fisherman would concentrate the fleet even further.
I'm sure there is a certain amount of self interest there but it is a valid argument.

I will say that I have used the regs that close sections of the Big Hole to guides and out of state fisherman to great effect at times, especially during the salmonfly hatch. I also used to think of the Madison as a river I was willing to give up in the summer if it concentrated so many of the out of state fishermen on one river, which it does. The Yellowstone is not as busy and more fun to float and fish, in my opinion, though the average size of the fish in the Madison seems larger not to mention fatter.
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post #20 of 25 (permalink) Old 11-15-2019, 12:27 AM
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That's something a lot of the guides have been arguing and that a rotating daily stretch closed to guiding and out of state fisherman would concentrate the fleet even further.
I'm sure there is a certain amount of self interest there but it is a valid argument.

I will say that I have used the regs that close sections of the Big Hole to guides and out of state fisherman to great effect at times, especially during the salmonfly hatch. I also used to think of the Madison as a river I was willing to give up in the summer if it concentrated so many of the out of state fishermen on one river, which it does. The Yellowstone is not as busy and more fun to float and fish, in my opinion, though the average size of the fish in the Madison seems larger not to mention fatter.
Hey BB, it's nice to read a measured argument to ever present, Montana river-use controversies. I used to chat with you on the other fishing forum, good to hear from you again.
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post #21 of 25 (permalink) Old 11-15-2019, 01:58 AM
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Hey BB, it's nice to read a measured argument to ever present, Montana river-use controversies. I used to chat with you on the other fishing forum, good to hear from you again.
Hey John, I remember you. I hope you and yours are doing well.

No real fires in the Bitterroot this year, huh? Nice to finally have a mellow fire year and plenty of water again.
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post #22 of 25 (permalink) Old 11-15-2019, 09:42 AM Thread Starter
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The Yellowstone is my home river of 30 years and it is, as you say "hammered" these days. And any measures to mitigate the problem are not officially discussed or even acknowledged. Jeez-O-Pete, where does a trout bum go from here!?
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post #23 of 25 (permalink) Old 11-15-2019, 12:12 PM
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The Yellowstone is my home river of 30 years and it is, as you say "hammered" these days. And any measures to mitigate the problem are not officially discussed or even acknowledged. Jeez-O-Pete, where does a trout bum go from here!?
Wyoming?

Seriously though, you've seen major changes and seismic shifts in your time there. You also know that the issues are more complex than just limiting outfitters. 30 years ago logging and mining were still Montana's main economy; which has a greater detrimental impact on the fisheries?

I've been in the Missoula area for 20 years, and the Bitterroot for the past six years. The Root has ranked as high as #5 in angler days per season in past years, so I see and understand the impacts of crowding. Personally, I think that FWP is working hard on the issue. It may feel too slow to some of us, but I call it deliberate. A lot of folk's livelihoods are at stake. But is definitely a important to keep the conversation to the fore. I don't have any great solutions.
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post #24 of 25 (permalink) Old 11-15-2019, 01:35 PM
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The Yellowstone is my home river of 30 years and it is, as you say "hammered" these days. And any measures to mitigate the problem are not officially discussed or even acknowledged. Jeez-O-Pete, where does a trout bum go from here!?
Nowhere, really.
Crowding is an issue everywhere there is great fishing with comparatively easy access.
I think there is also a degree of perspective at play here, what seems like crowding to us is kind of the norm in most places that are desirable to be these days. Especially on the larger rivers.

I personally felt pushed out of a lot of water I used to fish back in the 80s and 90s because I felt like I couldn't have the same experience I was used to, a good deal of which was feeling like I was out in the middle of nowhere. I remember going up to Slide Inn and feeling like I was in Alaska, nothing there but Slide Inn, dramatic mountains and trout. We used to go up in Feb.-March and literally be the only people there and expect to be. Those days are long gone.

I eventually started fishing the more marginal fisheries around the area to try and find isolation but those areas are no longer secrets and no longer isolated. The young trout bums are just as fanatical as I was about exploring and there are far more of them in the area now than there was back in the day. Not to mention almost anywhere that can be guided is being guided if it's fishing half way decent.

I don't think there is any turning this around. We can try to control growth from here but there's no going back and honestly I don't want to give up my right/privilege to just go out and fish wherever I feel like at a moments notice in southwest Montana, not yet anyways.

It should probably be noted that the crowding most people are taking issue with is during the high season, really mid June to September. Spring and fall (this October sucked big time), not to mention winter, are still good times to get out with a lot less people around but there are so many more locals now that you can't expect to be alone anymore. I used to float through town in the winter whenever it would be warm enough with open water and be the only one on it. Not anymore and those are all people just like me, mostly younger than me these days. They get to have their time too.

So, I don't know, I don't have any solutions to the problems either that I think are, to a certain extent, a matter of perspective.
I do trust FWP to do their best to come up with plans that will no doubt not satisfy everyone. If there is one thing we Montanans have going for us it's having one of the best fish and game departments in the country with a strong mandate for providing access. I think they've/we've done a great job over the years, especially considering our low population, and are the very best in the west.
People don't really think about it but they are a big part of what makes fishing in Montana so good and so enjoyable for out of staters.
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post #25 of 25 (permalink) Old 11-18-2019, 03:33 AM
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Steel, I hope you aren't offended by by comment...
Skol, not offended at all. I think we should all be able to discuss issues without taking them personally, unlike the current identity politics. The OP asked about how to deal with crowds on a specific Montana river and you suggested population control, which is a highly conroversial topic. Modern population control started with the pseudo science of Eugenics (literally meaning good genes) and was and is rooted in racism and classism. One can research easily the likes of Francis Galton, Julian Huxley, and Margret Sanger, the founder of Planned Parenthood, to learn more. I believe no one has a right to tell me how many children I can have, especially the government. Taxing people for having children would ultimately favor the wealthy and hinder those with less money. I believe that government generally needs to help protect our inalienable rights and not take away our rights. If you want to discuss this further, perhaps it would be more appropriate to communicate via PM. Feel free to message me anytime.

As far as the original question about crowds on the Madison, that is a tough one. One can fish elsewhere or embrace the comradarie, like on the North Umpua. Also, changing the limit from five to two, or zero limit could deter the "meat fishermen" from fishing the Madison and fishing elsewhere, with more liberal limits.

Nate

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