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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
The Montana Game & Fish Commission is asking the public for solutions to alleviate crowding on the Madison River. And the Madison is emblematic of all of Montana's famous trout rivers -- most of which are year-round fisheries with a 5-fish limit, and few if any regulations to mitigate crowding. Consequently, our river fisheries, which are wild and self-sustaining, are being crushed by heavy recreational and commercial (guided) fishing.

There's lots of bright folks on this forum, and undoubtedly some who fish Montana rivers. It sure would help to have some 'outside' views and solutions before it's too late.

https://www.bozemandailychronicle.com/news/commission-sinks-madison-river-petitions-tells-fwp-to-put-options/article_8033b433-6905-53d7-948e-5bf641042440.html
 

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lots of common solutions, just have to have the will to implement and enforce:

limited guide licences with limited amount of angler days for each
guiding permits on only specific sections
limit non-resident licences to max per year
make it a classified water where non-residents have to purchase a per diem licence, can be made pricey ($40-50/day). This money goes to ongoing habitat restoration and upkeep.
Limit on resident fishing day on the river - day specific licences.
bait bans
gear bans

Lots of decent idea sin the article.

many hunting regulations out there that prevent too many folks for hammering one area: limited entry draws, gear specific seasons, etc.

Of course, this isn't taking into account t the economics of it all, which rarely ever take into account the habitat and general enjoyment of the resource.

unfortunately there is an ongoing trend that those who exploit a resource for economic reasons should be the sole proprietors of said resource, be it forests, waters, or fisheries. The fact is that public lands and waters belong to everyone and everyone is a stakeholder.
 

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The Madison is only crowded 3 weeks out of the year.. all the government needs to do is leave things alone
If this is the case, then simply manage the user numbers during this peak use period. Personally, I’d far prefer the minor inconvenience of not being able to fish a particular river at a moments notice than to know that I’d be facing horrendous crowds every time I wanted to go. I’m extremely (to put it mildly) thankful that the Forest Service and BLM, and NPS have implemented permits with very limited user numbers to float on some of the very few remaining wilderness rivers in the US. Without such systems it would not be possible to have the kind of experience that we all seek in such places. I would be happy to see some similar thoughts and priorities go into the management plans of quite a few of our fisheries personally. It’s not good for the River, the fish, or us anglers to allow popular rivers to be overrun with unchecked usage.
JB
 

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I have the answer to the problem: Allow fishing only with no hooks! Flies with no hooks, this would keep those beautiful Trout from not needing a Dentist! The Trout in the Madison are over hooked!
 

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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 :Eyecrazy:
 

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Not limited to the US, have a look at the increased pressure globally.
YouTube and Instagram flood social media with pictures of big fish highlighting locations and countries. Who hasn’t seen vision of New Zealand, Patagonia, Iceland etc. While anglers post of how good the fishing is at x location, the hordes will follow.
Locals at all locations bemoan the increased fishing pressure now compared to yesteryear. All countries have the same problem.
 

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However…generally speaking, it seems that numbers of both anglers (and hunters) appear
to be falling.

Cottage Life magazine (Ontario) published an article a year or so ago, noting the drop in the popularity of fishing and the sale of fishing licences decreasing by half since the 1970's.

I grew up in the UK and read on one forum that angling participation has declined there as well - 'you can't get the kids outside and away from their screens' it is claimed.
'Nature deprevation' has been cited as one possible reason for the rise in various mental health conditions in the young. The addiction of on-line gaming in (especially) boys and young men continues to grow.

On Clarks forum there has been discussion of the (possible) fall in value of vintage rods and reels due to lack of interest from those who may not follow and the reasons why.

Give it time, those crowds on the river may one day just fade away..
 

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Those crowds in the UK are ever fading even as I type this.
Indeed, young people are only interested in gaming at home and on line, nowt else.Everything is on the wane.The t'interweb is slowly seeing the demise of the local tackle shop, my local town is currently seeing the closure of the last of its 5 tackle shops.In mere weeks there'll be no where local to buy permits, licences, bait and tackle-that'll mean less people going fishing!, less folk fishing and the clubs and associations will feel the pinch and sure as egg's are egg's will go to the wall.
Much of the UK's migratory fish are on the wane too!, there's nothing to catch now in certain circumstances, the knock on effect is proving disastrous.The effect on local rural buisness's is disastrous, closure for sure, loss of jobs in the local economy.Most Game fishing tackle now comes from on line dealers and Amazon, E-Bay etc., there's literally no where to pop in for a spool of cast material any more, a re-placement rod ring, a box of hooks, a good old natter with like minded souls or even some advice with yer bits n bobs!.
I'm as honest as I can be here, a few years and the jobs done, it'll be finished gone.
But in the long game it could only be good, less pressure for sure, maybe allow our over pressured wild fisheries to re-cuperate.There's a heavy load on our wild migratory fish stocks from natural and man orientated sources, as soon as the attention fades from them as they get ever less and less worth the commercial effort, then they've a chance.Just maybe those of us with long memories and a few years left, just might get a smile on our faces once more.
It's always darkest just before dawn.
Yorkie.
 

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Discussion Starter #12
Some very thoughtful commentary here. Thank you. Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks will be posting a link for commentary on the matter soon and I will post it here. Sure would appreciate your commentary going to FWP. Our Game and Fish Commission seldom looks beyond Montana's borders for solutions, though it has recently with the westward spread of Zebra mussels and the deer-ravaging blight known as Chronic Wasting Disease.

Other than that, the commission tends to form a circular firing squad when faced with existential threats. Visiting anglers are a huge part of this situation, especially those who hire guides. Consequently, the state's tourist economy has eclipsed that of traditional extractive industry (ranching, lumber, mining) for at least the past five years. Not insignificantly, our politics have not yet evolved around our changed economy.

So as you can see, Montana is at a pivotal moment and the Madison River is its poster child. The Game and Fish Commission knows this and it is why the commission is seeking public comment before making some hard but necessary changes, which are very likely to be applied to all trout rivers in the Big Sky state. Please share your thoughts/experience when the comment link becomes available. Thank you.
 

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Steel, I hope you aren't offended by by comment. You seemed to have cited the extreme "negative" situations, with the sensational negative connotations associated with Naziism, and the EVIL China. But, environmentally, the human population is a big problem (Some published reports: 50+% of biodiversity lost in the last 40 years, a recent article on the loss of insects, PPM CO2 > 400,...). Population control policies don't have to be "negative." They can be simply practical. There are a few simple things that can be done to disincentivize having children versus the current policy of incentivizing. For starters, tax deductions for children can be eliminated. In fact, if you increase taxes on people with children, since said children will be using so many communal resource, that would be a start. A school surcharge, a parks and rec surcharge, etc. Most people are extremely opposed to this because most people want to have children. So, to appease that inevitable scream, you could do something like only charge the surcharges on the 3rd child and above, with a progressive increase in the tax as more children are had, etc. The current model we have, almost globally, is to incentivize population growth since that is increased tax revenue, increased workforce, increased consumption, etc. Growth at all costs. It is very hard for most people to accept that maybe this is the wrong approach since it is so engrained in our society from religion and culture, which hasn't changed really in some 5000 years (?). So, we look at "evil" China's policy as infringing on people's freedoms, when it actually had some extremely practical and thoughtful intentions, although it obviously had some terrible unintended consequences and clearly did not work. It's similar in that way to the School of Choice program in Michigan, which devastated communities while attempting to simply let parents choose which school they wanted their children to go to. I digress, maybe we can get to the point where a global population of say 3 billion humans is acceptable instead of 8, or the rapidly approaching 11. Or, for starters, how about we try to drop the current global increase in population from 208,000 humans PER DAY (Think about that - when you go to work on Monday and come on on Friday, there are over a 1,000,000 more humans on earth, every work week). In any case, if we do some of these things, we may find less crowded river and more fish. I don't see it happening...
 

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Perhaps as mentioned above, it will run it's course. The trout will decline, and eventually word will get out and the hoards will trapse to another holy river, only to blame the F&G that it wasn't managed properly to begin with.

Is the Madison really the worst? I thought the Yellowstone was hammered pretty good too? I would love to fish some of those iconic rivers, but have visions of having folks 30ft on either side of me lining the river.

Does anyone know if this rivals the crowding we get on the Vedder/Chilliwack?

 

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Steel, I hope you aren't offended by by comment. You seemed to have cited the extreme "negative" situations, with the sensational negative connotations associated with Naziism, and the EVIL China. But, environmentally, the human population is a big problem (Some published reports: 50+% of biodiversity lost in the last 40 years, a recent article on the loss of insects, PPM CO2 > 400,...). Population control policies don't have to be "negative." They can be simply practical. There are a few simple things that can be done to disincentivize having children versus the current policy of incentivizing. For starters, tax deductions for children can be eliminated. In fact, if you increase taxes on people with children, since said children will be using so many communal resource, that would be a start. A school surcharge, a parks and rec surcharge, etc. Most people are extremely opposed to this because most people want to have children. So, to appease that inevitable scream, you could do something like only charge the surcharges on the 3rd child and above, with a progressive increase in the tax as more children are had, etc. The current model we have, almost globally, is to incentivize population growth since that is increased tax revenue, increased workforce, increased consumption, etc. Growth at all costs. It is very hard for most people to accept that maybe this is the wrong approach since it is so engrained in our society from religion and culture, which hasn't changed really in some 5000 years (?). So, we look at "evil" China's policy as infringing on people's freedoms, when it actually had some extremely practical and thoughtful intentions, although it obviously had some terrible unintended consequences and clearly did not work. It's similar in that way to the School of Choice program in Michigan, which devastated communities while attempting to simply let parents choose which school they wanted their children to go to. I digress, maybe we can get to the point where a global population of say 3 billion humans is acceptable instead of 8, or the rapidly approaching 11. Or, for starters, how about we try to drop the current global increase in population from 208,000 humans PER DAY (Think about that - when you go to work on Monday and come on on Friday, there are over a 1,000,000 more humans on earth, every work week). In any case, if we do some of these things, we may find less crowded river and more fish. I don't see it happening...
Sorry guys my my grammar is a nightmare. My dyslexia kicks in heavy

First let me say I fully believe humans can and do ( in specific places) have issues with over population. The last thing I want for us is too end up like infamous '' Mouse utopia experiments'' by John B. Calhoun..
Random fact apparently all of the people in the world standing could fit inside new york city https://www.6sqft.com/believe-it-or-not-the-worlds-entire-population-can-fit-inside-new-york-city/ That speaks nothing to the problem of resources though

I actually have had the pleasure of debating this topic a few times. I know you just want whats best for the world, right :)

I won't use the appeal too morality fallacies, but I think population control will never be on the table for the western world until something true catastrophic happens. That causes us to reshape the entire worlds economic structure.

You were right. The big issue is the way economics is done by the world. Many places like japan are having severe troubles with under population. The aging native population cannot support its own economy based on its structure. https://www.businessinsider.com/japans-population-is-shrinking-demographic-time-bomb-2018-6

Japan has always been very isolationist . Things are so bad They have ads right now basically begging there youth to date and have kids. This isn't really working and There's more then one way to grow your population.
There economy is soon to be proped up like ostrich in a intruder pattern (trying involve fly fishing somehow) by immigration+there baby making. (most western countries are doing this,) This is pretty big deal to them. they have been fighting opening there doors fully for 40 + years. Every year economists predict there doors to open due to under population economy collapse.. All over the western world they are reporting under and aging population as a issue. We now depend on migration from other cultures and there willingness to have more kids to support the economies.

My personal issue is I don't wanna give the government that kind of radical power. Though some of your suggestions are not heavy handed im not totally opposed to. I think in the end if you had to really lay down the law. We'd be surrendering a huge liberty,maybe the biggest one of all (reproducing is a contender for the meaning of life). Think of the leader you hate or hated the most in your country and imagine handing over that type of power to them. Imagine them and there cabinet doing all the regulation that's needed. That's not even counting what the opposition party would do. I dislike the government fiddling with more taxes. They often don't take it seriously as i would like. tax is necessary but its money taken by force. You don't pay your tax you end up in jail. Dudes with guns come to your house, its serious stuff. Each one should be well thought out and one of the last options
I would rather it be a self implemented,social norm change, or even one of your tax suggestions at first. I realize that we may indeed hit critical mass for resources on this planet and we'll have no other choice to use law/force. I just want to avoid it if we can or as long as possible.
New Science is always helping us get more resources. We may yet figure out a trick to make the hatchery steelhead work.. Maybe so new innovation with a hormone serum who knows. Maybe we could make trees grow back in days. Then there's always moving off the earth to space + other planets

Sorry i think i got away from spey fishing.

With respect to everyone who wrote in this great thread, Michael P.
 

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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 :Eyecrazy:
That is the best thing I've read in a long time. Well said!
 

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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/changes-could-be-coming-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/the-future-of-the-madison-river-starts-monday-when-new/article_227a56c3-7a8e-5e7b-850d-7d340d442a7c.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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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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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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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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