Fish reeling from drought

Montana State Roundup

Published January 1, 2002  | January 2002 issue

Persistent low water in the state has put fisheries in jeopardy. Low water and high temperatures last summer restricted fishing on many of the state's rivers. The story was similar for the state's reservoirs, which were drawn down to water crops.

When streams are low in winter, some freeze, or ice jams may leave some channels dry, killing fish. Regardless of winter snowfalls and more rainfall next spring and summer, it could take years for some fish populations to recover.

A $200 million regional water project just approved by Congress may help alleviate the situation by bringing high-quality Missouri River water to 30,000 people in four northeastern counties, where water quality is poor. The project also includes a $20 million warm-water fish hatchery that will support native fish recovery of walleye and small-mouth bass and other species hard-hit by fishing pressure.

Kathy Cobb