Montana's snowpack improves, benefits fishing season

Montana's snowpack improves, benefits...

MISSOULA, Mont. - Montana’s streams and rivers depend heavily on how much snowpack is in the mountains. That snowpack is improving in Montana, according to a new report by the Natural Resources Conservation Service.

The report shows February brought record-breaking snowfall. NRCS officials said many areas are now at or above the normal for this time of the year.

Snowpack can determine if Montana would have a good or bad fire season, how much vegetation would grow for wildlife and how fishing would be affected.

Grizzly Hackle Fly Shop owner Brendan Bannigan said a lack of heavy snowpack could endanger fish.

“When you don’t have the snowpack you lose water,” Bannigan said. “Water temperatures would warm up, and fish would get stressed out.”

Bannigan said fishing restrictions would be applied if there isn’t enough snowpack. Those restrictions would limit the time and day people are allowed to fish.

Fishing guide David Wilbert said those restrictions impacted his job in 2016.

“We lost a lot of work,” Wilbert said. “It was a month or so where you could only take about a half-day trip every once in a while.”

Montana Data Collection Office gathered the current snow and water equivalent in basins in Western Montana.

To see that map, click here.

Missoula resident Holly Seymour said she hopes the percentages stay up this year.

“It makes all the difference in the world if there is a high snowpack,” Seymour said. "It’s a longer fishing season with healthier fish and colder water.”

NRCS will take new surveys the end of March and will have new percentages for April.

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