Montana’s cool, clear streams and rivers are renowned for trout fishing. But veteran fly-fishing guide Hilary Hutcheson says that the warming climate poses threats to this cherished tradition.
Warmer water contains less oxygen, so it stresses fish species that are accustomed to colder temperatures. And it makes it harder for them to recover after anglers catch and release them.
In some areas, fishing has been temporarily prohibited on hot summer afternoons when the water is too warm.
“That’s a huge impact to fisheries and to the guiding community as a whole,” Hutcheson says. “There are operations that … they’re starting their guide trips at 5 a.m. so they can get off the water by 2, or they’re simply not taking people out during the hottest times of the year, which traditionally has been some of the best fishing.”
She says warming is also accelerating the spread of invasive rainbow trout, which prefer warmer water. Those fish have started mating with westslope cutthroat trout, which could endanger this native species.
“And that’s something that we see firsthand because when my clients are catching fish, a lot of times they’re catching those hybrids,” Hutcheson says.
So the warming climate is an ever-growing threat to the rivers she loves and the livelihoods they support.
Reporting credit: Sarah Kennedy/ChavoBart Digital Media