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Big Hole River file photo

In this file photo, a young fisherman gets ready to fish on the Big Hole River last year. The Big Hole Watershed Committee releases the 2017 drought management plan, which is mostly the same as the 2016 drought management plan.

With 2½ feet of visibility in the water, the fishing is phenomenal in the Big Hole River now, say local fishing guides.

Great Divide Outfitters guide Craig Jones, in Divide, said an ice jam broke in March in the Big Hole, and that bumped up the water flow to 6,000 cubic feet per second, flushing out the river and making conditions "fantastic."

Eric Thorson, co-owner of Sunrise Fly Shop in Melrose, said Monday that both April and May “were both really good” for fishing in the Big Hole.

Thorson said he is catching a lot of good-sized fish, primarily brown and rainbow trout, but also brook and Westslope cutthroat and Arctic grayling.

Mark Thompson, vice president of the George Grant Chapter of Trout Unlimited, said the snowstorm that hit last week led to some muddied rivers, but not the Big Hole. He said the upper reaches have the best fishing right now.

“As the snow melts, everything turns to chocolate milk,” said Thompson. “But in the Big Hole, they’re still fishing.”

Jones said a bit of sediment is coming into the river from fields around the Melrose area, but even there, the fishing is still good.

Thorson said there’s a “ton of volume” of water on the lower stretch of the river, so he cautioned anglers to be “good at rowing.”

Thorson thinks last week’s snowstorm has made things even better.

“That snowstorm was substantial. It will help the long-term health of the river. It was a good snow,” said Thorson.

Jen Downing, executive director of the Big Hole Watershed Committee, concurred, saying she is hopeful that this summer will not look like last year, when Big Hole irrigators voluntarily cut back on water usage as early as late June due to low flows.

Andrea Jones, with the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks, Region 3, said that with the higher flows, there could be obstacles. She recommended scouting the river before heading out.

“If there’s a sizeable river blockage, we’ll post about it. If something has the potential to be dangerous, let us know so we can get the river crew on it,” said Jones.

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Nat'l Resources / General Reporter

Environmental and natural resources reporter for the Montana Standard.

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