I’m writing to respond to public comments made at the March 7 Madison River Negotiated Rule-making Committee meeting in Ennis. I want to thank the committee members, whose decisions will have wide reaching effects. I applaud their careful, thoughtful, and compromising approach.
As licensed Montana outfitter with 18 years of guide experience, 26 years of fly fishing experience, and almost 40 years of angling experience, I am commenting on information given to the committee to advocate for why boats should not be in the upper sections of the Madison.
During public comment, Jackie Mathews stated the public should not be able to float boats to access angling because FWP biologists will not electrofish those sections as they are unsafe for float electrofishing. Her argument that if they will not electrofish float in there, then the public should not take boats in there is misleading. At the very least, it is not truthful.
There is a difference in what FWP biologists do to collect electrofishing data and how floaters and float anglers operate their boats. First, the electrofishing boat does not have oars. They don’t actually float or drift, they walk the boat down the river. One biologist holds the boat by handles on the back. There is a large water holding tank, a generator, gear, and two more biologists aboard. When the tank of water, which is very heavy, is full of fish and ready to collect data, they must find a suitable place to hold or park the boat as there is no anchor. Then they process the fish in a timely matter. It is an amazing amount of work to walk a boat with all that gear and weight downriver. I also understand that is why they would not think it safe to collect data between Quake Lake and Pine Butte. The bottom is uneven, bouldered, steep and with fast currents making it difficult to safely walk that setup down stream. That is different than floating in a raft or drift boat to park behind a rock and fish. There is no reason it cannot and should not be navigated safely by watercraft oared correctly. Comparing the relative safety of the two things as an argument for removal of boats from a section without context on how the two activities are different, seems to be a disguised and deceitful argument for removal of boats.
Brian Rosenberg, Ennis