Mindful Fishing Comes to Montana

From Bighorn River Alliance:

Fort Smith, MT: As Montana rivers prepare for the annual influx of trout seeking anglers, one local nonprofit group is capitalizing on the pre-run-off bustle to educate anglers about steps they can take to protect the next generation of trout. The Bighorn River Alliance (BHRA) has brought “Mind the Redd” to the banks of the Bighorn River.

Mind the Redd is a movement that educates anglers about wild trout reproduction (where and when fish spawn) to help reduce negative angling impacts on sensitive spawning grounds and actively spawning fish. “The whole idea is to promote appreciative understanding of an anglers place in the health of the waters they fish using messaging, beyond regulations, in the spirit and care for wild trout,” says movement founder Ben Helgeson.

The Bighorn River Alliance agrees. “The Bighorn River, like all rivers in the state, depends on successful wild trout reproduction, not the stocking of hatchery raised fish, to replenish brown and rainbow trout populations” explains executive director Anne Marie Emery. 

When trout spawn it is common to see them stacked up in locations where habitat is suitable for them to build redds, or nests, to lay their eggs. During this time female trout use their tails to build a depression in the gravel where they deposit up to 4,000 pea sized eggs. The eggs are then fertilized by a male trout and covered with gravel, where they remain until emergence.

 “It is from the time you start seeing fish congregated in certain areas, through the time until the eggs hatch and young trout (fry) emerge, that anglers should use caution with where they throw a line, wade, or anchor up” states Emery. “While it can be exciting to see lots of large trout congregated in an area, it is important for anglers to pause and consider the amount energy spawning trout need to finish reproduction successfully.”

BHRA created signs that outline how anglers can be mindful during the Bighorn trout spawning period and worked with guides to place them at access sites and fly shops. Each sign has a Q Code, which when scanned with a phone, directs anglers to a BHRA blogpost that uses drone photography and video to explain more about how to identify when and where Bighorn trout spawn.  BHRA hopes that by adopting a Mind the Redd mindset, anglers will be encouraged to do their part to let spawning trout be. 

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