By Robert Lucke
With dry conditions and little water in area fisheries, fishing looks bleak right now for 2002.
Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks fish biologist Kent Gilge, ran down the list of area fisheries and where an angler might find a fish this spring and summer. Naturally conditions could change dramatically with a major moisture event in the area.
It looks as if Fresno Reservoir might have plenty of water this year but no fish.
"Basically we have lost our fish population in Fresno," Gilge said. "It is reduced to about 20 percent of what it was in 1998. There is just no food for fish there. It is the worst I have ever seen."
There are from 15,000 to 20,000 perch being introduced into Fresno this spring so there should be a good perch population later in the year.
"But it is going to take a good four years until we have any fish in Fresno," Gilge said.
The prairie reservoirs in Hill, Blaine and Phillips counties look very bad. At least six reservoirs winterkilled completely Gilge said, while some others have such low water in them now that existing fish populations will probably be dead by mid-summer without significant rain.
"We have no more than six fishable reservoirs now," Gilge said. "In Hill County the only thing going is Beaver Creek Reservoir and Bear Paw Lake."
Gilge indicated that Fresno tailwater is also good. The Montana FWP fishing access site is open, but the Bureau of Reclamation continues to keep their fishing hole closed for security reasons.
With stream fishing starting on May 18, area streams are awful as well.
"Our stream fisheries are really poor. Box Elder and Clear Creek are not expected to produce much and on Beaver Creek we basically lost the stream last year from the Rocky Boy Reservation to Bear Paw Lake. I walked the stream early this spring and never smelled such a putrid stream. Lots of fish took refuge in Bear Paw Lake and they will go back up the creek again, but probably the creek will dry up again this summer."
On the Missouri it will be a late paddlefish season, if any at all, Gilge reported. He said to look for paddlefish season after mid May if the river gets a later shot of water.
Ross Reservoir and Bailey's Reservoir might not be bad this summer, he said, adding that there is some hope there.
When Gilge did his early spring fish survey he had no idea that conditions were as bad as they were. And his job is not even a job of starting over at this time.
"We can't even start over," he said. "We are not even at the starting blocks. We are still on the down slide. Fresno is the only exception because of the water coming down from the Rockies."