Montana’s Bighorn River is known throughout the world as a premier, blue-ribbon trout stream. The fishery below Yellowtail Dam holds some of the most robust tour-per-mile numbers in the nation. But in the last decade, the river has changed. There’s more water, the fish are skinnier, and some say it’s just not the way it used to be. This episode of The DrakeCast takes a float down the Bighorn in search of why this river is experiencing these negative results. While we’re on the water, we’ll hear from ranchers, fisheries biologists, and the happiest fisherman in the world.
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“I’ve worked on many blue ribbon trout fisheries before and I have never worked on a river such as the Bighron that is so economically important to this state, but yet so overlooked and mismanaged by federal and state agencies.” -Anne Marie Emery, Executive Director of the Bighorn River Alliance.
“Fish Fish Fish Fish Fish. Oh this is a nice fish. This is the biggest fish of the day.” -Paul “Pablo” Nicoletti, angler, guide, enthusiast (it wasn’t the biggest fish of the day).
This fish is about as snakey as they come.
Many thanks to The Bighorn River Alliance for their help on this story and all the work they do for that fishery. Some of the audio from this episode came from their video, A River at Risk, which you can watch here.
Another huge thank you to Mike Ruggles with Montana’s Fish, Wildlife & Parks Department for sharing his research with us. If you plan on visiting the Bighorn in the near future, make sure to hook up with the folks at The Bighorn Angler. They loaned us a boat and let us trash one of their cabins. They might do the same for you.
Thanks to @rexmess and @pablonicoletti for sharing their photos with us.