The Yellowstone said “good to be back” last week as Montana reopened 17 miles of prime trout water upstream of Livingston. The Emigrant to Pine Creek section was the last to see fishing reintroduced following the August 19 closure of 183 miles of river due to the microscopic fish parasite that wasted thousands of whities during low, soupy summer flows.

State biologists say the closure helped prevent the spread of PKD and reduced stress on the fish. But with the onset of fall, river temperatures have cooled and flyfishing is back on the agenda.

Meantime, FWP will continue its monitoring efforts, assessing overall effects on the river system and its native whitefish. As for the trout, it seems they’ve played their Immunity Idols well, carrying the parasite but surviving the worst of the potential consequences.

“That is why we closed down the river. We figured that, if we could get the trout through the initial onslaught, they would develop an immunity and would have the tools to withstand PKD in future years when we have low water and high water temps,” says Dan Vermillion, FWP chairman and owner of Livingston-based Sweetwater Travel Company.

“The closure, which was really tough on ours and many others’ businesses, accomplished the goal of keeping the disease from affecting the trout population,” he adds.

In other news, the reopening announcement came wrapped in a $12 million ribbon courtesy of ExxonMobil Corp., which will likely pay the wad to Montana and the U.S. government in order to restore natural resources hammered by its 2011 pipeline rupture that sent hundreds of barrels of oil into the Yellowstone, near Billings.

Texas-based Exxon says it’s committed to learning from its mistake. Those fouled by the spill, on the other hand, say accountability should come with a much higher price-tag. The deal must still be approved by a U.S. District Court judge in Montana and is subject to 30 days of public comment.

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Tom Bie

Tom Bie is the founder, editor, and publisher of The Drake. He started the magazine in 1998 as an annual newsprint publication based in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. He then moved it to Steamboat, Colorado (1999), Boulder, Colorado (2001), and San Clemente, California (2004), as he took jobs as managing editor at Paddler, Senior Editor at Skiing, and Editor-in-Chief at Powder, respectively. Tom and The Drake are now both based in Denver, Colorado, where The Drake is finally all grows up(Swingers, 1996) to a quarterly magazine.

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