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Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Above: FWP fishing access site maintenance foreman Miles Muscha, left, and fisheries manager Mike Backes inspect the water and power connections at Intake on Wednesday. Below: An FWP worker loads debris from the March Yellowstone River flood onto a truck.

Intake ready for paddlefish season (slideshow)

By Jason Stuart

Ranger-Review Staff Writer

The Intake Fishing Access Site is back open for business and will be ready for paddlefish season.

A large contingent of Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks staff descended on the site on Wednesday to clean and make repairs. The fishing site and campground were severely damaged during the flood and ice jam on the Yellowstone River in early March.

“It’s not going to be as pretty as it was right away, but everything will be functional,” said Miles Muscha, FWP Region 7 fishing access site maintenance foreman. “We’re making progress, we’ve got a good crew.”

Intake’s campground will also be back open for business for visiting paddlefish enthusiasts. 

Muscha said the site lost several picnic tables in the flood that FWP “won’t be able to replace right away,” but otherwise, the campground is ready to accept campers.

“It’ll be a mess yet for a couple of weeks, but it will be open to camping technically after today,” he said on Wednesday.

As for the upcoming paddlefish season, FWP Region 7 Fisheries Manager Mike Backes said river conditions look conducive for paddlefish to begin moving upstream.

“We’ve already hit (a flow rate of) 20,000 cubic feet per second, which can get some fish headed up the river,” Backes said.

That’s an improvement over the conditions prior to the season last year, he noted, when low water kept paddlefishing at Intake slow for the first few days of the season.

Backes said  the ideal “trigger flow” rate for paddlefish to move up the Yellowstone from the confluence  with the Missouri is 30,000 cfs.

And with the river already running high and mountain snows yet to make their way down river, Backes thinks it won’t be long before the Yellowstone is at level that will bring the  paddlefish upstream en masse.

“There’s plenty of snowpack to come yet, so it’s not like we’re lacking in water that way,” he said.

Paddlefishing season on the Yellowstone and the Missouri below Fort Peck begins May 15 and closes June 30 unless the harvest quota is reached beforehand. The season opened on May 1 on the Upper Missouri and in North Dakota.

The harvest quota on the Yellowstone and Lower Missouri is 1,000 fish. The season may be closed immediately at Intake and with a 24-hour notice elsewhere if the 1,000 paddlefish harvest quota is reached.

Anglers are limited to harvesting one paddlefish. Paddlefish may be harvested on Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday during the season until the harvest quota is reached or until the June 30 closing date. 

Sunday, Monday and Thursday are catch-and-release only days. At Intake only, FWP allows catch-and-release paddlefishing for 10 days after the harvest quota is met, or until June 30, whichever comes first.

The full paddlefishing regulations for 2014 can be found at http://fwp.mt.gov.


Reach Jason Stuart at rrreporter@rangerreview.com.

Get the full story in the Sunday, May 4, 2014, print issue of the Ranger-Review.
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