The George Grant Chapter of Trout Unlimited held another “State of the Fishery” program on May 12, this time featuring FWP biologists who manage nearby waters west of the Continental Divide.
Biologist Caleb Uerling’s bailiwick is the upper Clark Fork River watershed, and he opened his presentation with information about relatively new fishing opportunities that are fairly close to the Butte area.
The first one he featured was Racetrack Pond, close to I-90 between Anaconda and Deer Lodge. This has actually been open about ten years, but has recently been enlarged, with some added amenities for shore anglers. The pond is stocked with rainbow and westslope cutthroat trout, plus a few brown trout.
Anglers must use artificial flies or lures and it’s catch and release, though there is an exception for kids under age 18.
Closer to home is the Lower Basin Creek Reservoir, just south of Butte. The reservoir is one of Butte’s major sources of municipal water and has been closed to fishing for many years. It was opened to public fishing last year but closed just a few weeks later because of fire danger. It’s now scheduled to re-open the week of Memorial Day.
The reservoir has a good population of pure westslope cutthroat trout. Uerling noted that anglers can keep one fish daily or in possession, though anglers must use artificial lures or flies. He encourages anglers to keep fish within that one fish a day limit. The average size fish are around 10 inches, so they’re a bit stunted from overcrowding.
Access to the water is by walking in from the parking lot near the caretaker’s cottage. No boats are allowed.
In his presentation, Uerling emphasized the importance of personal responsibility in keeping things clean and litter-free, as well as to exercise caution with anything that could spark a fire. Open fires are not permitted, and it’s day use only.
Uerling reported that he’s doing a telemetry study on trout in Silver Bow Creek. For some reason, fish populations are down from about five years ago and he’s hoping that the study might reveal what’s happening with the trout.
He also reported on the upper Clark Fork River. Fish populations continue to be low upstream from Deer Lodge, averaging about 200 trout per mile. Downstream from Deer Lodge, fish populations are slightly better. He also reported that for the first time in many years, a couple bull trout were caught upstream from Deer Lodge.
Brad Liermann, biologist for Georgetown Lake and Rock Creek, reported that the popular Georgetown Lake fishery is doing well. Rainbow trout populations are stable, kokanee salmon are thriving, and eastern brook trout are doing well. He noted that the last couple years some of the stocked rainbow trout are a Gerrard strain, originating from a lake of the same name in British Columbia. He said the Gerrard trout have a reputation for being predatory, and he’s hoping that these trout will prey on small kokanee salmon, which would result in larger salmon as well as larger trout.
He also reported on a sharp increase in angling pressure that coincided with the Pandemic. For many years, the lake has had around 57,000 angler days annually. In 2020, there were an estimated 90,000 angler days. If you recreate on Georgetown Lake and it seemed that there were significantly more people out there, your perception was correct.
Liermann also reported on Rock Creek, the blue-ribbon stream that flows north to the Clark Fork River. The fishery seems stable, with healthy numbers of westslope cutthroat trout and brown trout. Rainbow trout, which used to be the dominant fish in Rock Creek took a big hit in the mid 1990s, and cutthroat and brown trout expanded to fill that void. Rainbow trout have been increasing somewhat in recent years.
GGTU president, Forrest Jay, reported on chapter activities, including this year’s banquet as the most successful banquet ever, and the numerous projects that the chapter funded. Montana Trout Unlimited recognized the George Grant Chapter as Montana’s Chapter of the Year.
Paul Vang’s new book, “Golden Years, Golden Hours,” is available at The Second Edition, Isle of Books & Books, and The Corner Bookstore, or online at http://writingoutdoors.com.