Dam Malfunction Leads to Fishing Closure on Upper Madison River
UPDATE: On Wednesday, six crews comprised of FWP staff and many volunteers walked portions of the upper Madison River from Eagle's Nest upstream to Hebgen Dam. They used electrofishing equipment and nets to capture fish that were stranded in shallow, isolated pools and move them to the main river channel.
Crews observed many surviving fish, including sculpins and a few trout of various sizes. Relatively few dead trout were observed, and most fish were salvaged between Quake Lake and Hebgen Dam. Water levels are still low in the upper Madison, and lasting impacts to the fishery are still unknown. NorthWestern Energy is working to repair the dam.
Many volunteers from organizations, businesses and other angling enthusiasts assisted with Wednesday's salvage efforts. FWP expresses sincere thanks to these volunteers for their dedication. A special thanks, also, to Trout Unlimited, the U.S. Forest Service and NorthWestern Energy for helping coordinate volunteer effort.
Thanks to everyone's help, salvage work is largely complete for now, and FWP staff advise visitors once again to avoid walking in the river to protect trout redds that are still viable. A full fishing closure remains in effect from Ennis Lake upstream to Hebgen Dam.
A full fishing closure is in effect on the upper Madison River between Hebgen Dam to Ennis Lake. The closure was ordered after a malfunction at Hebgen Dam that was first reported on Tuesday, November 30.
According to a press release from Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks, a malfunction at Hebgen Dam caused flows on the Madison River to drop Tuesday, stranding fish on riffles and concentrating fish in deep water. NorthWestern Energy is currently working to fix the dam.
The closure is expected to remain in place until the dam is fixed and flows are fully restored to the river.
The problem at Hebgen Dam was first reported on Tuesday morning. The cause of the flow reduction is still unclear and under investigation by NorthWestern Energy.
The USGS gauge on the Madison River shows the drastic reduction of flows on Tuesday.
Pictures of the reduced flows were shared Tuesday on the Dan Bailey Outdoor Company Facebook page. It doesn't look good.
Montana FWP is asking that people not handle fish in the upper Madison River for their own safety and due to vulnerable trout spawning redds.
The long-term impacts to the upper Madison River are still unknown FWP staff and volunteers are on scene attempting to rescue stranded fish by moving them back into the river channel. NorthWestern Energy staff are working to address the issue and restore river flows as soon as possible. Due to the fact that flows are unable to be restored immediately, it’s likely that cold temperatures will have a greater impact on spawning redds than foot traffic.