ENNIS, Mont. — Wildlife workers and volunteers are scrambling to save fish stranded by an abrupt drop in water levels on a Montana river that's renowned among anglers.
Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks said a malfunction on the Hebgen Dam caused flows into the Madison River to plummet early Tuesday.
Fly fishing shop owner Kelly Galloup says some fish already have died and many more are at risk as side channels dry out. He says volunteers are scooping fish out of the side channels and returning them to the main stem of the river.
Northwestern Energy operates the dam and says river flows may not be fully restored for several days.
There is a full fishing closure in effect for the upper Madison River from Ennis Lake to Hebgen Dam. The closure will be in place until the issue at the dam is resolved and flows are fully restored, according to a Facebook post from Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks.
The post says impacts to the fishery are unclear and staff and volunteers will be on the river moving stranded fish back into the river channel. Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks say because flows are not able to be restored immediately, it is likely that cold temperatures will have a greater impact on spawning redds than foot traffic.