River Information and Etiquette
The Bighorn River Alliance welcomes you to the Bighorn River. This information will help make your angling experience here as pleasant and productive as possible. The Bighorn is one of the most heavily fished streams in Montana. We must, as anglers, show courtesy to, and COMMUNICATE with one another in order to maximize this superb angling experience. Understanding and adhering to these standards of angling etiquette will go far to eliminating conflicts and misunderstandings with other anglers.
The popular “upper 13″ miles of the river has over 26 miles of shoreline as well as a number of islands from which we can fish. This river can accommodate many anglers. Though there are many “holes” on the Bighorn most will only accommodate one, or two or three anglers. Don’t create a crowd. COMMUNICATE with the anglers in the area and you will soon enough find out if you are welcome to join in.
The key to avoiding problems is to COMMUNICATE with each other before problems arise … shouting matches solve nothing … don’t spoil your day or someone else’s. Remember, the Bighorn is a BIG RIVER.
If you don’t know how to row a boat, a busy day on the Bighorn River is neither the time nor the place to learn rowing skills. You must have control of your craft in order to avoid floating through water where other anglers are fishing. Even the most docile angler will experience a rage when his fish are disturbed by an out of-control drift boat. There are also real hazards throughout the river that you must be able to navigate around and through in order to avoid serious accidents. If you choose to rent a drift boat, please take the time to let the rental agency personnel teach you how to row the boat. One of the most common conflicts on the river is caused by out-of-control rental boats. Don’t be the cause of this type of conflict.
RAINBOW SPAWNING AREAS
The Bighorn River Alliance Recognizes that the practice of fishing rainbow spawning beds during April, May and June is not illegal, but considers it highly unsportsmanlike and unfair to future rainbow populations in the river. These rainbow populations are still in the developing stage. We must do all we can to insure that as many rainbows as possible will reach maturity. Spawning rainbows have enough natural problems to overcome; they don’t need to be constantly bombarded by fishermen. The Alliance believes that wading and fishing to spawning rainbows in the gravel spawning areas not only overly stresses the fish but can damage or destroy eggs already in the gravel. There are plenty of other fish in the river that aren’t as critical to your future angling opportunity. Any fly shop employee or guide will be more than happy to show you, or tell you how to recognize these areas.
Should you choose to fish these spawning areas you should also expect to be admonished by those anglers who recognize the value and importance of a successful rainbow trout spawn.
HANDLING AND RELEASING FISH
Proper handling and releasing of the Bighorn River trout will give other anglers an opportunity to enjoy these trout. The use of barb less hooks is recommended. You will not catch fewer fish if you do so. Land your fish as fast as possible. Long fights, although they make for good stories, are not good for trout. Use a large, soft-mesh net. Small nets or nets made of coarse or hard plastic or poly netting will damage the protective slime coating of the fish. Keep the fish in the water, remove the hook and release the fish as quickly as possible. Keeping a fish in a net or out of the water any longer than you can hold your breath can be fatal. A fatally exhausted fish may seemingly swim away just fine – but he may just be swimming away to die. If you measure or photograph your fish do so quickly and keep the fish in the water. Don’t take the fish to shore where it may drop on the rocks and injured. Don’t carry the fish around in a net. Keep your hands and fingers well away from the gill area -most of all don’t pick up a fish by the gills or gill covers. Release the fish pointing upstream in flowing water. Hold the fish only until it is willing to swim away. Properly handled fish are often caught more than once on the same day. Improperly handled fish may never be caught again.
GENERAL ETIQUETTE GUIDELINES
The following list of river etiquette suggestions is developed from generally accepted practice and tradition on the Bighorn River.
• Always be friendly and courteous and COMMUNICATE your wishes to other anglers.
• Always respect the fishing area of other anglers – give them plenty of room. COMMUNICATE
• Always ask the other angler for permission to fish the water near him.
• Always float your boat well away from wading anglers to avoid disturbing their fish.
• Wading anglers must yield to floaters when there is no other channel for the floaters to navigate through.
• Please understand that drift boats need plenty of depth and flow to go down the river.
• When floating, make every effort to keep your boat at a reasonable distance from other floaters. If you choose to pass another boat, do so on the side away from where the anglers are fishing. COMMUNICATE Don’t pull back in until you are well past the boat and won’t float over the line they are fishing.
• When floating and need to pull over to the bank to land a fish or for any other reason select a spot well away from bank anglers.
• Do not block the launch ramps. Rig and unrig your tackle well away from the ramps so that others can get their boats in or out of the water.
• Don’t litter the riverbanks and please pick up any litter you find. Should you find it necessary to use toilet paper while on the river, please carry a plastic bag for proper disposal. Please bury any solid waste.
• Report any violations of fishing regulations to the Montana Department of Fish Wildlife and Parks, or the U.S. Park Service as soon as possible.
• Never trespass on private or tribal land to gain access to or to travel along the river. You are legally entitled to be only within the high water marks of the river. The high water mark is defined as that point at which permanent vegetation grows. This does not mean that you can use the grassy benches and higher banks along the river. The only exception to that law is the U.S. Park Service property directly upstream from the Lind (or Three Mile) access. If you do not understand the laws regarding trespass please ask someone.
• ABOVE ALL, BE COURTEOUS, COMMUNICATE, AND ENJOY THE WONDERFUL ANGLING OPPORTUNITY THE BIGHORN OFFERS