"‘Zombie Trout’ Unsettle Montana, Long a Fly-Fishing Mecca"

"Warming waters and other factors along the state’s rivers like the Big Hole appear to be contributing to alarmingly low numbers of the state’s renowned rainbow and brown trout."

"WISE RIVER, Mont. — Since the Fellin family founded the Big Hole Lodge in the 1980s to take people fly fishing on the Big Hole River, they have seen significant changes to the cobble-and-boulder-studded freestone trout stream.

For as long as anyone can remember, this river originating high in the Beaverhead mountain range had always been clogged with ice and deep snow every winter, preventing the start of fishing season until June. Now the river is ice-free by April or May, and the Fellins open the lodge earlier to welcome anglers eager to cast a fly.

The signs of an altered river ecosystem are hard to miss. Clouds of insects no longer hover in such big swarms, and some key species, like the salmonfly, that are critical sources of food for fish are less abundant.

Those shifts are occurring at the same time that state biologists report that the numbers of brown and rainbow trout in the river have plummeted over the last seven years to historic lows, with strange maladies afflicting some of the most sought-after fish."

Jim Robbins reports for the New York Times September 12, 2023.

Source: NYTimes, 09/13/2023