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Thursday, 12 January 2017 00:00

Bighorn River: Current Winter Conditions Look Promising for Spring Fishing

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The Bighorn River Lodge is excited by the aspect of an excellent water year and another year of great fishing.  Here are some of the factors that we will be monitoring.

Snow Pack, Temperatures and Water Flow Point To Plentiful Spring and Summer Fishing

Snow Pack:  Early snows this year have helped bring the average snowpack levels back to a normal trend for the Bighorn Basin after a few years of lower than normal levels.  Current snowpack is at 108% of normal and given the standard trend for more snow in February and March we should be in great shape for the year.

Temperatures:  A return to normal freezing temperatures this winter is a good sign for the river for a couple of reasons.

  • Consistent colder temperatures mean the snowpack stays around longer.
  • Should this trend continue it will also be interesting to see what effect it will have on algae and grass growth in the river.  Hopefully this will reduce the prolific growth we saw in mid and late summer in 2016.

Water Flows:  Currently the river is running at 2626 CFS.  The Bureau of Reclamation which controls flows has set this as the winter flow level. However, the Bighorn River Alliance will be monitoring the situation and hopefully working with BOR to suggest adjustment to water releases as the situation dictates. The factors that affect these releases are.

  • Snow pack levels. While it looks like we are in for a good year based on current levels, we must stay vigilant of spring conditions which effect snow melt rates and therefore river flows.
  • Winter temperatures.  The colder it stays the longer the snow pack remains and conversely warmer mid-winter temps can deplete the snow pack too early resulting in early higher level releases from the lake. 
  • Spring precipitation.  Again, too warm of a spring and too much precipitation can push the BOR to order higher than welcome flows.

bighorn river snowpack 17The key is to work with the BOR who traditionally want to store as much water as possible in the lake to cover their needs. If storage capacity in the lake is near maximum and we are looking at a large snowpack then hopefully we can persuade them to modify their approach, raise winter flow rates to avoid large releases in late spring and early summer.  These large releases can negatively affect dry fly hatches in the Spring and Rainbow spawning in the summer months. But bottom line is it looks REALLY GOOD for 2017.

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Physical Address:
301 Bighorn River Lodge Loop
St. Xavier, MT 59075

Mailing Address:
PO Box 157
St. Xavier, MT 59075

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