Why Montana Went Wild
It’s the 30th anniversary of the end of stocking fish in the rivers of Montana, a controversial decision at the time that has forever changed our fisheries and how we manage fish in the state. Here is a nice article from Montana Outdoors where they interviewed Dick Vincent, the man whose research helped get us to where we are today.
In 1974, Montana did something that stunned anglers across the state and the nation: It stopped stocking trout in streams and rivers that supported wild trout populations.
The move initially outraged many anglers, fishing businesses, and even some Montana Fish and Game Department staff. For decades, hatcheries had been credited with producing more and better fishing. Without stocking, many Montanans asked, what would happen to the state’s famous trout waters and the businesses that relied on legions of anglers arriving from across the country each summer?
The answer, now well known, is that trout fishing improved dramatically. Once stocking was discontinued, wild trout numbers doubled, tripled, and more on many rivers.
On this 30th anniversary of Montana’s discontinuation of stocking trout in rivers capable of sustaining wild trout, Montana Outdoors visited with fisheries biologist Dick Vincent, whose research on the Madison River in the late 1960s and early ’70s led to that decision.
A Montana native who grew up in Norris and Garrison fishing the Madison and Clark Fork rivers, Vincent earned his B.S. and M.S. in biology at Montana State University and began working for the department in 1966. Nationally known in recent years for his studies on whirling disease, particularly on the Madison River, three decades ago Vincent and his crew showed that wild trout thrived in river reaches without stocked fish and suffered in heavily stocked stretches. It was research that was to revolutionize trout management in Montana and throughout the United States.