FOAMLine, Vol. 33, No. 1, February 2024


2024 FOAM Annual Meeting!

Legislative Audit of Records for Random Outfitters

Guiding for the Future

Southwest Montana Trout Update

Clean, Drain, Dry in 2024

FOAM Meeting 2024!

The 2024 FOAM Annual Meeting will be Friday and Saturday, 1 and 2 March, 2024, at the Holiday Inn Downtown Missoula

As usual, Friday, 1 March, will be the FOAM Board of Directors meeting; all members are welcome.  Also, following the board meeting on Friday will be our annual First Aid Class.  This class is taught by our own Phil Sgamma and is open to all FOAM members.  This class will run from 4 to 6 pm.

The Holiday Inn is giving us a great deal on rooms for the event.  Use this link to book a room if you need to.

The morning session of our meeting will consist of presentations on the State of The Fishery from Fish, Wildlife & Parks (FWP’s) Chief of Fisheries, Dr. Eileen Ryce; Region 1 Fisheries Manager, Pat Saffel; and Fisheries Biologist, Leo Rosenthal.  We will also get a premier on what is new in the state regarding Aquatic Invasive Species from FWP’s AIS Bureau Chief, Tom Woolf.

Following a terrific lunch, the afternoon session will consist of a discussion of fisheries policy with Montana Trout Unlimited’s Clayton Elliott; FOAM business with Mike Bias; a summary of our advanced guide-training course, Guiding for the Future with Russell Parks; and, a discussion of last year’s accidental drowning on the Clark Fork with Mike Hillygus.  These presentations will be followed by a question-and-answer discussion panel with our own Mike Bias, Dr. Eileen Ruce, and Clayton Elliott – bring your questions. 

Following the meeting will be our after-meeting reception with raffles, beer – provided by Lewis and Clark Brewing, and snacks.  You will also have an opportunity to win the new 2024 ClackaCraft 16-foot LP Drift with all proceeds going to help FOAM’s Conservation Fund and G4F.  Contact any of FOAM’s Regional Directors for tickets for the new Clack. 

Following our meeting plan on going over to The Wilma for this year’s Fly-Fishing Film Tour starting at 8 pm and brought to you by Skwala and Costa!

Hope to see you there!

Legislative Audit of Client Records for Randomly-Selected Outfitters

You might remember SB 275 from the 2021 legislative session.  This was the bill, now codified in law, that revised the membership of the Board of Outfitters; revised the regulation of partial sale or temporary transfer of a hunting or fishing outfitter’s business; omitted double adjudication penalties for outfitters; and, omitted the submittal of outfitter logs to the Board of Outfitters.

Under this law, outfitters are no longer required to submit client logs to the Board of Outfitters, but these records must be maintained by the outfitter. 

We were informed this week from the Board of Outfitters that the legislature wants to assess compliance to this new records law among outfitters.  This compliance assessment will be conducted through a legislative audit.  Thirty-four randomly-selected outfitters will be contacted soon by the Board of Outfitters to produce their client logs.  The client logs will be submitted to the legislature for review to assess compliance with ARM 24.171.408, Outfitter Records. 

This was a courtesy “head’s up” from the Board of Outfitters to us that this legislative audit was going to occur.  So, if you are an outfitter and were less than adequate in maintaining your client records, you have now been advised that this audit is coming, and to get your records in order.

For a review of what the client and trip information is necessary to maintain, follow this link,  Also, FOAM furnishes a pdf format Fishing Outfitter Client Report Log available for your use on our website here: .  Also on that page, is an Excel based Fishing Log Spreadsheet if you prefer to maintain electronic records of your client trips.

Guiding for the Future 2024!

The 2024 Guiding for the Future (G4F) course is set for March 5 through 8!  Twenty-two guides will participate in FOAM’s advanced guide-training program in Fort Smith on the Bighorn this year.  G4F is a voluntary course of study and evaluation to elevate the expertise and professionalism of fishing guides and outfitters. 

The G4F course consists of: 

Online course.  Started in January, participants merged into the online portal and began this portion of the program.  

January through March 2024.  Keeping with the hybrid teaching model adopted during COVID, we will be holding  Zoom meetings with some instructors.  These sessions will be covering topics necessary for your participation at the March Practicum.

March 5-8.  The G4F practicum will be held in the on the Bighorn River.

Class size is limited.  G4F student preference is given to individuals holding a valid Montana outfitter or guide license with at least three years’ guiding experience. 

The mission of G4F is to develop a dedicated stewardship of aquatic ecosystems while increasing knowledge, professionalism, and ethics of fishing guides, outfitters, and the fly-fishing industry throughout Montana.  Led by FOAM and an Advisory Committee comprised of representatives from the fly-fishing industry, aquatic conservation community, and other professions, this program serves as a new continuing education program for fishing guides in the state of Montana. 

During our pilot year (2019), we graduated 22 outfitters and guides through the G4F program, 15 more during our 2022 year, and 24 during 2023.  The 2024 G4F program will again be taught online in a webinar-style presentation with the field-portions of the practicum will be taught hands-on through small in-person gatherings.  Participants will be evaluated and tested on their knowledge and performance.  Successful completion of this course will provide participating guides, outfitters, and fly shops with a set of credentials that will distinguish graduates to outfitters, clients, other river users, and agencies.

Southwest Montana Trout Update

Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks (FWP) is collaborating with Montana State University (MSU) and other partners on efforts to better understand trout declines in the Beaverhead, Big Hole, Madison, and Ruby rivers.  This work will focus on: recreational use of the rivers, adult fish mortality, juvenile fish survival and habitat use, and fish health.  The work for all these studies will begin this spring.  To support these efforts, MSU recently hired three PhD students while FWP created a new fisheries position based in Dillon.

A major component of the adult mortality study will involve tagging efforts that will allow researchers and FWP biologists to track individual fish through time.  We know water is the major driver of most trout fisheries in SW Montana.  However, the tagging study will provide better insight into the relative contributions of flows, water temperatures, fish health, and angling on rainbow and brown trout mortality.  Although FWP will be stepping up our monitoring efforts the next several years, they need help from anglers to make this study successful.  In the coming weeks, FWP will establish a website and phone number that will allow anglers to report tagged fish.  Creel clerks will also be interviewing anglers starting this spring, which will provide another opportunity to engage anglers.  While the chance for anglers to actively participate in our management efforts might be enough incentive for most people, FWP will be offering rewards through random drawings to anglers who report tagged fish.  Details about the rewards and upcoming studies will be posted on FWP’s website and shared with local angling groups in the coming weeks.    

In the Big Hole and Beaverhead rivers, FWP staff and anglers have observed sick and dead fish with apparent increasing frequency in recent years.  FWP has conducted health assessments in those rivers.  However, disease in fish is a complex interaction among the fish host, potential pathogens, and environment, which poses challenges in determining the primary cause of fish health issues.  Thus far, testing has not identified any bacteria or viruses that are common fish pathogens.  FWP staff have detected the parasite that causes proliferative kidney disease in the Big Hole River and many other rivers across Montana.  However, FWP staff has yet to see the disease manifest itself in fish.  Tissue from diseased fish were examined at a cellular level by pathologists from the US Geological Survey (USGS) and US Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS).  Those efforts did not identify a new pathogen or what is thought to be the cause of the infections.  Whether the observed fungal infections or lesions are the primary cause or secondary effects of another disease remains unclear.

FWP has convened a workgroup with experts from across the country to better understand risk factors and underlying stressors influencing fish health at individual and population levels in these rivers.  The workgroup includes fish health experts, histopathologists, water quality specialists, microbiologists, fish physiologists, and fish biologists with FWP, MSU, USFWS, USGS, Washington Animal Disease Diagnostic Lab at Washington State University, and the USGS Montana Cooperative Fishery Research Unit.  The workgroup will develop a proactive monitoring approach, including reporting timelines, that will be implemented this spring and shared with the public in a timely manner.

Please reach out to Mike Duncan (, Region 3 fisheries manager, with any questions or concerns.

Clean, Drain, Dry in 2024

Montana is gearing up for another busy season addressing the threat of aquatic invasive species.  The new year, 2024, also brings new threats with quagga mussels detected in Idaho and zebra mussels moving up the Missouri River into Lake Oahe.  Please contact FWP’s AIS Bureau at (406) 444-1230 if you would like to become more involved in AIS prevention, early detection or outreach this season. 

New in 2024:

  • FWP is contracting with the Flathead Conservation District to help educate boaters on Clean Drain Dry and ensure watercraft are inspected before launching on Flathead Lake.
  • FWP is contracting with Missoula County and the Flathead Biological station to expand AIS early detection surveillance on Flathead Lake and other high-risk waterbodies.
  • Extended watercraft inspection hours and season are planned at high-risk locations.
  • Expanded partner and public involvement is planned for AIS early detection survey through trainings and workshops state-wide.

Watercraft Inspection:

  • Watercraft inspection stations are scheduled to begin operation on March 9th.
  • FWP is hiring watercraft inspectors:   Watercraft Inspector,  Watercraft Inspector Site Lead
    • Watercraft inspection locations can be found Here.
  • The 2023 Watercraft Inspection End of Year Report is now complete.  It is currently undergoing review and will be posted on the website in the coming weeks.  Information from the report:
    • 130,603 watercraft were inspected in Montana during the 2023 season.
    • 53 mussel fouled vessels were intercepted.  661 were intercepted with aquatic weeds.
    • 41,000 high risk boats were inspected.
  • Partners continue to play an integral role in AIS prevention effort in the state.  Partners conduct over 70% of the watercraft inspections in Montana.
  • If you are interested in attending a watercraft inspection training, contact Zach Crete at

Early Detection Survey:

  • The 2023 Early Detection End of Year Report is now complete.  It is currently undergoing review and will be posted on the website in the coming weeks.  
  • All Mussel veliger early detection microscopy samples from 2023 have been analyzed by the FWP AIS Early Detection Laboratory.
    • 3,143 AIS early detection microscopy samples from Montana waters were analyzed this season.
    • 471 samples from other Missouri River basin states were analyzed.
    • 400 Montana environmental DNA (eDNA) samples were analyzed for the presence of invasive mussels.
    • No evidence of invasive mussels was detected in 2023 samples from Montana waters.
  • New AIS detections in 2023 included:
    • New Zealand mudsnails in Silver Bow Creek (Warm Springs) and the Roe River (Great Falls).
    • Mud Bithynia snail in Blanchard Lake (Whitefish)
    • Curlyleaf pondweed in Horte Res (Ronan), The Lakes subdivision pond (Bozeman) and Missoula Kids Pond (Missoula).
  • No Eurasian watermilfoil was detected in eradication projects at Beaver Lake (Whitefish) and Nilan Reservoir (Augusta).  Follow up surveys will be conducted this season.
  • No invasive corbicula clams were detected in Lake Elmo (Billings) following eradication treatment in 2022.  Follow up surveys will continue this season.
  • If you are interested in attending an AIS early detection survey training, please contact Craig McLane

Outreach and Education:

  • FWP continues a nation-wide marketing campaign to ensure boats are clean, drained, dry and inspected before launching in Montana waters.
  • We are fortunate to have AmeriCorps member Sophiane Nacer returning for a second year to support AIS education and outreach state-wide.  Keep an eye out for new AIS social media posts on the FWP Facebook page.
  • AIS in Commerce Webinar:  February 20, 11:00.  More info Here.  Register Here


  • Western Montana Conservation Commission Meeting:  February 7-8th , Polson.  WMCC
  • Western AIS Short Course:  March 5-6th, Missoula. Register Here
  • Columbia River Basin Team Meeting:  June 4-5th, Missoula.  Location TBA.  Columbia Basin Team Info
  • Western Regional Panel for Aquatic Invasive Species:  October 23-24th, Grand Junction, CO. More info TBA.  WRP Info
  • North American Invasive Species Management Association: September 30 – October 3rd, Missoula. More NAISMA Info

AIS News: