In This Issue:
  • Madison Recreation Plan Update
  • 2020 FOAM Annual Meeting Announcement!
  • FOAM Associate Membership
  • Our Liability Insurance, Not Just for Fishing Outfitters
  • Guiding 4 the Future: Fall Event Announcement

Madison River Recreation Plan Update, July 2019

As you all know, the Madison River Negotiated Rulemaking Committee (NRC) officially disbanded during early May 2019.  During the ninth meeting, the Committee failed to reach a consensus to continue efforts to provide the Fish and Wildlife Commission (Commission) with a revised rule for a recreation management plan for the Madison River.  During that last meeting, some of the remaining nine members of the NRC agreed to continue meeting to formulate a revised rule, but at least a couple of members voted to disband.  By rules of consensus, committee members must all agree to continue.

Following that May meeting, each member of the NRC agreed to provide the Commission with a letter report of their take on the NRC process and findings by June 1st.  On June 18th, the Commission held a working meeting summarizing the reports and future direction they would take regarding the Madison Recreation Plan.

Our report ( began by discussing the timeline of events leading up to the formation of the NRC.  We followed with a summary the results from our four listening sessions that were presented as the frequency of each management option that could be used to manage commercial use by rank.  Following are each management option and their frequency of being ranked from first to eighth.

1.            Allocation as a management option was consistently ranked first by 33% of the respondents.

2.            Capping the number of SRP Holders as a management option was as second by 26% of the respondents.

3.            Boats per outfitter consistently ranked third as a management option among respondents (26%).

4.            Launches per site was the fourth ranked management option by respondents (21%).

5.            Incorporating some sort of peak season management option was ranked fifth by respondents (19%).

6.            Incorporating some sort of time of day to launch for outfitters as a management option was ranked sixth by respondents (12%).  However, determining rank between the fifth and sixth worst management options was close.

7.            Incorporating some type of Rest & Rotation management option was ranked as the second-worst management option to incorporate into a Madison River Recreation Management Plan by 28% of the respondents.

8.            Any type of river closure for access to fishing from a vessel or float tube was ranked worst by over 37% of the respondents.

Our report provided some recommendations if the plan was to incorporate managing commercial use as a management option.  We support an allocative process limiting total number of outfitted trips as a viable option.  If managers would rather not allocate trips across outfitters, an alternative to manage commercial use may be to manage the number of launches per site.  This has been a proven method of managing distribution on the Beaverhead and Big Hole rivers in Montana and is incorporated successfully in Idaho on the South Fork and Henry’s Fork rivers.

We ended our report by recommending that two management alternatives were unwarranted in our surveys of outfitters throughout the Madison region.  Incorporating some type of Rest & Rotation management option or any type of river closure for access to fishing from a vessel or float tube were ranked worst management options available.  A rest and rotation system may work well for a 150-mile long river like the Big Hole (about 102 floatable miles), but would do little to alleviate crowding on a river that has a total floating section length of 39 miles.  Incorporating a 4-day or 3-day rest and rotation schedule across a 39-mile river effectively puts 100% of use along 75% or 66% of a river’s length.  How does increasing boat numbers on a particular reach by 25% or 33% reduce crowding?

Interestingly Mr. Jim Slattery, now co-chair of the board of directors of the Madison River Foundation (MRF), and Ms. Lauren Wittorp, former executive director for the MRF, failed to provide any reports to the Commission.

Of particular interest to us as outfitters and guides was the report submitted by FWP Habitat Access Bureau Chief, Mr. Don Skaar (  Mr. Skaar’s report outlines the management options FWP would like to see incorporated into a Madison River Recreation Management Plan.  FWP’s recommendations were derived largely from their mail survey of 2,941 anglers in 2016 who had reported fishing on the Madison between 2001 and 2015.  This survey was intended to gauge acceptability in terms of numbers and size of fish caught as well as social aspects of the angling experience (numbers of other anglers (wade or float) encountered, crowding at boat ramps or on the river).  This was evaluated for different sections of the river and at different times of year.  The impetus for this survey was feedback FWP had been receiving for years which suggested dissatisfaction with the increasing river use.  Results of the 2016 survey showed that 42.1 and 41.3% of respondents, respectively, felt that the number of people (and their vehicles) at river access points and the number of people float fishing the river in the Lyons Bridge to Ennis Dam section during the summer was either very unacceptable or unacceptable.  These percentages were much higher than those who felt the numbers were acceptable or very acceptable (26.4 and 30.3%, respectively).  It is not known how much more dissatisfied anglers have become over the years, but it is relevant to note that angler pressure on the Madison River (as determined through the FWP biennual surveys) has increased over 300% since 1997, and the rate of increase has been steady (with the exception of the 2011, which was exceptionally cold and rainy) up through the most recent survey in 2017.

Mr. Skaar’s report summarizes FWP’s main objective for any Madison River Recreation Management Plan must address crowding.  FWP recommends addressing this crowding through modifications or variations of the rules proposed in the Commission-rejected April 2018 plan.  In the rejected April 2018 Plan, New Rule I called for closing fishing when access is gained by a vessel or float tube in both of the existing wade sections—Quake Lake outlet to Lyons Bridge and Ennis FAS to Ennis Lake.  Feedback heard during the Committee meetings was that wade access in the lower section (Ennis FAS to the lake) is relatively limited, and boats are necessary to make the section more fishable.  Therefore, FWP believes this section should remain under the status quo, but the float-to-fish ban should still be implemented on the upper section.

In the rejected April Plan, New Rule II proposed to cap the number of Special Recreational Permits (primarily fishing outfitters) to curtail growth in commercial use–those being able to operate in the future would be limited to those who had operated in 2016 or 2017.  Because most fishing outfitters are small-volume and in theory have potential for considerable growth, this cap wouldn’t substantially limit growth.  Some proposals were presented during the Committee meetings that would more directly control commercial growth by establishing an allocation system where outfitters are capped at their existing levels of use (or allowed some level of growth).  This discussion also involved designing the system to avoid “monetizing” permits, as currently exists on the Beaverhead-Big Hole rivers.  One way to achieve this is for the State to hold the permits, rather than the outfitter, and require that permits be applied for and reissued each year.  Because of the complexity of issues, FWP recommends withdrawing New Rule II from consideration and asking the Commission to direct us to form a committee with current and prospective SRP holders and design a system acceptable to all that can be implemented in 2021.

New Rule III as proposed would prohibit commercial use in a different portion of the Lyon’s Bridge-Ennis FAS section each day of the week.  This prohibition would create a less crowded stretch each day of the week, especially during the busy summer months when the commercial outfitters operate the majority of boats in this section.  However, feedback received during the Committee meetings pointed out that by excluding the outfitters from stretches of the river interior to the up and downstream boundaries of this section will impact flexibility and length of river that can be floated by outfitters.  Consequently, the revised FWP recommendation is to institute the prohibition only on the uppermost stretch (Lyons-Pallisades Recreation Area) on Saturday and on the lowermost stretch (Varney Bridge-Ennis FAS) on Sunday.  This still provides some less crowded areas while retaining a contiguous section of the river for outfitters to operate.

New Rule III also proposed to limit the number of trips per day by each outfitter for different sections and times of year.  The purpose was to help with redistributing people as well as to cap overall use levels.  Feedback received during the Committee meetings made it clear that this approach would have the effect of limiting growth of large-volume outfitters (who are already close to the trip limit), but would allow for tremendous growth of small-volume outfitters, with the effect that overall growth potential may be virtually unrestrained.  FWP therefore recommends withdrawing the trip limits from New Rule III.

New Rule III had as a final recommendation to prohibit commercial use in the entire section of the lower river from Greycliff FAS to the confluence with the Jefferson River.  Feedback received during the Committee meetings was that this stretch receives little commercial use, and it is likely to be even less so if waters continue to warm and trout populations perhaps diminish in this section, making the rule unnecessary.  In addition, this prohibition would adversely affect non-angling commercial guiding, that contributes little to crowding, but likes to use this section of the river because of its scenery.  Therefore, FWP recommends withdrawing this portion of New Rule III for further evaluation.

New Rule IV proposed that the Commission review the rules every five years starting in 2024. No feedback was received in opposition to this and FWP will only recommend changing the date to 2025.

Mr. Skaar, within his report, pointed out that several committee members mentioned the need to address crowding at access sites by finding ways to get people on and off the water more quickly at boating access sites, either by providing more ramps, redesigning sites for better traffic flow, or education on etiquette and boat/trailer handling.  These are legitimate concerns to address a crowding issue described in the FWP 2016 survey, but they do not need a rule or Commission authority to implement.  FWP will work with stakeholders to prepare and implement solutions.  In fact, FOAM’s Executive Director, Mike Bias, Director, Jason Fleury, and Guide-at-large Director, Dan Smith recently met with Ms. Martha Williams, Director FWP, and FWP staff, Ms. Eileen Ryce, Mr. Don Skaar, and Mr. Paul Sihler to discuss a Fishing Access Site Ambassador program at FASs.  This program will look at staffing personnel to address FAS parking and boat launching conflicts across busy FASs across rivers in the state but begin a pilot program on the Madison as early as next year.

We look forward to working with FWP, the general public, and FOAM members as we continue to work on addressing crowding issues on the Madison and other busy rivers across the state.



We just secured the date and venue for the 2020 FOAM Annual Meeting!

Friday, 28 February 2020
Rialto Theatre, Bozeman

As tradition holds, our Board of Directors meeting will be the day prior, Thursday, 27 February.  We’ll also have our First Aid class during those days as well.

Blocks of rooms for the Board Meeting and Annual Meeting will be reserved at The Lark, a very cool hotel just a block away from the Rialto in Bozeman as well (

We will keep you informed and up to date as final schedules and speakers are being planned.  Tickets will be available online soon at

FOAM’s Associate Membership

Are you doing business regularly with the fishing community?  Are guides and outfitters bringing clients to your shop?  Do you work with guides regularly?  Are clients of guides staying at your hotel, motel, or eating at your restaurant?  Are guides and outfitters regularly getting fuel at your convenience store?  Do you have a business in one of our small fishing towns?

Behind, food, fuel, and lodging, you are part of the fourth largest economic driver in the state of Montana for non-resident visitor spending – outfitting.  As part of the fishing outfitting community, you should consider joining the Fishing Outfitters Association of Montana – FOAM – as an Associate Member.   For an annual fee of $100 as an Associate Member, FOAM is your voice on issues affecting your livelihood.

With over 800 members across the state, FOAM is the only organization dedicated to protecting commercial fishing and the professionals who help the industry thrive.

The Fishing Outfitters Association of Montana was formed in 1978 to:

  • protect and conserve Montana’s fish, wildlife, and aquatic resources.
  • promote and maintain Montana’s fishing outfitting industry.
  • work with individuals, groups, and agencies in all matters of administration and regulation affecting fisheries and our fishing industry.

What makes FOAM membership worth it?  Enjoy a range of tangible and intangible perks.

  • FOAM is a non-profit business association represented and governed by a nine-member board of directors.
  • FOAM has a full-time executive director and lobbyist to represent members in regulatory, legislative, and public forums.
  • Our newsletter, FOAMLINE, blog, and social media presence keep members informed and educated on topics that confront our industry on the local, regional, statewide and national levels.
  • A group policy provides our members liability insurance that exceeds state requirements. Commercial auto coverage and equipment insurance is also available.
  • Our annual meeting is a forum for industry issues, discussion, business promotion, and fish and member tales.

We are here as a resource to you.

Please consider supporting the businesses that support you by joining FOAM.  For more information or to join FOAM, go to  today


FOAM: Not Just for Fishing Liability Insurance

Hey hunting outfitters and guides.

As you already know as an Outfitter or Guide Member of FOAM, the Fishing Outfitters Association of Montana, you are eligible to purchase the best general liability insurance policy for outfitters and guides available in the country.

But, did you know that FOAM’s general liability insurance is also available with two hunting liability add-on options – bird hunting and big game hunting?  For an additional $200 each, as a FOAM member you are eligible to add on to your general liability policy a bird hunting or big game option meeting all of your liability insurance needs for your hunting operation.  These rates apply regardless of your business structure, corporation, LLC, or sole proprietorship.

As an Outfitter Member of FOAM, $125, you can get your complete general liability insurance policy that exceeds state and federal requirements for $300, plus a bird hunting or big game option for an additional $200.  So, for $625 annually, your general outfitting liability insurance needs are satisfied – only $575 for a guide.  We challenge you to try and get a better deal than that anywhere else in the country.

Commercial auto coverage and equipment insurance is also available through FOAM.

Contact us today for all you fishing or hunting liability and other insurance needs.


Guiding 4 the Future – Fall Event

Just a heads up for the Guiding 4 the Future alumni and FOAM members.

We are in the planning stages, but wanted to make you aware that FOAM will be hosting a Guiding 4 the Future fall event – Swift Water Rescue Course to be held in the Bozeman area during the second week October 2019.

We will keep you informed and up to date as final schedules, exact venue, and dates are being planned.