In This Issue:
  • 2020 FOAM Annual Meeting Announcement!
  • Madison River Recreation Plan Update
  • Fish & Wildlife Commission
  • Board of Outfitters
  • Guiding 4 the Future: May Practicum Announcement!
  • FWP’s AIS Summit



We 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

We also received confirmation from ClackaCraft Driftboats that FOAM will be getting another boat for our fundraising efforts in 2020.  Like last year, this year’s raffle boat will be a 16-foot, Low Pro, ready to fish!  All proceeds will go to fund programs under FOAM’s Conservation Fund.


Madison River Plan Update

As many of you know, following the disbanding of the Madison River Negotiated Rulemaking Committee in May, Fish, Wildlife & Parks (FWP) had no recommendations for a Madison River Recreation Management Plan to the Fish and Wildlife Commission (Commission).  However, at the most recent Commission meeting in Missoula in August, some of the Commissioners felt a plan for the Madison would need to be revisited in the future, perhaps as soon as their next meeting in October.

Since the August Commission meeting, FOAM staff and board members have met with several of the Commissioners providing them with our concerns on how certain management recommendations could affect commercial users and how best to incorporate commercial concerns into a Madison River plan.  During the first week of October, Jason Fleury and Mike Bias met with another Commissioner (Richard Stuker) and were informed that the Madison River Foundation (MRF) and the George Grant chapter of Trout Unlimited (GGTU) with others had independently submitted petitions to the Commission, each with their own Madison River Recreation Management Plan.  Although both petitions were submitted independently, they are essentially the same plan.  They are both very similar to the plan that was submitted by FWP that was rejected by the Commission in April of 2018.

The petition process requires the Commission to look at and act on each petition individually within 60 days.  If the Commission does not reject either petition, they would move forward to a public comment period, and then could be adopted.  Neither of these two petitions align with any recreation management option that the FOAM membership has stated that it could support.  Some of the Commissioners have also stated that they rejected a similar plan by FWP earlier, and although they may not be ready to move forward with a plan that is very burdensome to the commercial users, they do feel that a plan of some sort needs to be put in place.

From FOAM’s 9 regional meetings, 8 NRC meetings, and countless conversations and emails with Madison River Special Recreation Permit (SRP) holders, FOAM has developed commercial recommendations for a potential Madison Recreation Plan that the majority of our membership could support.   As commercial use varies by individual outfitters on the Madison, there is no single plan that all of us can be supportive of in its entirety.  We trust that this plan will meet the needs of commercial users—to allow those working on the Madison to continue doing so, while also allowing an opportunity for new outfitters to also have the ability to work on the Madison in the future.

We then put our plan in front of our members as a survey asking them for approval to submit it as a petition to the Commission.  Our plan, submitted as a petition to the Commission, had unanimous approval from all nine of FOAM’s board of directors.  FOAM staff emailed our membership the plan and survey, at least 797 emails went out.

165 responded to the survey.
81 (49%) were Madison River SRP holders.
84 (52%) did not have an SRP.

125 (76%) were in favor of us submitting our plan as a petition.
40 (24%) were not in favor us submitting the plan.

Of the 81 SRP holders that responded,
60 (74%) were in favor of us submitting our plan as a petition.
21 (26%) were not in favor us submitting the plan.

Of the 84 non-SRP holders that responded,
65 (77%) were in favor of us submitting our plan as a petition.
19 (23%) were not in favor us submitting the plan.

With these results, FOAM revised our draft plan into the required petition format and submitted it last week to the Directors’ Office of FWP.  FOAM thought strongly that FWP, the Commissioners, and the public could formulate a more reasonable Madison Plan if they had management alternatives to the plans submitted by the MRF and GGTU.  We also thought strongly that it was imperative that we provide the Commission with a plan that can work for us.  If we failed to provide a plan of our own, it is very likely the Department will draft their own plan, without input from the commercial users.

The Commission is tentatively scheduled to meet on November 12th in Helena to discuss the petitions, and comment will be taken at that time.  We strongly encourage everyone to join us for this meeting, as your comments are an important part of the process.  Remember, acceptance of any of these plans will trigger a public comment period.  If we reach that point, we strongly encourage each of you to send in your comments and try to get any of your clients to also do the same.


Hoot Owl Restrictions proposed for Lower Madison

Every four years, FWP seeks input from the angling public and fisheries and enforcement staff about ideas and concerns that might be addressed through fishing regulation changes.  FWP staff uses the best information available to evaluate regulation requests and makes recommendations to the Fish and Wildlife Commission.  The Commission also evaluates regulation proposals and decides which proposals will be advanced for public review.  The Commission makes a final decision based on input from the public and FWP staff.  Except for emergency or time-sensitive changes, the regulations adopted by the Commission go into effect the following March and printed in the Fishing Regulation booklet for that year.

One of the fishing regulation changes that concerns FOAM is the proposal to implement a permanent hoot owl closure on the lower Madison.  The proposed change would affect the Madison from Warm Springs Day Use Area to the confluence with Jefferson River and prohibit fishing between 2 pm and midnight from July 15 through August 15.  This regulation would go into effect regardless of water temperature or flow.

FWP’s rationale for this regulation change is that “thermal data from 1997 to present show median maximum daily water temperatures typically warm between 75 and 78 degrees between July 15 and August 15 from Warm Springs Access to the confluence with the Jefferson River.  The extreme temperatures in this reach exceed the criteria for drought and temperature related fishing restrictions on an annual basis.”  This simply is not true.  While temperatures in this reach over the last several years had in many years met “hoot-owl” closure criteria, this reach had not reached hoot-owl closure triggers during the last two summers.

“Hoot-owl” fishing restrictions are instituted on a particular reach of river when daily maximum water temperature reach or exceeds 73° F (23° C) for at least some period of time during three consecutive days.  High water temperature levels are highly stressful to trout and whitefish and high levels of hooking mortality occur during this time period.  Hoot owl restrictions prevent fishing from the hottest part of the day and is expected to reduce hooking mortality rates during this period.

The Fishing Outfitters Association of Montana (FOAM) is a strong proponent of protecting our trout fishery through the use of hoot-owl angling closures.  It is a tried-and-true management method employed across the west to protect trout from increased water temperatures during summer.  The management method is adaptive and changes with conditions.  As conditions improve for the fishery, restrictions are lifted allowing angling in more-favorable conditions.

One aspect of the Madison River that these proposed restrictions had not taken into account was the recently completed work to the dam at the Hebgen Dam.  Work on the outlet structures of Hebgen Dam began in 2009 and work on the dam continued until fall of 2017.  During construction period, water from Hebgen lake to the Madison was skimming off the top of the reservoir rather than through the bottom-release structure.  Work on the outflow structure was not completed until fall 2017 and Hebgen has been a bottom-release dam since.  A recent macroinvertebrate study conducted by Dave Stagliano of the Montana Biological Survey has shown that the Hebgen Dam retrofit appears to have improved the macroinvertebrate community’s optimal and maximal thermal limits below Hebgen and actually lowered water temperatures in the Madison River below Hebgen as far as Ennis (which was the lowest point below Hebgen that this study looked at).

The board of directors of FOAM, representing over 900 fishing outfitters and guides across the state, does not support the proposed implementation of any kind of permanent blanket application of hoot-owl closures on the Madison or any other river in Montana.  FOAM does – and will continue to – support hoot owl restrictions based on current biological or physical triggers implemented by FWP.  The fishery is currently being protected through existing hoot owl triggers.  Let’s not punish anglers every year through a permanent temporal closure just because we think water temperatures may be affected.

While scoping and public comment for these proposed changes has already occurred, the Commission will be making their final decision at their October 17th meeting in Helena.  We encourage you to contact our Commissioners and let them know how you think the proposed permanent hoot owl restrictions will affect anglers on the lower Madison River, either for or against, before October 17th.  Commissioners can be contacted via email at , other contact information is on their website at .


Board of Outfitters, Safety and First Aid Rules

At their 23 August meeting, the Montana Board of Outfitters began drafting new language for Board Rule 24.171.412, Safety and First Aid Provisions.  Discussions under this rule were prompted by the recent tragic accidents that had occurred on the Stillwater River in 2018 and the Missouri River in April 2019, both involving Montana licensed outfitters.

At their May meeting, the board began discussions as to whether the existing rule under Safety and First Aid Provisions adequately protects the public and clients.  At the August meeting, consistent with its mission to protect public health, safety and welfare, the board had determined that it was reasonably necessary to amend this rule and impose a higher duty on guides and outfitters to protect clients.  The board was also amending the rule to clarify that outfitters and guides must comply with state and federal laws related to personal flotation devices, rather than complying with the board’s rules, which may not be up to date.

Following these board discussions, at their next full board meeting on December 6th, the Board of Outfitters will finalize language for the revised Safety and First Aid Provisions rule, 24.171.412 (7) that include language: “outfitters and guides must comply with state and federal laws related to personal flotation devices (PFDs) on watercraft and vessels. “  Additional language was drafted that would amend the rule such that PFDs need to be accessible (within arm’s reach) and a throw bag, having a rescue line at least 55 feet in length, be on board the vessel or watercraft.

Information on the Board of Outfitters can be found at  Individual Board Members can be contacted by email at  In your message please specify which board member you would like to contact.
G4F – Guiding for the Future

Last May, we introduced you to FOAM’s new program, Guiding for the Future (G4F) – a new advanced guide education program for fishing guides in the state of Montana.  Led by FOAM, the program is a voluntary course of study and evaluation to elevate the expertise and professionalism of fishing guides, and to inspire guides and outfitters to become an integral part of insuring the future health of aquatic ecosystems.

Well, it will be happening again!  Tentative dates are May 10th to the 14th, 2020.  The practicum will take place at the B Bar Ranch in Emigrant.  Details will be on the G4F website,

The course format will require a series of online prerequisite reading materials and evaluations that, upon completion, will allow participants to undergo an intensive hands-on four-day practicum experience.  We will let you know more details as we progress toward May 2020.


FWP’s AIS Summit

Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks will be hosting Montana’s first Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS) Summit, December 4th and 5th , at Carroll College in Helena.  The summit will bring together AIS partners from around the state to discuss the progress made and the next steps needed to continue advancing Montana’s AIS program.  Substantial changes have been made to the AIS program following the 2016 detection of invasive mussels in Tiber Reservoir.  Issues and strategies discussed at the summit will help inform updates to Montana’s strategic AIS plan.  Registration details will be forthcoming from FWP.

Important Upcoming Meetings

17 October, Fish & Wildlife Commission Meeting, 08:30 am to 5:00 pm, FWP Headquarters, Helena

12 November, Special Fish & Wildlife Commission Meeting, 08:30 am to 5:00 pm, FWP Headquarters, Helena (Please note: this is a tentative date for this special meeting regarding the petitions received concerning the Madison River Recreation Management Plan)

4 & 5 December, Fish, Wildlife & Parks’ AIS Summit, Carroll College, Helena, MT

6 December, FOAM Board of Directors Meeting, 10 am to 3 pm, Bozeman, MT

6 December, Board of Outfitters Meeting, 10 am to 3 pm, Helena, MT