The Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Commission, meeting via a conference call last week, lifted all fishing restrictions at Willow Creek Reservoir west of Augusta, allowing anglers to come and fish as long as they want for rainbow trout, tiger muskie and brook trout. The commission took this action because the Greenfields Irrigation District and the Bureau of Reclamation need to drain the reservoir to make needed repairs to the irrigation reservoirs outflow gates. While Willow Creek Reservoir is a popular fishing access site, it is first and foremost an irrigation reservoir, saving water from the Sun River for alfalfa and grass hay, wheat, barley and pulse crops grown on the Fairfield Bench.

FWP in collaboration with the Bureau of Reclamation and GID looked at ways to make these repairs without draining the reservoir, but the most likely solution, to build a coffer dam that would hold water back from the outflow gates would cost $200,000 or more. Therefore, rather than leave fish to waste, FWP is inviting anglers to come to the reservoir and harvest those fish. The FWP Commission made the best decision it could in these difficult circumstances.

We encourage everyone who enjoys lake fishing to come out and take advantage of this situation in the short window it will be open as GID expects to have the reservoir drained by the end of August. FWP says the Willow Creek Reservoir Fishing Access Site will remain open during the drawdown, but conditions near the water’s edge are expected to be treacherous with variably muddy conditions and high risk of sinking in the mud. Anglers are encouraged to use extreme caution when accessing the water.