Anglers searching for a fishing access site in Montana, or a good place for one in the future, now have a new tool from Montana Trout Unlimited.
On Wednesday, the nonprofit unveiled an online interactive map of Montana’s fishing sites. While Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks already has its own online fishing access map, Trout Unlimited doesn’t just show access sites. Its map uses red diamonds to mark existing sites that it considers to be in need of improvement, and purple ones to show possible future sites — with the goal of bolstering public support for the Land and Water Conservation Fund.
“The real point is to illustrate that there is need for improvement in fishing access across the state, and that the Land and Water Conservation Fund has been and could continue to be one way of filling that need,” said David Brooks, executive director of Trout Unlimited. “The real goal here is to use this as a tool to illustrate the need for Land and Water Conservation dollars, and the need to push our delegates to have a full, permanent Land and Water Conservation Fund bill passed in 2020.”
Fully funding the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which uses taxes on offshore oil and gas drilling to support a wide range of conservation and recreation initiatives, has long been a priority for Montana conservationists. Brooks sees plenty of needs for more funds along the state’s waterways.
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“Facilities that were built in the '70s and '80s are not necessarily sufficient for the level of traffic we see today,” he said. The map shows dozens of locations around the state where Trout Unlimited members, biologists, river guides and others see either the potential for a new fishing access site or the need to improve an existing one.
Brooks described the map as a “work in progress” and said suggestions for other sites are welcome. George Kesel, an employee at the Missoulian Angler Fly Shop, liked what he saw in the new map. “This will just become another tool to keep our customers informed,” he said.
While anglers tend to focus on the fishing itself when they come in the store, he said that “letting people know where we could use more access, places where access could be improved, yes, that is super important.”