YNP, Snowpack & the Madison River Rec Plan

by | Feb 24, 2012 | 0 comments

The blizzard which came through over the past fours days, bumped up the snowpack to respectable numbers.  We are slowly getting it, but it will take all winter to accumulate a normal snowpack.  The south entrance to YNP, near Flagg Ranch, has been hammered with snow over the past month.  Once again, on the way home from Flagg, I almost buried my bombardier on the road. 

Jefferson – 84%, 90%

Madison – 78%, 87%

Gallatin – 80%, 87%

West Yellowstone – 78% with 104% of overall snowfall.  Remember, the first number is snow water equivalent and the second number is actual snow fall. 

The fishing continues to be productive on the upper Madison.  If time allows, I will head down for a couple of hours.  Don’t forget, this stretch of river closes on February 29th, next Wednesday.  From then on out, the stretch in betwix the lakes and the river below Mac is open, down to Ennis.


Below Hebgen – 1090 cfs

At kirby – 1180 cfs

73 year Median – 789 cfs

Yes, the river is flowing higher than normal at this point in the winter.  Will PPL drop the flow come spring time and hinder the spawn of the rainbow trout, again?  Probably so.  It seems as if the Madison is being managed for brown trout rather than rainbows.  However, PPL really doesn’t care about this as they are concentrating on Hebgen Dam.  Which, they say, will be fixed by 2014.  That is a long time from now…….

A word on the Hebgen Dam and trout behavior…….the flows are coming off the top lake.  By the end of June, the water is very warm on the top 2 feet of the lake.  This warm water is flowing into the Madison and changing…altering… the behavior of the insect hatches and how trout feed.  Salmonflies are hatching inbetween the Lakes before they hatch around Ennis. NEVER has this happened, but is happening since the Dam broke in 2008.  Once PPL decides to lower the flows out of Hebgen, typically around the middle or end of July, the rest of the Madison River – from Quake Lake to Ennis, gets warm quickly.  While FWP says this isn’t hurting the population of trout, it is hurting the catchability of the trout.  Trout don’t like to bite when the river is warm.  When trout don’t like to bite, anglers think that the river sucks and believe the Madison doesn’t have any trout left it in anymore.  NOT SO.  There are are good numbers of trout in the Madison, they are just tough to catch when the water is warm……Duh, we all know that. 

Which leads me to my point:  Since Hebgen has been out of commission, there are anglers/landowners who believe the river sucks because there are too many people on the river.  Be wary of this opinion….the river has been tough during August and September because of warm temps coming from warm water off the top of Hebgen Lake.  Fix the Dam and the river will fix itself.

Madison River Recreation Management Plan Update (MRRMP)

There are two scoping meetings left in the process:  Feb 28th in West Yellowstone and March 1 in Whitehall.  If you choose not to go, or simply live too far away to participate, please take the time to visit FWP’s web site and fill out the Madison River Questionnaire.  Filling out the survey and actually writing down your comments will go along way.  BUT, you should read through all the surveys on FWP’s web site before you make comments….get informed first.

This plan is being discussed all over the web.  Check some of this out here…..here…and here.  While our local paper doesn’t have a voice on the MRRMP, I am hoping this changes after the West Yellowstone scoping meeting next Tuesday night.