Continued Improvement in 2021 Snowpack and Fishing Season Outlook

Continued Improvement in 2021 Snowpack and Fishing Season Outlook

Ten days back I posted about how I was holding off on posting about our current snowpack and what it means for the 2021 fishing season. I’m STILL not going to go into extreme detail because we’re STILL getting tons of snow.

The above is great news for the 2021 fishing season. Back at the beginning of January we were hurting, and January itself was dry, too. I was still on my “rock” snowboard on February 1 because not only were a few rocks still exposed at Bridger Bowl, there were also stumps, bushes, and clumps of grass, when all that junk is usually buried.

Simply put, we were looking at a drought season three weeks ago, with the possibility of widespread late afternoon fishing closures if summer turned out hot. Now we’re fast approaching exactly where we want to be for snowpack, which in turn bodes well for summer streamflow and fishing conditions.

A quick reminder before I lay out some numbers: most of our summer water comes from winter snow. Once runoff peaks in June, the water continually drops until sometime in September when fall rains usually raise things a swidge again for a few weeks before rivers drop to their winter low flows. High snowpack means a high peak runoff means higher flows and colder water temperature through summer means happier and healthier trout means much happier fishing guides and clients.

All in all, we like snowpack to be 100 to 115% of normal at the end of April. This sets us up for normal to slightly high streamflows no matter what happens for summer temperatures and rainfall.

It does mean our summer fisheries (Yellowstone, Boulder, and Stillwater Rivers for floating, northern YNP for wade-fishing) start in early July instead of late June, but it sets these fisheries up for much better conditions from about July 20 through mid-September. Anyway, we have plenty of other spring fishing options now that Walter is running power boat trips and we float the Lower Madison. These fishing options are great during the May to early July runoff season.

Here’s where the important drainage basins in our operations area stand as of Feb 17. They’re given in order of approximate importance to our operations:

  • Upper Yellowstone Basin Inside and Upstream of YNP: 109%
  • Upper Yellowstone Basin Downstream of YNP: 107%
  • Madison/Gallatin Basin Inside YNP: 90% 🙁
  • Madison Basin Outside YNP: 89% 🙁
  • Gallatin Outside YNP: 101%
  • Jefferson (Impacting the Missouri R.): 97%
  • Helena Valley (Missouri R.): 106%

As you can see from the above, we’re near or slightly above normal for two out of three of our critical basins. There’s definitely still some improvement needed in the Madison-Gallatin, especially for you Firehole fanatics.

Still, things have improved substantially of late, and we’re hoping they keep improving.

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