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Thread: I need a primer on Montana wading access laws

  1. #1

    Default I need a primer on Montana wading access laws

    Hi guys (& gals) I'm really excited to be heading off to Montana for a week in early July. I have heard (always dangerous, that 2cd hand info...) that if a guy were to enter a private property stream from a public bridge / road crossing and wade fish, being careful to stay in the water, that one would be legal in Montana. I am planning to fish the XXXX river as one of my destinations and am wondering about fishing the river upstream from the public access, which appears to be all private property. So what exactly is the law ? I don't want to get shot at either. Am I safe or sorry ?

  2. #2
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    Default Re: I need a primer on Montana wading access laws

    slimfast: That is my understanding of MT fishing regulations, as long as you stay below the high water mark you are legal to wade through private land. Send Biggie a PM, he is a guide in MT and will know all the nuances.

    Larry

  3. #3

    Default Re: I need a primer on Montana wading access laws

    Pretty much what he said. Montana's law's are just the opposite of Utah's thanks to some well paid legislators.
    Life is not like a bowl of cherries. It's more like a jar of ghost peppers. What you eat today might burn your ass tomorrow...

  4. #4

    Default Re: I need a primer on Montana wading access laws

    Excerpt from the 2010 Montana fishing regulations book, page 8:

    Montana Stream Access Law
    Under the Montana Stream Access Law, the public may use rivers and streams for recreational purposes up to the ordinary high water marks. Although the law gives recreationists the right to use rivers and streams for water-related recreation, it does not give them the right to enter private lands bordering those streams or to cross private lands to gain access to streams without landowner permission. FWP recommends that recreationists obtain landowner permission to cross private land to access a stream. Complete rules are available at any FWP office.

    A good description of the access process via public land or easement complete with diagrams may be found in the Idaho fishing regulations book.

  5. #5

    Default Re: I need a primer on Montana wading access laws

    Ok, I've got it... the law says one thing, but the fishing regs say "better ask permission". I knew it was too good to be true !

  6. #6
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    Default Re: I need a primer on Montana wading access laws

    Quote Originally Posted by slimfast View Post
    Ok, I've got it... the law says one thing, but the fishing regs say "better ask permission". I knew it was too good to be true !
    You took that quote out of context, to cross property to access fishing you should ask permission.



    Speaking from a locals perspective, any time that i access fishing via the highwater mark i do not ask permission. Although just because a bridge goes over water does not necessarily mean that the river is accessible. You have to use your best judgment on how easy it is going to be to stay under the high water mark.

    Some rivers are better than others for wade accessing private land. The lower gallatin for instance with all of its braids, and its wide gravel shoals is incredibly easy to access under the high water mark.

    This may be a moot point, there are quite a few rivers that might still be in spring runoff in early July.

    What part of Montana are you headed to?

  7. #7

    Default Re: I need a primer on Montana wading access laws

    Quote Originally Posted by slimfast View Post
    Ok, I've got it... the law says one thing, but the fishing regs say "better ask permission". I knew it was too good to be true !
    "Ask permission" in the regulations book refers to situations where you choose to cross private property to access the stream. It does not refer at all to situations where you access via public property or public easements nor does it refer to crossing private land in the stream.

  8. #8

    Default Re: I need a primer on Montana wading access laws

    Sorry guys ! you're right. I've been reding the access regulations and apparently the high water mark is honored. Of course, I would like to gain access through the pasture with the landowner's permission and will try that route when I can figure out who owns the pastures. My planned travels take me to the Ruby and the Madison around 4th of July. I am also going to the less famous Stillwater River near Columbus. I am flirting with runoff, I know, but its the only window of time my schedule permits. Thanks for your help.

  9. #9

    Default Re: I need a primer on Montana wading access laws

    Quote Originally Posted by slimfast View Post
    Sorry guys ! you're right. I've been reding the access regulations and apparently the high water mark is honored. Of course, I would like to gain access through the pasture with the landowner's permission and will try that route when I can figure out who owns the pastures. My planned travels take me to the Ruby and the Madison around 4th of July. I am also going to the less famous Stillwater River near Columbus. I am flirting with runoff, I know, but its the only window of time my schedule permits. Thanks for your help.
    There are plenty of place on the Maddy that you're on public land. Beautiful river and beautiful fish there.
    Life is not like a bowl of cherries. It's more like a jar of ghost peppers. What you eat today might burn your ass tomorrow...

  10. #10
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    Default Re: I need a primer on Montana wading access laws

    The rivers are on the way down. I drive over the madison on my way to work every day, and the lower madison just became fishable yesterday. Right around the 4th of July is going to be crowded, but it is going to be good.

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