The Yellowstone River Fishing Report is brought to you by YellowstoneFlyfishing.com. We will report on significant hatches throughout the prime fishing season beginning each spring. Our report will cover the river from the mouth of Yellowstone Lake for Yellowstone Cutthroat (around Sulphur Cauldron or LeHardy Rapids) in the park, all the way down through the towns of Livingston and Big Timber.
The July 15th opener found many anglers scratching their craniums. This year the river was higher than years past making the bank feeders the prime targets in all your favorite access sites. Use drake spinners, sparkle duns, royal wulffs and other local favorites. As with recent years the cutthroat population is on the decline so how you handle these fragile species is critical to their survival. We have a saying "If you take a picture of a cutthroat, it will be its last!" You may think you properly released it but the chances are it rolled up dead downstream. That's how sensitive these fish are. Why do we say this. After many years catching and witnessing angler netted fish on Yellowstone Lake (stillwater with no current). Most fish that are netted, especially when pictures are taken, end up belly up. So the best way to handle these fish is not at all. Use barbless hooks, grab your tippet and pop your fly free with your fingers. If you're all thumbs, use your forceps but do it quick under a minute, handling a cutthroat for 2 minutes is a dead cutthroat. What happened to all the cutthroat - the enemy is us!
One other comment I must make about the Yellowstone cutthroat fishery. After many years of fishing Yellowstone Lake during the Callibaetis season. I have noticed a disturbing occurrence. Sure the Mackinaw have made a significant mortality rate on the cutthroat population and the park service is doing a great job is trying to reduce the lake trout threat, however I have a suspicion they have been around longer than "first discovered". All of the tributaries to Yellowstone Lake are critical spawning habitat to the native cutthroats. Without this access they will not spawn from the tributary source from which they were produced. During late June and early July around many of these smaller tributaries, especially during drought years, you will find schools of cutthroat trying to access these dammed tributaries with no success. What I have noticed is the smaller tributaries to Yellowstone Lake have become naturally dammed with sediment from fires and other natural occurrences. Each year, near the mouths of these tributaries, the numbers of cutthroat have noticeably decreased. My fear is that eventually, these small tributaries will no longer have any cutthroat critical to entire wildlife ecosystem. I am a firm believer in letting nature take its course but in this case waiting for a 99 year flood to "scour out" the mouths of these critical tributaries may spell more doom than the Mackinaw can ever make.
- Hopefully the park service will address this issue soon.
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