Montana Snowpack Update

Written by: Craig Fellin

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The snowpack in the mountains above the Big Hole is looking good for next summer.

 photo by Craig Fellin

At Big Hole Lodge we are eagerly awaiting the 2011 fishing season. Winter 2010 was very dry and mild in Montana, which normally means summer drought for our snow-fed rivers and streams. However, we had a wet spring, summer didn’t arrive until mid July, and it was abnormally cool when it did. We had one of the best water years on record, and though the hatches and fish were displaced by the high flows on the Big Hole—making fishing tough for most of June—the trout benefitted greatly. 

According to the state fisheries biologist, the fish looked healthy and numbers were up in all trout species except cutthroat, which have been on the decline in recent years. Winter arrived this year with a vengeance, as if to make up for last year’s poor showing, and we currently have above average snowpacks and bitterly cold temperatures in the Big Hole Valley. Next summer should be a great year with plenty of water and healthy fish!

This is a La Niña year, which means that cooler sea-surface temperatures drive colder and wetter weather into the northern Rockies. At the start of December, Montana’s snowpack was 120% of last year, with some watersheds reporting as high as 150%. According to the weather models, we have a 70% chance of having colder temperatures and more snow than historical average over the next 6 months. Although that is by no means certain, it’s much better than a coin toss. As of  January 3rd we are sitting above historical average statewide, and still holding at 120% of last year’s snowpack.

Mark your calendars: 2011 is going to be a great fishing year.

Craig Fellin is the owner of Big Hole Lodge in Wise River, Montana.

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