Montana is known for its fishing. But it's also becoming known for hot, dry summers that are forcing wildlife managers to impose fishing restrictions to protect the fish as water temperatures soar.

Over the past few years, "hoot owl" fishing restrictions are becoming a regular sign of summer on some of the watersheds, as Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks take steps to give the fish a chance to hide in the deep holes and shaded areas to escape the heat.

This week, FWP imposed hourly restrictions on three major rivers in Western Montana.

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What are "hoot owl" restrictions?

Under the "hoot owl" restrictions, fishermen will find the rivers closed to all fishing between the hours of 2 pm to midnight each day. That's part of the state's "drought policy", which kicks in when river flows drop below critical levels for fish, when water quality diminishes, or when the maximum water temperatures hit at least 73 degrees for three consecutive days.

At 77 degrees, the water becomes too warm for the trout and they'll start to die off.

The idea is that by removing angling, fish won't be lured out of the "hiding holes" where they move to seek shelter in the coldest water available. That helps them avoid stress, and disease, with catch-and-release allowed only in the mornings.

New restrictions this week

This week, the restrictions have been placed on the Upper Bitterroot River, upstream from Veterans Bridge in Hamilton to the confluence of the East and West Forks south of Darby. Additional restrictions cover the entire Jefferson River, from Three Forks all the way to the confluence of the Big Hole and Beaverhead Rivers north of Dillon, and the Beaverhead upstream from the Big Hole confluence to Anderson Lane.

The restrictions on the Upper Bitterroot are even more protective, calling for a "hoot owl" closure when the water hits 66 degrees, or warmer, for three consecutive days.

FWP says it also helps when anglers reduce stress on fish any time of the year by getting them in the net, or in hand, quickly, keeping them in the water, and reviving them before releasing them back into the river.

For the latest waterbody restrictions and closures, click here.

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