Sign over the entrance of the Madison Foods grocery store, indicating a prioritization of fishing in Ennis’ economy Dec. 21. “It’s not to diminish ag dollars that come here,” store owner Chris Gentry said. “This is just about what’s happening right now.” PHOTO BY HANNAH KEARSE

Public opinion sought

Deadline looms on Madison River regulations survey and 


People have until Jan. 6 to participate in a survey and comment on potential Madison River regulations.


Survey results and written submissions will be considered before Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks drafts a proposal. Individuals who are not satisfied with the online survey,, can submit written comments to FWP.


“I hope the scoping process helps us narrow down to some options that can kind of meet the objective of providing a diversity angling opportunity without harming any specific group,” FWP Commissioner Pat Byorth said.


It is FWP’s first public process to weigh in the public’s opinions on various alternatives on river use. Results could influence FWP’s proposal, which the commission will either deny or open to public comment in February.


In April 2019, FWP proposed regulations to the commission, which were denied. The proposal received mixed support from conservation organizations, Madison County businesses, the commercial fishing industry and recreational users of the Madison River. The underlying concern for some is FWP restricting the river to an unnecessary point that could negatively impact the local economy.


“The health of the river is first, and I haven’t heard anybody say anything to the contrary,” Byorth said.


The community has been divided on the extent that regulations are needed to address conflict and crowding on sections of the river. The survey asks input on addressing four main issues, commercial fishing outfitter management, social conflict management on the upper Madison River, lower Madison River recreational management and angler use management on the upper Madison River.


“It’s so important that we protect it [Madison River], while protecting our community’s interests,” owner of Madison Foods, Chris Gentry said.


Gentry has been outspoken about the issue. She worries that an online survey will produce skewed results. There is little security on the amount of times an individual can take the survey. She perceived some of the questions to be leading. FWP offered an additional way to comment other than the multiple-choice survey. People can submit written comments to


“We support FWP doing their jobs,” Gentry said. “I don’t know if you can win with a social conflict. Not everybody is going to be happy.”


The social conflicts and concerns on the Madison River are agreed on, boat ramps are overcrowded, and there is a lot of activity on the river.


“This river runs deep in our community,” Gentry said.

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The Madisonian

65 N. MT Hwy 287
Ennis, MT 59729

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