Flat Creek on the National Elk Refuge

Flat Creek winds through the National Elk Refuge in 2019. The iconic meadow fishery is considered by many anglers to be one of Jackson Hole’s most challenging waterways due to its finicky trout.

Flat Creek’s blue-ribbon meadow fishery on the National Elk Refuge opens for the season Sunday, and anglers are being asked to voluntarily refrain from wetting their lines after midafternoon.

The reason fisheries managers are asking for restraint is that water temperatures have consistently climbed into unsafe territory for caught-and-released cutthroat trout, the primary target in Flat Creek.

“As much of Wyoming faces another year of drought, trout are grappling with reduced habitat and oxygen, and in some instances, their very survival,” Wyoming Game and Fish Department staffers wrote in a news release. “As water temperature approaches 70 degrees, the chance for cutthroat trout to survive being caught and released is reduced.”

While there’s no temperature gauge on Flat Creek where it flows through the National Elk Refuge, a U.S. Geological Survey gauge in the town of Jackson below the historic Cache Creek confluence shows that water temperatures have exceeded 68 degrees most afternoons and have eclipsed 70 degrees on several occasions this summer.

Specifically, anglers are being asked to stop fishing Flat Creek after 2 p.m. because there are mandatory catch-and-release regulations on the refuge. In its statewide messaging, Game and Fish has asked Wyoming anglers to keep their catch when water temperatures exceed 70 degrees since survival is reduced, but trout can’t legally be kept on the refuge. A special regulation also restricts lower Flat Creek and Nowlin Creek anglers to fly-fishing only.

“Please consider fishing only during the morning hours to reduce stress on fish when water temperatures are at their highest,” Game and Fish fisheries biologist Diana Miller wrote in an email. “This is a good practice for all of your favorite fishing spots when water temperatures start reaching 70 degrees.”

Other land and wildlife managers in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem have prohibited stream and river fishing after 2 p.m. with the force of law.

Yellowstone National Park changed its fishing regulations to include the afternoon restriction for the first time in a decade due to water temperatures that have exceeded 68 degrees in many streams and rivers this summer.

The state of Montana routinely adopts the same afternoon regulation, dubbed “hoot owl” restrictions, on many of its lower-elevation rivers and streams. When flows are low and temperatures are very high, other Montanan trout waters are closed entirely to fishing.

Contact Mike Koshmrl at 732-7067 or env@jhnewsandguide.com.

Mike has reported on the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem's wildlife, wildlands and the agencies that manage them since 2012. A native Minnesotan, he arrived in the West to study environmental journalism at the University of Colorado.

Recommended for you

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Please note: Online comments may also run in our print publications.
Keep it clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Please turn off your CAPS LOCK.
No personal attacks. Discuss issues & opinions rather than denigrating someone with an opposing view.
No political attacks. Refrain from using negative slang when identifying political parties.
Be truthful. Don’t knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be proactive. Use the “Report” link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with us. We’d love to hear eyewitness accounts or history behind an article.
Use your real name: Anonymous commenting is not allowed.
The News&Guide welcomes comments from our paid subscribers. Tell us what you think. Thanks for engaging in the conversation!

Thank you for reading!

Please log in, or sign up for a new account and purchase a subscription to read or post comments.