If you’ve been paying attention to the news over the last couple of years, you already know that southwest Montana’s wild trout are in trouble. Populations in iconic rivers like the Ruby, Big Hole, Beaverhead and Jefferson are in sharp decline and recent data from Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks (FWP) shows that wild trout populations on the Big Hole have hit the lowest levels since record-keeping began in the 1960s. To help combat these declines, Montana-based manufacturer of technical fishing apparel Skwala is donating a whopping 20 percent of all sales through its website to a non-profit dedicated to preserving southwest Montana’s wild trout.
The aforementioned rivers, all located in the Jefferson River basin in southwest Montana, are plagued with a myriad of issues. Rivers and streams in the basin are dramatically dewatered every year by streamflow diversions which reduce summer flows to paltry levels in order to satisfy the demands of Montana’s agriculture industry, the watershed faces increasing pressure and pollution from real estate and other development, recreational angling continues to increase, and fish throughout the basin’s rivers have been afflicted by diseases—some of which have yet to be identified.
Unfortunately, despite these dire indications, the state of Montana has yet to take action to address this developing crisis in a meaningful way. This lack of action led to the creation of Save Wild Trout, a coalition of outfitters, guides, anglers, river advocates, and other concerned citizens all hoping to — you guessed it — save southwest Montana’s wild trout.
Save Wild Trout is organizing to maintain consistent pressure on the state of Montana to take urgent action to understand and mitigate the ongoing population decline in the rivers of the Jefferson basin. In May, the organization sent a letter to Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte’s office, demanding the state address the issue. In the letter, Save Wild Trout noted, “Trout population numbers have reached historic lows, including little to no young-of-year recruitment ... confirming that it’s only going to get worse. This year’s fish count numbers presented by FWP confirmed our worst fears: we have an emergency in SW Montana’s rivers, and we need to act immediately to avoid a total collapse of those trout fisheries. We believe severe economic harm, business closures, and job losses in the region and throughout Montana are imminent if we don’t take action to both understand the causes, and to develop solutions.”
In addition to continuing to pressure state agencies to act on behalf of Montana’s wild trout, the group also intends to conduct independent, interdisciplinary research to help understand what is driving trout population decline.
To help fuel these efforts, for one day this holiday season, gear maker Skwala is donating 20 percent of its gross sales to Save Wild Trout. Anglers who purchase any of Skwala’s products through the company’s website tomorrow, Thursday, December 14, will help raise funds for the Montana-based non-profit.
Though still a relative newcomer, Skwala’s highly technical fly fishing apparel — including its award-winning RS Waders, Thermo 350 hoody and pants, RS Wading Jacket, and much more — has made waves since debuting last year. Featuring innovative fabrics and construction, much of Skwala’s gear is driven by a design philosophy that aims to build high performance apparel that stretches and moves with the angler, allowing for a conforming, athletic fit without inhibiting movement.
“The holidays are usually about celebrating what we are all thankful for. At Save Wild Trout we are thankful that anglers and outdoor enthusiasts are banding together to fight for what makes our fisheries so precious,” said Wade Fellin, Director at Save Wild Trout. “We hope anglers can help support our cause to protect these amazing wild trout.”
Head to SkwalaFishing.com for more info.