About 10 years ago I got re-acquainted with Rock Creek, east of Missoula.
I had fished Rock Creek many times in the ‘70s and ‘80s, but not until my daughter and son-in-law lived there did I fish the popular stream regularly enough to note fish patterns.
We nymph fished the ‘Crick in April, cast giant salmonfly patterns in late June, floated tiny mayflies mid-summer, and stripped streamers in late fall.
A study reported in the Fall 2018 issue of Trout Line (Montana TU) is an effort to learn more about spawning habits of native westslope cutthroat trout.
Last April radio transmitters were inserted into the bellies of 34 spawning-size cutthroat trout, then TU launched a website(www.montanatu.org/race-up-rock-creek) to allow the public to follow trout migration.
Not surprisingly some cutts traveled long distances on Rock Creek, others moved less than 3 miles all summer, and one stayed so long in one hole researchers thought it was dead.
Some ended up in osprey nests.
For a small donation, people can ‘adopt’ and name a trout or just follow the fish for free.
Researchers plan to tag some larger fish this year, hoping to learn more about fish moving up from the Clark Fork River.
It’s fun study to watch.
A similar radio-transmitter study involving cutthroat trout and lake whitefish would no doubt create local interest.
Jerry Smalley’s Fishful Thinking column appears weekly in the Hungry Horse News.