Fresno Dam – Spillway to reopen for fishing

Great Falls Tribune

by Erin Madison

Havre-area anglers will be able to return to a popular fishing hole this spring after access to Fresno Dam’s spilling basin is restored.

The Bureau of Reclamation, which manages the dam, located about 10 miles west of Havre, announced recently that it will move fences that currently restrict access to the water below the dam.

The dam’s spillway basin is a prime spot to catch walleye, northern pike, perch and other fish. However, a fence erected in 2002 blocks anglers’ access to that basin.

Anglers still can fish out of a pool below the dam, but it doesn’t offer the high quality of fishing available closer to the dam, according to local anglers.

The fence moving work is expected to be complete before spring, said Tyler Johnson, public affairs officer for the Bureau of Reclamation in Billings.

“It gives you closer access to the dam and better access to fishing spots that fishermen want to get to,” he said.

Anglers won’t be able to fish directly below the dam, but the new fence location will give them better access to the prime fishing spots.

Avid fisherman Kent Gilge, of Havre, was happy to hear the news and plans to return to the fishing hole as soon as he can.

“The day that we find that it’s open, I’ll be there,” he said.

The Bureau of Reclamation is working to hire a contractor to complete the work, Johnson said.

Last summer, the bureau held a listening session in Havre and some 50 people argued the fence was overly restrictive.

Many locals called it a knee-jerk reaction to the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.

After a review of the public comments, the bureau determined that it would be prudent to move the fence and provide more fishing access to the public, Johnson said.

“We appreciate the bureau acting in response to fisherman’s’ concerns,” Gilge said.

Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., who wrote letters to the bureau arguing for better access at Fresno, praised the decision.

“Montanans cherish public access to our public lands, lakes and rivers, and we must always responsibly balance that key part of our heritage with national security,” Tester said. “This common- sense solution strikes that balance, and I appreciate the Bureau responding to the concerns of Montana’s sportsmen and women.”