In 1974, Montana did something that stunned anglers across the state and the nation: it stopped stocking trout in streams and rivers that supported wild trout populations. After decades of use and millions of dollars invested, hatchery production was not helping, and in fact, was the leading cause of the collapse of the fishery. Ground-breaking research on the Madison River in the late 1960s and early ’70s organized by fisheries biologist Richard Vincent led to that decision. His study results showed that as hatchery production increased, trout abundance decreased, and native stocks were displaced.
Nearly forty years after Richard Vincent’s study, Montana is one of America’s premier trout fishing destinations. Focusing on habitat and discontinuing river hatchery stocking, trout fisheries have recovered and wild populations are self-sustaining.