Watering water angler harassment on

The issue of public access to Mitchell Slough is a controversial one. The Mitchell Slough was ruled to be a natural stream in 2008. As such, public access is allowed on the slough under the Montana stream access law. While access is limited, there are a few public accesses to the slough. In April, I went to the slough to fish with a friend. It was my first time on the slough. It was a different experience. Barbed wire draped across the stream every eighth of a mile. Security cameras lined the banks.

As we progressed upstream, a particularly impressive security camera was set up just upstream of some barbed wire. The moment we came into range of the security camera, sprinklers turned on. These sprinklers were set up about a foot to two feet away from the bank of the slough. The sprinklers pointed towards the slough and only rotated 180 degrees. They were set up to spray the slough and it’s occupants. There was no gap in the sprinklers. It seemed quite apparent that the sprinklers were set up to deter fisherman from fishing the Mitchell Slough. We couldn’t avoid being sprayed if we wanted to stay within the high water mark. The sprinklers lined the banks for the next 1/4 mile.

I cannot stress this enough. The sprinklers watered water.

After we moved upstream and beyond the quarter mile long sprinkler system, it turned off. We fished upstream and when we were done, we started to walk back downstream towards the property. As we approached the property, the sprinklers turned on again.

After consulting several sources, it was their opinion that the use of the sprinklers constituted angler harassment. I called the FWP to report the potential harassment. The state office referred me to the Region’s Game Warden Lou Royce. I contacted Mr. Royce. I have not received any information from Mr. Royce since my contact with him last week. Updates to follow.

Posted by Ivan at 8:00 AM

Labels: missoula fly fishing blog, Mitchell Slough, Montana, montana fly fishing blog, montana stream access law, public access, Public stream access, Sprinklers, watering water


Mike said…

Go get ’em, Tiger. Assholes.

May 17, 2012 at 8:33 AM

Ivan said…

@mike – i must admit…whoever thought, let’s water water and fisherman might be an evil genius. An asshole…but, also an evil genius.

May 17, 2012 at 8:37 AM

Brookfield Angler said…

Screw em….just wear your rain gear next time and draw a big smiley face on the back

May 17, 2012 at 8:42 AM

GeeRam said…

Bring the golf club next time?!

May 17, 2012 at 9:19 AM

Gary said…

I read that a mylar ballon will trigger a PIR sensor. Hang the ballon near the sensor and let the air currents move it around, so the sensor will think somebody is always in the room.

I haven’t verified this. But apparently mylar reflects infrared

May 17, 2012 at 9:19 AM

Howard Levett said…

It’s amazing, some of the stories I’ve heard about the lengths some greedy landowners will go through to keep anglers out. I know this has been a long-fought issue. Hope it gets settled soon. Great reporting job.

May 17, 2012 at 9:26 AM

Tim McWhorter said…

Really? That’s insane. The amount of time, money, and selfishness involved in installing the camera system and sprinklers…just to water water and irritate fishermen. I look forward to hearing the response from the Game Warden.

May 17, 2012 at 10:29 AM

Royal Wulff said…

I am sooo glad you stuck that big brown in front of the camera. dbags. Keep up the good fight Ivan! mike

May 17, 2012 at 1:13 PM

Steve Zakur said…

I think Mike said it best, assholes. Fortunately, you have a pretty good law regarding just such a thing. Hopefully you have someone willing to enforce it.

Great job fishing through the BS.

May 17, 2012 at 2:30 PM

David Nash said…

right on. keep us updated.

May 17, 2012 at 3:17 PM

Tim Schwarze said…

Wow that is evil. Last season I had an irate rancher drive back and forth across the water upstream from us until it was too dirty to fish. I hope the warden you contacted has the stones to do something about it. Please update!

May 17, 2012 at 7:27 PM

Anonymous said…


It seems like the sprinkler water might cause the fish to think a rain squall is passing through and the browns might get bolder like they did that one day by Dillon. They might just be making a streamer fishing heaven for their unwelcome guests. Lets get out there and rip those lips… you think they’d share the footage and save us from worrying about the cameras ourselves?


May 17, 2012 at 9:02 PM

Fly Waters Edge – Kevin said…

My first thought would be to go back and setup a few things that would the wind would cause to move around so the sprinklers would turn on all the time. But that would be going to the level of the person who owned the sprinkles. In Missouri you will occassional see a privite property sign on a gravel bar, especially bad on the James River. Sorry but reguardless of what people think no one owns the rivers from the high water mark down in missouri. Interested in the followup I’ll keep my blog ear open.

May 18, 2012 at 5:51 AM

Hal said…

I linked your video to a forum that I belong to and OMG all hell broke out. Here in Nebraska the landowner owns the river/stream bed so I couldn’t do what you were doing without asking permission. However I want to say thanks for posting it, it started a nice thread on that forum.

May 18, 2012 at 4:56 PM

Red Boat Mark said…

Huey Lewis is a slimy pile of Santorum who’s music sucks beyond belief! The warden has close relations to him as this has been going on for decades now. So do all the stupid f-ing lawyers in Missoula!

May 19, 2012 at 5:14 AM

Ivan said…

@brookfield angler – wearing rain gear next time for sure.

May 24, 2012 at 10:17 AM

Ivan said…

@GeeRam – next time, i am sure a ranch manager will say “hello.”

May 24, 2012 at 10:17 AM

Ivan said…

Gary – what?

May 24, 2012 at 10:18 AM

Ivan said…

@Howard – Every legislative session there seems to be a new law proposed with regards to stream access…not sure if this issue will ever be resolved.

May 24, 2012 at 10:19 AM

Ivan said…

@Tim – so am I. Called the game warden again. Left a message. Nothing yet.

May 24, 2012 at 10:20 AM

Ivan said…

@Royal Wulff – if the landowners would participate, I would like to do my next video with their security footage.

May 24, 2012 at 10:20 AM

Ivan said…

@Steve – thanks Steve. I am comforted by the stream access law in place in Montana, for sure.

May 24, 2012 at 10:21 AM

Ivan said…

@D. Nash – will do. for sure.

May 24, 2012 at 10:21 AM

Ivan said…

@Tim – I have heard similar stories. It is a circus out there.

May 24, 2012 at 10:22 AM

Ivan said…

@Bucko – let’s do it.

May 24, 2012 at 10:23 AM

Ivan said…

@fly waters edge – i don’t think it would be wise to aggravate them further. I will continue to fish there.

May 24, 2012 at 10:24 AM

Ivan said…

@Hal – thanks for linking it Hal. It’s an interesting issue for sure.

May 24, 2012 at 10:24 AM

Ivan said…

@Red Boat Mark – good reference, sir.

May 24, 2012 at 10:25 AM

Anonymous said…

Looks like it would be a refreshing place to fish on a hot Summer day. Plan a flotilla party – invite Huey and the neighbors!

May 24, 2012 at 2:57 PM

lykos33 said…

so post this Mr. Royce’s contact info so “we the people” (sound familiar?) can inundate him with request for an answer to your complaint. If the landowner is a beef producer we can find out who he sells to and boycott that company also.The only way to get anything done in this materialistic world is to hit them in their pocketbook or ruin their reputation to the public!

May 25, 2012 at 10:46 AM

John said…

@lykos33 — the landowner is, in all likelihood either an over-the-hill rock “star” or the heir of an American steel magnate and billionaire brokerage house tycoon. I can easily boycott those two!!

Seriously, I would be glad to contact Mr. Royce as well. I live in Missoula and have wanted to but have yet fished the slough. Now I know to pack my rain gear even when the skies are clear. Thanks for the update, Ivan, and for getting after it.

Know the law and know your rights! Fish on and respect the private property.

May 25, 2012 at 11:30 AM

Hartman said…

i love the fact that MORE people will be fishing this access because of your video!

Keep it rolling guys!

May 26, 2012 at 12:37 AM

Anonymous said…

The land owner may be violating his agreement for using irrigation water since he’s not actually irrigating crops or pasture.

This could also impact tourism since there are lots of places that we can fish that don’t try to drive us away. I’m a native Montanan but now live in WA and thinking I might spend my dollars better closer to home.

May 26, 2012 at 8:38 AM

R. M. Slayton said…

First off, I am a dedicated fly fisherman, a die hard conservationist, and totally agree with angler access on navigable rivers, EXCEPT the Mitchell ditch. IT’S A DITCH! A man made irrigation structure, not a navigable river. Whats wrong with people having control over there own land? Maybe come hunting season you’ll let me put a deer stand in your front yard and use fire arms at dawn on your front lawn. You guys act like you don’t have anywhere else to fish in MT? REALLY? I live in Eastern Idaho and I know about all the opportunities available, and you guys wanna fish a ditch? A DITCH? You wanna fish the Mitchell ditch over all the other rivers? Might as well go get your frickin zebco and a jar of Pautske’s eggs!

May 26, 2012 at 10:05 AM

Anonymous said…

Mr Slayton,

I guess you didn’t read or don’t understand what you were reading. It’s a slough not a ditch. and it’s a natural stream. If it’s a public access stream and has fish in it I would fish it no matter where it is, even Idaho if I felt like it.

May 26, 2012 at 10:06 PM

Anonymous said…

Just know that the landowner is a HUGE supporter of Denny Rehberg. I’m just leaving the house to go fish there!! If I’m standing in the water and not touching the bank (with my bare rear hovering over “his” land, can I poo on his land?

May 29, 2012 at 7:37 AM

Anonymous said…

Too bad you did get shot by an automatic gun insted of a sprinkler.

May 30, 2012 at 9:24 AM

Michael Finley said…

I am a non-fisherman so far. I have nothing against it. I am a swimmer and share an area with fisherman. I have to swim from the shore where they have to fish. I and they have solid legal rights to do our chosen activities.

The fisherman one on one are fine. If there is more of them they get territorial and start acting like assholes. They may make me an enemy of fishing where I was not before if they do not knock it off, I am trying to work it out.

Here is the thing. I had no idea that anyone objected to anyone fishing. I hope the reason is anyone with that problem would not bring it up to me. I expect they assumed that because I swim I am against fishing.

So my advice to fishermen is stop acting like assholes because you assume I am one.

June 1, 2012 at 4:56 AM

Devin Angleberger said…

Wow, tough stuff. get er done…

June 22, 2012 at 7:18 PM

Anonymous said…

Did the game warden ever get back to you?

August 2, 2012 at 9:28 PM

Jeremy said…

I just found your site so I know I’m late to the party. This is interesting as I wanted to fish this very spot in early May. Each time I drove up I saw that sprinklers were watering the stream. I had fished this area earlier in the spring without any challenges. I did not notice the cameras or any motion detection equipment. Either I wasn’t paying attention or this is a new installation. Good for you for fishing through it and for posting this information. If you do have any update on the game warden’s action or inaction please post.

BTW, for the guy who claimed this is a ditch. You are factually incorrect. I fished Mitchell when the Bitterroot was raging chocolate milk in excess of 10,000cfs and Mitchell was gin clear (in the event you are even more ignorant than I assume, the ditch argument rests on the idea that water is divereted from the Bitterroot and travels through the ditch back to the Bitterroot). There is more water entering the Bitterroot when Mitchell joins it downstream than at the beginning of the slough. Throughout it’s course there are springs that feed it. Furthermore, as the Bitterroot has migrated further to the West over the past several years there is actually very little water leaving the Bitterroot and entering Mitchell. It is, in every sense of the word, a spring creek.

For those who want to boycott, that particular property in the video is in fact owned by the founder of the largest discount stock brokerage firm.

August 8, 2012 at 12:21 PM

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September 30, 2013 at 9:44 PM