Skip to main content

When thousands of fish washed up on the banks of the Yellowstone River in August 2016, it didn’t go unnoticed. That’s because people’s livelihoods in this part of Montana depend on the river and fish. A short film about the die-off, Trout County, was released by the Sierra Club on April 24.

The whitefish died of toxic shock syndrome and kidney disease brought on by a parasite that thrives in warm water. The Yellowstone’s cold, clear water was warmer than usual that year, in part due to low snowpack attributed to climate change.

Dan Vermillion of Sweetwater Travel Co. is the outgoing chair of the Montana Fish and Wildlife Commission. He was the one who made the call, with input from Governor Steve Bullock, to shut down a 200-mile stretch of the Yellowstone to recreation for three weeks that year. It cost the local economy — guides, restaurants, lodges — more than $500,000.

“It’s hard telling your buddies, ‘You can’t go to work today,’ ” he says. “The impact on the economy was drastic.”

Trout County explores the intertwined nature of the environment and the economy as locals grapple with the immediate and long-term impacts of climate change. The fishery rebounded, and communities are collecting water-quality data that could help shape solutions.

The free, 15-minute film is part love letter to the Yellowstone River, part cautionary tale of fishing in a warmer world. Trout County is posted below.

Related

One of the worst algae blooms in memory fouled the St. Lucie River and Indian River Lagoon this summer, killing a variety of marine life, from fish to seagrass.

Troubled Waters

A fine mist rises from the St. Lucie Lock and Dam as Capt. Mike Conner peers down at a slimy green film of algae.

prm-chum-salmon

Taking Stock: The contentious world of hatcheries

The questions surrounding hatcheries make clear that after generations, we still don’t have all the answers.

Brown Trout

Brown Trout

The fly fisherman has ‘this thing’ for browns rising to mayflies

prm-tweed

Trout and Tweed

Fishing the challenging trout streams of Devon, England

jp1

Pyramid Lake Jurassic Trout

Pyramid Lake serves up world-class angling for large "extinct" cutthroat trout.

DSCN1256

Of Trout and Marriage

With the big, old brown trout finally caught, there will be one fewer guest at the author's wedding.

Rainbow trout

Rainbow Trout

A lifelong infatuation with irascible, beautiful, boulder-leaping rainbows

trout_fang

Trout-Obsessed

The thud imparted by a trophy seatrout is enough to lead you down the path of addiction.