Local Montana trout fishermen are upset at billboard featuring uncommon area species.
Fishermen are a proud bunch and are quick to point out mistakes made by the non-fishing crowd. If you need further proof of that, look no further than Bitterroot Valley Montana.
The fishermen of Bitterroot quickly became upset with members of the Ravalli County Tourism Business when they approved a billboard featuring the wrong favorite species of the locals. Instead of their beloved trout, the new "Welcome to Bitterroot Valley" sign features a largemouth bass. Maybe that normally wouldn't have been a problem, but there are very few bass in Bitterroot Valley, a place known for its fly fishing for trout.
"It's beyond comprehension that someone would make that kind of mistake," Dale Burk, an area fisherman told the Billings Gazette.
The story began some six months ago when a billboard came available and the tourism board decided they wanted something to help promote the area. "The five member board decided it should feature the wonderful fishing we have here," Robbie Springs of the Ravalli County Tourism Business Improvement District told the Billings Gazette.
That's how they ended up asking a billboard company for a design featuring a fish, fly and fisherman. But no one on the board was a fisherman and the absence of the valley's favorite fish wasn't clear to any of the board when they approved a design featuring a bass instead. "None of us are fisher people," Springs said. "We didn't realize that we had the incorrect species."
While the mistake wasn't evident to the board, the locals noticed immediately and made their voices heard. "There have been a lot of calls, especially from fisherman," Springs said. "They told us that we had the wrong fish, wrong plug, just everything about it was wrong."
She told the Billings Gazette it was an honest mistake and that their intention was only to make a billboard that would be inviting to tourists. But they certainly struck a nerve with the locals, according to local fishing outfitter Eddie Olwell. "People were kind of wild about it," Olwell said.
He noted that the incorrect billboard was the hot topic of discussion in at least one local brewery. "Ninety percent of the people who come to the Bitterroot come to fish for trout," Olwell told the Billings Gazette. "It's such a big part of our economy and so ingrained in us, it's surprising to see something like this."
But, good news for the trout fans of the valley. Their cries of outrage were heard and the bass will soon be gone. Plans are already in place for an updated billboard with a trout to replace it sometime in April. One thing is for sure, no one can accuse the people of Bitterroot Valley of not loving their trout!