Thick foliage and difficult to access locations along the riverbank have traditionally made the Spokane River a challenge to patrol. Currents and changing water levels make WDFW’s existing motorized boats unviable on the river. An increase in illegal fishing, litter, and vandalism on the river in recent years has made access to the shoreline an even greater need, especially for protecting redband trout. Spokane’s “signature fish,” redbands are native to area rivers and streams but are dwindling in numbers due to habitat degradation and warm water temperatures, coupled with illegal fishing activity and litter-driven water pollution. The new raft will make it easier to address these issues by allowing officers to reach more areas of the river.
Despite the urgent need, it wasn’t certain for a long time if the enforcement raft would ever become a reality. Due to product shortages caused by COVID, the wait to purchase a raft has been prohibitively long. WDFW Officer Dave Spurbeck approached Silver Bow staff about the issue, and they saw an opportunity to help with a problem that they too had recognized.
“We’ve all been fishing on the river, and working on the river, for years and honestly the more help we can get out there; the more eyes on the river, the better the fishing will be,” said Bo Brand, Guide Manager/Lead Sales Associate at Silver Bow. “When Dave (Spurbeck) approached us about it, we knew we wanted to help, to make conditions better for everyone.”
Silver Bow expedited the Department’s purchase and worked with Montana Raft Frames to also quickly build the department a trailer for the craft. It was launched for the first time on June 16 and Silver Bow’s Brand went along to give officers a refresher on oar frame rowing and familiarize staff with the upper stretch of the river.
“We couldn’t have made this happen without Silver Bow speeding up the process and using their resources to make this happen,” said Spurbeck. “We have been trying to figure out ways to reach more of the river for a long time and this is the gear we needed. Plus, working as fishing guides, these folks know all the areas of the river and have been generous in sharing their knowledge.”
Silver Bow, along with the Spokane Falls chapter of Trout Unlimited, have also been proactive in other conservation efforts for the river. In 2020, they used funds raised from an annual fly fishing film festival to make and install signs along the river to help explain local fishing rules.