Seeley and Salmon Lake are the official lakes once again for the fourth annual Pike On Ice derby which will take place this Saturday and Sunday January 17-18.
Going into the event, the ice conditions might just be the biggest story of this year’s tourney. There is ice but it is sandwiched between a significant layer of slush and water.
“We received a lot of snow in late December and early January, then came about 3 inches of rain,” said Toby Bedard, the founder and this year’s Pike On Ice tourney organizer.
So unless conditions change, anglers can expect one to two inches of ice on top of four inches of water that is holding on top of four inches of ice. Bring your water proof boots and pants to stay comfortable.
There is also a change in this year’s rules. Instead of paying out cash for the heaviest total amount of northern pike an angler brings in, this year’s event will award prizes based on the heaviest individual northern pike.
. The largest pike that has been entered into the derby is around 28 pounds by Jim Farrington of Stevensville a couple of years ago. Last year, the heaviest pike entered was about 25 pounds.
Pike can be entered if they are taken in any legal means. So tip-up anglers and spear anglers will be out in force. Seeley Lake, as of last weekend, had about 10 spearing shacks out on the ice.
“The pike have been running wild with some guys reported seeing a lot of fish come under their spear hut,” said Bedard.
Where have most of the pike come from in past derbies? “It is really a toss- up,” said Bedard. “Salmon and Seeley Lake have been producing about the same near as I can tell.”
The ice is good on both lakes but Bedard urges anglers to use caution. “Last weekend there was a pickup on Salmon with about 30 guys standing in front of it”, cautioned Bedard, “I don’t know if I would drive out on the ice with a full size rig so please be careful.”
The derby will pay four places with first place worth $500, second $250, third $150, and fourth $100. Anglers may register at Roveros in Seeley Lake. The entry fee is $25. The derby starts both days at 6 a.m. with weigh-in on Saturday at 6 p.m. and Sunday at 5 p.m.. Weigh in will be held at Roveros.
If anglers spear or catch a large pike, Bedard encourages them to call his cell phone at 370-8396 and if possible he will come out and weigh the pike on the lake.
Last year, 105 anglers competed. “Every year, we have about doubled the number of fisherman,” added Bedard. “It would be great if we can get at least 150 out this year.”
Hook’em Harry Ward will be calling in live Saturday morning on the Montana Outdoor Radio Show from 6-8 a.m. to help kick off this year’s tourney.