Last Saturday, more than 500 ice anglers gathered on the frozen expanse of Lake Mary Ronan for a family ice tourney.
The tournament was originally scheduled for the middle of January, but had to be postponed because of the lack of safe ice. Thanks to a recent cold snap, the ice was eight solid inches in most spots with about two inches of slush on top — safe enough for a many families to enjoy a nice day outside.
Overall, fishing was a little slow, according to Chancy Jeschke from Snappy’s Sports Senter in Kalispell, one of the sponsors of the event.
It was billed a perch fishing derby, but as will happen sometimes, some of the anglers caught a some nice rainbows and salmon in the process of trying to qualify with the five largest perch caught for the day.
In fact, one angler caught a 1.3-pound salmon, a nice size for Lake Mary Ronan.
At day’s end, Vennessa Riley, a 13-year-old girl from the Flathead Valley, came out on top with a combined perch weight of 3.31 pounds. She also weighed in a 1.56-pound perch to grab the largest perch honors as well.
“Most of the perch weighed in were in the half-pound class,” Jeschke said. “It was just a fun family time and everyone seemed to enjoy themselves, especially the over 150 kids that took part in the tourney.”
Looking ahead to this weekend, ice anglers who like tourney fishing will have to make a choice. Down by Dillon, Clark Canyon Reservoir will be the host water for the annual Stan Shafer Memorial Ice Fishing Derby.
This tourney takes place from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday, Feb. 10. It is put on by Beaverhead Search and Rescue.
Fishing at Clark Canyon, according to Dave Welch of Missoula, has been hit and miss so far this year, so it’s hard to predict how the bite might be.
This tourney normally draws quite a few anglers and is one of the most popular ice derbies in the state. So with all those lines in the water it will be interesting to see how successful the anglers will be.
Clark Canyon is also really low this year, because of the drought so the anglers will be more concentrated than normal. If you’re interested, call 406-683-4603 for more info. You can buy tickets the day of the derby for $6.
Up in the northwestern part of Montana, you can fish a two-day tourney on McGregor Lake this Saturday and Sunday. This tourney is for lake trout and will be headquartered out of McGregor Lake Lodge (406-858-2253).
Dick Zimmer, from Pablo, thinks this year’s weather and ice conditions will produce a great tournament for ice anglers. “The ice has only been on the lake for about 2 1/2 weeks” Zimmer said. ” The last time we had similar conditions, Doug White and I caught over 100 lakers in the two-day tourney.”
White and Zimmer are planning on fishing this year’s tourney so we will see how his prediction holds up.
In case you didn’t hear, the Town Pump Pre-Super Bowl Ice Fishing Tourney on Canyon Ferry Reservoir last Saturday ended up with no walleye caught by the more than 200 anglers who took part in the event.
Tournament organizers are to be applauded for taking the money which had been planned for the top walleyes and redistributing it to more places in the perch competition.
Don Moore of Helena caught a 1.84 pound perch to take top honors and $1,500 cash. Don McManus had the biggest combined perch weight, 10.08 pounds.
Looking ahead on the calendar, another ice fishing tournament is planned for Feb. 16 by the Valier Volunteer Fire Department on Lake Frances. Call Jim Vinson 406-279-3383 or get your $10 tickets at the One Stop Conoco in Valier. Fifty pecent of the ticket money is put back into prize money.
In non-tournament ice action, night fishing on Crow Reservoir is producing good catches of fish. Zimmer recommends using a green submersible light to attract the fish.