January is just about history and that means the ice fishing in Montana is well underway.
Ice derby fishing is going strong every weekend and, starting in February, look for several tournaments to head the list in Western Montana.
“We are gearing up for the Fifth Annual Perch Pounder”, said Gene Fincher, derby organizer, “The derby starts Friday Feb. 1 and runs through Feb. 23, seven days a week.”
Participants may fish any body of water in Region One, which is Northwest Montana. It cost $15 to enter and the Perch Pounder will have weekly prizes for first and second places.
Two years ago the state record for perch was broken when Josh Emmert caught a 2.389 pounder. “The first angler to beat that state record will receive an additional $500,” said Fincher.
The tourney will end at 3 p.m. on Feb. 23 and at that time the top five places will receive prize money. The wrap up awards will be held at the derby headquarters at the Scoreboard Pub and Casino in Kalispell. Form more information call you may call Fincher at 261-6445 or the Scoreboard at 756-8888. “I will be weighing fish in from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. every day”, said Fincher.
This weekend will also see the second leg of the Second Annual Perch Assault. The event will be held on the Middle Thompson Lake on Saturday Feb. 3 from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. For more information you can call Chancy at 257-7525 or log onto www.perchassault.com
The following weekend, the largest ice tournament in the Flathead valley will take place on Saturday and Sunday Feb. 9 and 10. The annual McGregor Lake Resort derby will be held on McGregor Lake west of Kalispell on Highway 2.
There are two categories, rainbow and lake trout. This derby is always fun. One of the unique things that happens sometimes is there is open water along with ice when the event takes place. Derby participates then has to decide what method they will be using to fish, ice fish or open water from a boat.
Dick Zimmer, from Pablo, who has competed in the derby said you could expect close to 1,000 competitors. For more information on how to fish the lake call Zimmer at 675-0068 or for derby information call 858-2253.
I just received an ice fishing report from Dick Oswald, the Region 3 FWP fisheries biologist based out of Dillon. “Clark Canyon Reservoir has 18-24 inches of ice and the fishing is good for burbot and rainbow trout up to two pounds,” he said.
Jim Vashro, FWP fisheries manager at Kalispell, said Hubbart Reservoir, west of Kalispell is producing one-pound rainbows and Foys Lake near Kalispell has good fishing early mornings for rainbows.
Lake Mary Ronan has about 5 inches of ice and they are catching medium sized perch. If you want to try and catch some kokanee, then head for Crystal Lake in the Thompson Chain of lakes or Bitterroot Lake. Both of the lakes are west of Kalispell, but well worth the drive if you get into some nice kokanee salmon in the pound to three pound range.
As always please be careful when you venture out on ice. Know the conditions of the ice on the lake you are fishing and don’t leave your children unsupervised on the ice.