By Alan Sorensen/Havre Daily Newsfirstname.lastname@example.org
Havre should be a hotbed of activity come early February, especially if subfreezing temperatures prevail.
Hundreds of fishermen from throughout the state and region are expected to converge on Havre for at least one of two events: the Walleyes of Montana state con-
vention Feb. 6-7 and the Lower Beaver Creek Ice Fishing Tournament Feb. 7-8.
"When I was down in Wyoming, they had a tournament something like this and it was a tremendous moneymaker for the Lions Club," fishing tournament organizer Chuck Wimmer said.
The two-day 12-hour tournament will run from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. on both Saturday and Sunday and will be limited to 500 anglers, Wimmer said.
Wimmer, who sits on the Havre Area Chamber of Commerce Ag Committee, said committee members jumped on the idea of a fishing derby. Proceeds, he said, will be used to purchase more tables and chairs to seat the 500 or so people who attend the committee's annual Ag Appreciation Banquet. The committee also hopes to use some of the money to fund a scholarship at Montana State University-Northern.
"It's purely a money tournament and anyone can fish in it," Wimmer said. "It should be a good fund-raiser for us. And it will help Havre in a slow period - February. It will bring people and money into Havre, help with the economy a little bit."
The prize money will be determined by the number of fishermen who pay the $75 tournament entry fee. The more entrants, the higher the hourly, daily and tournament prizes.
"If it takes off the way we envision it, we hope it will be a success every year," Wimmer said.
The state Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks denied the committee's request to close the lake to all but competitive fishermen, but there should be enough room on the lake for everyone, Wimmer said.
The tournament is open to everyone, but competitors under 13 must be accompanied by an adult and the state requires that all anglers have valid Montana fishing licenses.
Each fisherman will be allowed two holes and a tip-up and a pole, but can only fish with one or the other at one hole at a time.
Wimmer said fishermen can make it a social event by fishing in groups, but contestants fishing with large groups of noncontestants will not be allowed to enter their catches because of the opportunity for other's catches being used.
He said the committee is limiting this first tournament to 500 fishermen, but may open it up to more fishermen in the future.
Wimmer said he and co-organizers Jerry Waltari and Adrian Doucette are working to confirm and post all the rules and plan to put posters out around the state once the committee has agreed on all the specifics involved. Entry forms will be available online at the Havre Area Chamber of Commerce Web site.
"I've already had people try to pay me to enter," Wimmer said.
The committee will pay anglers for the three longest fish taken each hour plus offer daily and tournament payouts on the three longest fish in each of three species: northern pike, walleye and trout. Fish must be at least 14 inches long.
Five tagged fish will provide added incentives to anglers. One tagged fish will be worth $10,000 to the angler who catches it and another will be worth $5,000. The remaining three fish will be worth $1,000 each.
"The fishermen who catch them won't be eligible for the hourly prizes during the hour that they catch the tagged fish," Wimmer said.
FWP approved the tagged fish, but said its staff would not take part in the tagging.
"We'll go out and tag them ourselves," Wimmer said. The tagged fish will not be returned to the lake after they're caught and cashed in.
Fish caught in the regular competition must be brought live to judges for measuring. Judges will not measure dead fish. Once the live fish have been measured, they will be released back into the lake.
Payouts will vary depending on the number of contestants. If the entire field of 500 is filled, the hourly payout for the three largest fish is expected to be $455 for the longest, $273 for second longest and $182 for third. Wimmer also worked out the payout schedule if only 300 fishermen compete: First would be $215, with second getting $129 and third earning $86.
The daily payouts would be similarly affected. The longest northern pike, longest walleye and longest trout each day would be worth $745 if 500 people compete. With a field of 300 anglers, the daily payouts would be $352 per fish.
The tournament's longest fish would earn of $1,491 each with 500 anglers competing and would result in $703 payouts with 300.
A tournament winner could win as much as $2,691 on just one fish when the hourly, daily and tourney tallies are totaled.
Wimmer said there are several ways local organizations can help with the tournament and help themselves at the same time. There should be a market for groups to auger holes in the ice and clubs to vend hot food and drinks to chilled participants.
The Fresno Chapter of Walleyes Unlimited has already offered to help with the tournament.