By Alan Sorensen/Havre Daily Newsemail@example.com
Havre will host the Walleyes Unlimited of Montana state convention in conjunction with a hoped-for ice fishing derby at Beaver Creek Lake Feb. 6-7.
The Walleyes Unlimited state board voted in favor of the Havre site during its meeting Sept. 12-13 in Miles City. The ice fishing derby, sponsored by the Havre Area Chamber of Commerce Ag Committee, still requires the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Commission's approval. The commission is taking the last of its public comments on the fishing derby today and is expected to announce its decision within a few weeks.
The Fresno Chapter of Walleyes Unlimited of Montana will host the convention at the Holiday Village Shopping Center, Fresno Chapter president Mike Barthel said last week. The convention banquet will be held at the Vets Club, he said.
Past state Walleyes president Don Groven of Havre said the convention banquet usually draws between 250 and 350 people.
"The local chapter is in support of economic development for Havre and for anything to bring people to Havre and generate money," Barthel said.
At their Sept. 16 meeting, Fresno Chapter members voted to help with the fishing derby, Barthel said.
Billing it as the first annual Havre Ice Fishing Derby, derby organizers proposed a $60 entry fee in their request to the state agency. The proposal calls for awarding hourly big-fish prizes as well as cash prizes to the largest fish of the two-day derby. Additionally, organizers said they hope to tag and release five fish into the lake. Anglers who catch those fish would be eligible to receive $1,000, $5,000 or $10,000 in additional prize money, depending on which tagged fish they catch.
Cash prizes would be awarded to anglers who catch the largest northern pike, walleye and trout for each day and for the tournament.
Sponsors also petitioned the state Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks, the Hill County Commission and the Hill County Park Board to close Beaver Creek Reservoir to nontournament anglers for the weekend of the derby, according to an FWP news release. Barthel, who is also president-elect of the state organization, said the commission and the park board both gave their blessings to the derby.
According to the event application, participants would need a current Montana fishing license and a two-day permit to use Hill County's Beaver Creek Park. Derby anglers would be allowed to use one pole or tipup, and no spearing would be allowed. Prizes would be awarded based on length of fish. Fish would be measured and then released alive.
Organizers would cap participation at 500 entrants, according to the application.
Proceeds from the ice-fishing tournament would go to the Chamber of Commerce, and profits would fund a scholarship. The Chamber has also indicated some profits could go to Fish, Wildlife and Parks "to purchase more fish."
Another topic raised at the state Walleye meeting was an FWP proposal to require ice fishermen to keep an eye on fishing lines known as tipups. Barthel said a tipup is an automated fishing device that notifies the fisherman with a flag or marker that a fish has taken the bait and is on the line.
"The general consensus of the board was that it was a bad idea, detrimental to ice fishing houses," Barthel said. "It would require a window in the ice house so fishermen could have constant visual on their tipups."
The policy would require fishermen to remain within the vicinity and in visual contact with their tipups all the time. People would be prevented from night fishing and would be unable to set up their tipups in different parts of a lake.
The final date to send in comments has passed, but Barthel encourages all interested people to submit their comments to Steve Leathe at firstname.lastname@example.org or Karen Zackheim at email@example.com.