By Robert Lucke
If you love fishing, to eat fish or to have a great time, this is the weekend to attend the 19th annual Walleyes Unlimited Banquet at the Havre V. F.W. Club. It is on March 16 and starts at 5:30 p.m.
Money collected at this banquet goes to improve fishing in general in this area, as well as into a whole myriad of kids' activities.
Havre area Fish, Wildlife and Parks biologist Kent Gilge heaped praise on the local chapter of Walleye Unlimited as well as the annual banquet.
"The walleye club really has a vision and they enjoy putting money into restoring facilities at Fresno Reservoir," he said.
Gilge said the group is responsible for the Fresno Walleye Tournament and holds many educational activities for children, along with giving them boat rides.
Walleyes president Mike Barthel said that not only will a new ATV be raffled off but that there will be several new games for people to play. There are things like guessing the number of fish in a bowl or buying a rose with a chance to get a gift along with the rose.
Barthel emphasized that the banquet benefits fishing in general in this part of Montana, not just walleye fishing. The group tries to encourage children to start fishing by donating fishing poles to Montana FWP, which are loaned to young anglers through local sport shops.
"And we have a kids' education day," Barthel continued. "They meet the area biologists and we have a kids' fishing tournament. We like to do lots of things with kids."
Then there is the Fresno tournament in May.
"Water permitting, we will have it at Fresno," Barthel said. "We could move it to Tiber if necessary, but right now I have just been told that there might be plenty of water in Fresno in May."
The cost of a banquet ticket is $35, which includes a state Walleyes Unlimited membership and subscription to the magazine "Fish Tales," among other things.
Barthel commended area businesses for their generosity in supporting the walleye banquet year after year.
"I cannot thank them enough," Barthel said. "It is hard on them. They get hit up week after week. It is tough to give, but Havre is really good at heart."
Best of all for some folks is the food. Of course, there is all that wonderful walleye. And along with that goes baron of beef, scalloped potatoes, green beans, rolls and salads.
Gilge weighed in on the food.
"I love fish! I can eat my weight in walleyes," he said. "It is great food. It really is.
"And it is all you can eat," he added. "I wouldn't go if it wasn't."