A tough season on the ice

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I am sure by now that just about everyone who has ventured out onto a frozen lake in Western Montana has endured the worst of the conditions we see on the lakes when we have a heavy snow year.

While some of the lakes have seemed to escape the truly horrible, knee deep plus snow, with 12 inches of sloppy slush below it, those that did have gotten fished pretty hard. Couple that with the prolonged cold snap and windy conditions, and it all adds up to a season that has definitely separated the hardcore anglers from the more casual ones. While it may seem that there is no end in sight, those of us that have been at this for a while know that the snow will settle down, and the temperatures will warm up, and there will be some very enjoyable days on the ice before the lakes see open water again.

This winter saw a couple of tournaments get cancelled, one for iffy ice conditions and another for too much snow. But for those who are still pulling on the boots, and firing up the augers, this weekend offers two very different tournaments: One a close to home, long-running event, and the other a first-year event that is on the extreme far end of the state. Both are very unique in their own right, but could not be any different in their formats!

First off is the final Perch Assault of the season, slated for Saturday on Lake Mary Ronan. After 12 years as the tournament director, I handed the reins back to Chancy Jeschke last year, whose original vision created this tournament. While this event will wrap up the season championship for teams that have fished the previous two events, there is also plenty of room for any team that just wants to come out and have a great time, have a shot at a big check, and win plenty of door prizes. The Perch Assault began in 2006 and has become one of the longest running, competitive ice fishing tournaments in the U.S., and has spawned many other similar events, prepared several teams for national competition and has created an ice fishing culture that quite honestly has taken the area by storm. Even if you don’t care to enter, it would be a good time to just come out to the weigh in, hosted by the Mountain Meadows Resort, just past the State Park, at 2 p.m. on Saturday. See what all the fuss is about and get in on some of the fun!

In a completely different style of events, I am looking forward to presenting the first annual “44 Hours of Fort Peck” event. This is an endurance style ice fishing event, where single anglers can fish the entire 44 hours, or just one, and still qualify for one of nine big fish awards, several side pots, including a 100-inch club, kids divisions and even a spearing category. This event is perfect for anglers whose schedules often keep them away from a “day only” event, anglers who like to fish the entire weekend or those with kids whose time on the ice is dictated by the attention span of the youngest family member!

This event will include live fish weigh-ins, live, regularly updated leaderboards, a large tournament area and lots of door prizes. The interest in this new style of event has been, not surprisingly, greater than anticipated and many experienced tournament anglers have contributed some great ideas and suggestions, making this an event for all skill levels, endurance levels and interests.

Both events can still be entered, the Perch Assault entry closes today at 6 p.m. at Snappy Sport Senter, (more information can be found at www.perchassault.com) and the 44 Hours event can be entered in person at the Lakeridge Lodging and Bait Shop in Fort Peck. More info can be found on the Facebook pages of the Lakeridge Lodging and Bait Shop, the Fort Peck Marina and my own Howes Fishing/A Able Charters page, or by calling me directly at 406-257-5214. I’ll see you on the ICE!

— Howe is the owner/outfitter at Howe’s Fishing, A Able and Mo Fisch Charters. Call 406-257-5214 or at www.howesfishing.com

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