Saturday, June 12, 2021

Ice fishing tourney update

| February 4, 2021 12:00 AM

One of the most exciting things for many anglers when it comes to ice fishing are all the tournaments and derbies that happen on the hard water.

Ice fishing evens the playing field for all anglers as you do not need a fancy fast boat to access every single square foot of a lake (ice conditions allowing).

Region 1 has more ice tournaments and derbies then the entire state combined, and our local anglers usually do well at home and away, as some recent results show.

Every year since 2013, the North American Ice Fishing Championship (NAIFC) holds a qualifying event down at Hebgen Lake in West Yellowstone.

Place in the top ten at this event (or any of the other 4-8 qualifiers held across the U.S.) and you get an automatic invite to the National Championship held each year, typically in Minnesota.

While I have had my share of success at this event, it seems that anglers from the Flathead do well there every year, as we have our fair share of trout fishing around here.

This year especially, several local teams really rounded out the top 10, with Thane Melton and his partner Tim Marsh coming in second, and Jeff Fields and Cody Walter taking fourth.

Prior winners Wayne and Denise Schlegel struggled this year, but their son Royce Schlegel and partner Shae Balbach took eighth. (There may have been one more Region 1 team in the top 10, my apologies if I missed you).

Locally, our Perch Assault and Wild West Panfish Trail tournaments, run by Snappy’s Fishing Manager Chancy Jeschke, tend to pit the area's most competitive anglers together in some serious but FRIENDLY competition. (The results from the first Perch Assault event at Smith Lake was previously reported here.)

This weekend’s WWPT event at Blanchard Lake was won by the team of Steve Hill and Russ Geldrich (in their first time fishing as a team and not against each other) with a great mixed bag of sunfish and yellow perch.

Second place went to Mark Weed and Jerry Baracher, (2020 Perch Assault Champions) third to Wayne Emmons and Tim Jacobs, fourth to Jamey Curylo and Kirk Lehman and fifth to Mo Fisch guide Matt McComb and his partner Anna!

Congratulations to everyone!

Looking ahead to some upcoming events, one of the longest running and well-run events is the Ryan Wagner Memorial Derby at Murphy Lake on Saturday, Feb. 6.

This is an awesome family style “derby” with tons of prizes for kids and adult categories.

There are raffles, lotteries and a lot of food too!

Some of the prizes and lotteries this year include an ION electric auger, a Vexilar FL-18 flasher, fish carvings, quilts and tons of other donated items.

For info, call Timothy at 406-882-4694.

For info on all the other tournaments and derbies, go to

I’ll see you on the water!

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