Sunny days and cool nights are expected for next week and that is just what is needed to prepare Lake Frances for a successful fishing derby on Saturday, January 14th.
When temperatures dropped below freezing in December, the ice thickened and soon ice shelters began to dot the lake. An ever welcome Chinook then arrived to take the chill out of the air, but that changed the ice conditions.
A sloppy, muddy and slippery surface made fishing a little messy and maybe a little dangerous. However, brave souls were not deterred.
The weather cleared up and, as Cathy Brandvold reported, “The ice has healed.” The ice thickness a week before the derby was approximately 18 to 20 inches and the forecast looks favorable for good ice on derby day.
The Valier Ice Fishing Derby has been around for many years. The Valier Area Development Corporation took over the derby in 2017 and is in its seventh year hosting the event. Cheryl Curry has been the main organizer in recent years. He points out that two things set this derby apart from others, the 100% payout and the incredible raffle that comes with the derby.
Eligible participants pay a $20 registration fee plus a $5 event fee to cover advertising, insurance and venue costs. Total entry fees collected are awarded to the three heaviest pike and perch. In 2022, first-place winners received $1,650 for a 9.73-pound pike and a 1.52-pound perch. Not bad pay for a day’s fishing.
A category of children under 14 years old pays $100 each for the heaviest pike and perch. However, children are also eligible for top prizes if they achieve one or more of the three heaviest overall.
The raffle is popular with anglers and the public with donations coming from local businesses as well as fans in Kalispell, Missoula, Helena and Great Falls. In recent years, the number of awards has ranged from 75 to 100 articles. Big ticket items include a Vexilar electric ice auger and fish finder donated by the VADC, and a Ruger Precision .22 WMR donated by Norman’s Outdoor Sports of Cut Bank and an anonymous donor. While many awards are geared toward outdoor activities, they range from dining and lodging to home decor, auto services, and more. Raffle proceeds help fund VADC projects throughout the year.
If you’re going, you’ll need to register by 10am on Saturday. Only fish caught after 8 am will be weighed. The registration receipt and proof of identification must be presented at the weigh-in. Montana State fishing regulations apply, including a valid Montana Fishing and Conservation License. Participants are asked to exercise caution. Driving on ice is not recommended or permitted. Weigh-in ends at 3pm
If you’re not going, you can still enter the draw. Raffle draws start at 1:00pm and ticket sales end at 2:30pm No need to be present to win.
Leaderboard updates and raffle winners will be announced and posted at the pavilion and on the Valier Ice Fishing Derby Facebook page throughout the day.
Tickets are available in Valier at Froggies, Curry’s Market, The Panther Cafe and DeVoe’s, in Cut Bank at Norman’s Sporting Goods and in Great Falls at Roberts Bait and both North 40 locations. They will be available Friday evening at Froggie’s and One Stop and again Saturday morning at One Stop and the Fire Hall. To purchase online, visit “Valier Ice Fishing Derby 2023” on Eventbrite.