We've Got The County Covered

4th Annual Fishing Derby Ready to Go, Now Allowing 75 Entries

The Chinook Rod and Gun Club's 4th Annual Ice Fishing Derby is set for Saturday, February 4 at Dry Fork Reservoir just north of Chinook. This year's tournament will once again offer cash prizes for the largest fish in each category, Northern Pike, Walleye, Bass and Perch. Preregistration will take place on Friday, February 3 from 6-8 in the evening at two separate locations. One will be in Havre at the Shanty Bar and the other will be in Chinook at the Pastime. If there are any spots still available, registration will take place at the reservoir Saturday morning. Fishing is set to get underway at 7:00 am. No spears are allowed, and fishing will be done with tip ups or poles. In addition, there will be a raffle available this year with the grand prize being a two night Ice Castle stay at Nelson Reservoir. A Taco feed will follow for everyone who wants to attend at the Pastime following the conclusion of the Derby.

Chinook Rod and Gun Club Derby organizer Joe Kennedy is excited about this year's event, "We have been working with Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks to increase the number of anglers for some time, the poster states that we were limited to 50 anglers, but we just received word that they are allowing us to increase entry to 75. We will accept entry at that number this year and in years to follow." In addition, some new perks highlight the event, "The raffle is a huge addition to this year's derby. So far sales have been pretty good, and we hope to sell a bunch more the day of the Derby. It's really a big thing for us, hopefully it can help us fund the tournament in future years and provide a boost to the scholarship fund we have set up."

Lack of moisture year around has influenced how the Derby will operate this year, "Because of extremely low water levels due to the drought that the area has endured in recent years we are looking at adjusting the number of lines allowed per angler down from 6 to 3 depending on the number of entries. If the derby sells out then we will definitely be at a three-line limit but that will be determined the day of the derby," stated Kennedy.

Typical Derby rules will be in place, "It is an individual tournament, one entry, one angler. Folks can fish together, we are all friends and like to hang out but as far as judging goes it's one angler, one entry. Categories will include Northern Pike, Walleye, Bass and Perch will be awarded to largest fish by length and not by weight. In the event that one species doesn't have a fish caught then we will still pay the cash out by creating another category such as most total inches of targeted species. We encourage anglers to be sure to measure every targeted fish got in case this situation arises," said Kennedy.

Preregistration is the day before at the Shanty Bar in Havre and the Pastime in Chinook from 6-8 pm on Friday, February 3. If by chance, there are spots still open we will accept entries on the day of the tournament. The club has had a great amount of success as far as sponsorships go. "They are so important to any function being a success and we have really received a tremendous amount of support. Plenty of door prizes are available to the anglers entered in the derby, raffle tickets are available to anybody, and the Taco feed is open to the general public," stated Kennedy. The taco feed will take place at the Pastime following the derby. "Again, the sponsors really have stepped up and helped out with that part of the day. We are not a big water attraction like Nelson or Fresno, but our sponsors have made the Derby such a draw to so many folks that want to just come down and have a good time. Often times the fishing isn't the biggest part of the day it's the camaraderie, socializing and just visiting with great people. That being said we are always looking for sponsors as always, we will never turn anyone away.

Cash pay-out will be based off number of entrants.

"We have a couple of options available to record official measurements. Each group or individual is given a flag to raise so a judge can come over and measure the target fish. Sometimes an angler may just through the fish in a bucket, jump on a four-wheeler and take it right to a judge. The judges are so busy doing other things such as sitting down and visiting with anglers interested in what the club is all about and not immediately see everyone," commented Kennedy. "Developing that relationship with the anglers and getting them to have confidence in how the Derby functions is important. So its nice that at some points when there are so many fish being caught that the anglers feel confident just taking their fish to a judge to have it measured. The judges consist of volunteer members from the Chinook Rod & Gun Club as well as volunteers from the community that just want to help."

Last year we had a couple sponsors that provided an icehouse to be used for the tournament and a heater that was available to everyone. A community Icehouse basically so people that don't have access to shelter or heat can set their tip ups or pole nearby and still have the option to get into a shelter and get warmed up. Thanks to Treasure State Title Company and Cassie Johnson with Lodestar Land and Home the Ice Houses will be available once again this year. The plan for the future is to eventually have three such shelters available, one up North one on the south end and one on the middle. That's a long-term goal that we hope to achieve, a judge would also be stationed at each shelter but that will all depend on how the raffle and fundraising for the club in general all plays out.

Angler should check the Chinook Rod and Gun Club's Facebook page for updates on the tournament, and current ice conditions.