COLUMN: Ice tradition returns to Smith Lake Dec. 26

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Northwest Montana citizens love to fish and love friendly sports competition, so itís a natural to combine both of these loves into fishing contests.

One of Montanaís oldest winter fishing derbies will be Dec. 26, at Smith Lake. This is the Kalispell Sunriser Lions Clubís 45th annual family ice fishing derby. Iíve been involved in this ice derby for the last 30 years and enjoy seeing some folks that I only see once a year on the ice at Smith Lake.† †

The primary sponsor of this fish derby is the Sportsman & Ski Haus, which has donated most of the prizes. Flathead Walleyes Unlimited, a local fishing club, has donated 75 fishing rods for kids 15 and under. Flathead Wildlife, a local sportsmanís club, has donated a $100 gift certificate for the smallest perch.

Prizes will total about $1,500.

There are $100 gift certificates for the largest pike and largest perch. Anglers catching the second largest pike and perch will get $50 gift certificates. The largest winning pike is normally around 6 to 8 pounds, but we know that Smith Lake holds some 10- to 20-pound lunkers.

A 15-pound pike was caught just two weeks ago. Pike have reduced the total perch population but the remaining perch are generally much larger.

There will be additional prizes for the third- and fourth-largest pike and perch. What can be more fun than going ice fishing, getting out in the refreshing winter out-of-doors and maybe winning a nice prize?

This fishing derby is designed to promote family fishing. The Sunriser Lions want to see the whole family out fishing. It is always fun to meet out-of-state grandparents who have never walked on a frozen lake or have never ice-fished.

Kids especially like the competition and prizes for the smallest perch and pike caught. The smallest pike and perch contests are for kids 15 and under. Usually it takes a 20-gram or smaller perch to win the smallest perch prize. Twenty grams is less than 1/20th of a pound.

Free ice-fishing rods and reels will be given to the first 75 kids that catch a fish. Kids, just bring your trophy fish, large or small, to tournament headquarters at the Lions concession trailer to get your rod.

Door prizes will be awarded each hour.

There will be a warming fire and free símores for the kids. There will also be a split-the-pot contest for cash. Refreshments available will include hot dogs, hamburgers, chili, chili dogs, coffee, hot chocolate and other food items that will be available from the Lions Club concession trailer.

This fish derby starts at 7 a.m. and runs to 1 p.m. Dec. 26. Derby entry fees are minimal, just $6 for adults, $2 for kids or $10 for the whole family. Sign up for the contest will be at the Fish, Wildlife and Parks public lake access site at Smith Lake on tournament day.†† †

Parking for this popular event has become a problem. The small parking lots at the lake access site fill up early. This year, parking will be allowed only on one side of the county road. So if you come later in the morning, drop off your party at the† access site. Then only one person will have to make the long walk down the road from your parking spot. †

This is a great Flathead family fishing tradition. All derby proceeds are used by the Sunrisers Lions to promote local family fishing and youth projects.† If you have questions, call me at 257-5703 or 890-0205. †

Have a Merry Christmas. See you on the ice at Smith Lake.

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