Local fishing competitions start gearing up

One competitor shows off her catch at last year’s Pike Strike, at the Halfway House near Bull Lake. Photo courtesy of Jennifer Williams.


By Brian Baxter


A common saying in Northwest Montana is that a bad day of fishing is better than a good day at work. Well, generally speaking that probably depends somewhat on if one catches any fish and what a person does to earn a living in this world. Competition is a most intricate part of life. All things living compete for food sources, habitat, shelter, mating opportunities, dominance among peers, and even tribally for regional influences.

Native peoples were keenly aware of these natural laws of survival. Leaders, who were selected through competition showed skills that benefited the band as hunters, gatherers, fishers, and when necessary or desired, warfare and spiritual pursuits. The goal being to keep the tribe prolific, meaning producing young and abundance through inventiveness. Communication as a skill, was made more efficient by utilizing animal tracking, smoke signals, sign language, verbal language, pictographs, and petrographs. The better any clans of humans were at all of these artistries and competitions, the later the inevitable trip to the happy hunting grounds.

Early spring – summer fishing competitions locally begin with Noxon Rapids Reservoir events. The Noxon reservoir is 6,130 acres. The main tourney related species are largemouth and smallmouth bass, both actually members of the sunfish family. One of the main fishing access areas is the Flatiron Ridge site. Anglers can crank a bank with Chatter Baits, or Flappin’ Hogs. Other experienced bass fishers use soft plastic lures resembling worms, frogs, or salamanders. They will cast, and then add action by jigging or bottom bouncing. Many will also use weedless swim baits that resemble fish. Tournaments are scheduled for April 27th-28th; May 18th – 19th; and June 8th – 9th. For more information contact Don Collins at 406-261-3924, email address: don@montanaemuranch.com. Also, folks can contact the Lakeside Motel and Resort at 406-827-4458, and their email is: info@mtlodging.com.

On May 18th – 19th, The Koocanusa Resort and Marina, 23 miles northeast of Libby will be hosting their Trout and Salmon Derby. Lake Koocanusa is approximately 28,723 acres. The species focus includes Kokanee salmon (trout family); rainbow trout; Westslope cutthroat trout; possibly Kamloops trout; and brook trout. There are numerous baits, lures, fishing methods, strategies, and arrays of equipment, depending on angler style and species focus. Last years trout winner harvested a ten pound two ounce fish. To obtain more information, call Randy at 293-7474, or see the website at www.koocanusa resort.net. Folks can also check their facebook site at: koocanusaresortandmarina.

The Thompson Chain of Lakes is the location for the June 16 Father’s Day Family Derby. This series of lakes covers roughly 5,760 acres, and is located about 25 miles southeast of Libby. Target species include Yellow perch; Northern pike; Kokanee salmon; and Rainbow trout. These lakes can be fished with spinning or fly gear, and the lakes are ideal for rafts, canoes, kayaks, and float tubes. For larger watercraft, there are concrete boat ramps at Crystal, Loon, Horseshoe, Upper and Lower Thompson, as well as McGregor lakes. For more information, call the Kickin Horse Saloon at 293-8592, or Happy’s Roadhouse Inn at 293-7810.

Hunter Rooney with a largemouth bass he caught in Upper Thompson Lake. Photo courtesy of Brian Baxter, The Montanian

The Halfway House will be sponsoring the Bull Lake Pike Strike out at Bull Lake on June 22 and 23 this summer. This lake, legend says was named for the large bull moose that roam the valley. Area wise, it’s about 1,162 acres, and it is located approximately 13 miles south of Troy. In it roams a submariner that is the lone representation of the pike family in our area. This piscivorous (fish eating) predator habituates areas of dense vegetation. They use the cover to ambush prey, additionally taking advantage of their natural camouflage to satisfy their voracious appetite feeding on other fish and vertebrates with sharp teeth. They will aggressively attack a variety of lures and baits. This competition has a largest pike category, and also a greatest combined weight of 3 pike class. Registration is Friday, June 21, and for more details call 295-4358, or check the facebook page at halfwayhousebarandgrill.

The long time owner and manager of the Koocanusa Resort and Marina Randy says, “The trout and salmon derby is really a very family oriented gathering where everyone has a great time.” Although a competition, these types of tourneys bring family, friends, co-workers, and outdoorsy folk together to enjoy our beautiful corner of northwestern Montana. In unison, they share humor, the elements of nature, the quiet, and often communicate in a very subtle way.