Record numbers of anglers turned out for the annual ice derby on Lake Frances last Saturday.

Good ice and warm weather may have been the determining factors for the derby’s success, which continues to be a kid-friendly event. This year was particularly kind to the kids.

With 477 registered participants, this year was the largest field organizers could recall. It was up 137 from 2022. The total cash payout was $9,540, with $100 each for the biggest kids’ pike and perch. The biggest overall pike and perch each hauled in $2,335 with $1,401 awarded for second place and $934 for third.

Owen Gregorich from Big Timber had the biggest perch in the 14U Kids division and Ria Redd of Valier had the biggest pike, but they weren’t done there. Owen’s 1.54lb perch was the biggest of the day and Ria held onto third place with her 5.96lb pike. Another youngster, Sean Kincaid of Valier, presented with a 1.44lb perch to secure the second place spot. It was, indeed, a kid friendly day.

Adam Young drove icy roads on Saturday morning from Missoula, but his winning 8.42lb pike was the biggest fish caught during the derby. He was all smiles as he received his cash prize of $2,335. The second place pike (8.02 pounds) was reeled in by Taylor Ratliff of Fairfield. Dean Pearson also of Fairfield rounded out the competition with his 1.38lb perch to secure third place.

Not every winner had a big fish on their line. The VADC holds a raffle with the derby to raise funds for community projects throughout the year. Another record was set with 125 prizes donated from individuals and businesses both locally and throughout the state.

Paden Jenkins of Florence was surprised as he collected a 3-foot diameter fire ring with pike and perch cutouts donated by Pacific Steel and Recycling of Great Falls. “I thought it would be a piece of metal about this big,” he said, holding his hands in a small circle. “I’m going to have to do some landscaping now!” He grinned as he heaved the 80lb ring into his pickup bed.

VADC members reported, “We are overwhelmed with the support we have received. So many great prizes were donated. The interest in the derby and the raffle was extraordinary. We have our donors to thank for the successful day, and the weather helped, too.”

Valier offered up one of its gorgeous winter days for the derby. The ice was nice and thick and the rain that threatened didn’t arrive. Temperatures reached near 50 degrees. A few fishermen reported that they were “skunked,” but they still had a great day.

The VADC would like to congratulate all the winners and thank the participants, those that lend support to the derby through donations and volunteers, and the community of Valier for contributing to a fantastic event.

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