By Tim Leeds/Havre Daily Newsfirstname.lastname@example.org
The local chapter of Walleyes Unlimited is combining its largest annual fund-raiser Saturday with a plea to people to come to a public meeting Monday.
Advertisements for the 20th annual banquet of the Fresno Chapter of Walleyes Unlimited include a section asking people to attend the state Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks meeting and comment about planting fish in Fresno Reservoir.
"We want as many people there as possible," Fresno Chapter president Mike Barthel said Wednesday.
Barthel, who is also Havre's assistant police chief, said the Fresno Chapter wants to find out why FWP has not stocked walleyes in Fresno for five years, and if local anglers can expect stocking anytime soon.
The lake is in serious need of new fish, he said. The rate of walleyes caught at Fresno should average more than two an hour, but the average is one walleye every 20 hours.
FWP stocked Fresno with perch, rainbow trout and kokanee salmon last year after heavy rain and snow in June raised the level of water in the reservoir. FWP officials said they were taking advantage of the low level of northern pike and walleye in the reservoir, which they said normally eat the other game fish.
The FWP public meeting is slated from 6:30 to 9 p.m. in the community center of the Holiday Village Shopping center.
The banquet, two days earlier, starts with cocktails at 5:30 p.m. and dinner - "Walleye is the main course" - at 7 p.m., Barthel said. He added that beef dishes will be available for people who aren't fans of walleye.
There will be raffles, drawings, a live auction and bingo games with thousands of dollars in prizes.
One of the bingo prizes, compliments of Sears, is a 46-inch big-screen TV. Another prize includes a 20-inch TV with a DVD player, a satellite dish and a recliner chair, courtesy of Walleyes Unlimited, Valley Furniture and Alvin Gatzemeier.
The auction will include rifles courtesy of Stromberg's Sinclair and Leon's Buy and Sell and a selection of original local art.
The winner of the grand prize drawing will have their choice of a hot tub, courtesy of Frontier Lawn and Landscaping, or a Polaris four-wheel ATV, compliments of Havre Rental and Hi-Line Polaris.
Tickets for the banquet have been a hot commodity. As of this morning, Stromberg's Sinclair had nine tickets left for sale, and Bing N Bob's had one.
The banquet helps fund many activities by the Fresno Chapter, Barthel said.
"This is our big fund-raiser for Walleyes, the Fresno Chapter," he said. "It all stays in the area, goes into community projects."
Some of this year's projects include improvements at Lower Beaver Creek Lake. Barthel said the Hill County commissioners and the Hill County Park Board have agreed to have Garbage Inc. put some trash bins around the lake, and the Fresno Chapter will pick up the tab to have the bins emptied.
The Fresno Chapter has lumber and other building materials on hand to build a gazebo and boat ramp at the lake, and the Park Board and commissioners have agreed to work on improving the roads at the lake and possibly develop new camping areas, he said.
At Fresno Reservoir, the chapter will build new boat slips, and do some concrete work on the main boat ramp if the water is low enough. The Bureau of Reclamation bought a 20-by-40-foot pavilion to replace a pavilion that burned down decades ago, Barthel said.
"It is being stored in Havre, ready for construction," he said.
The chapter plans to put out "wave whackers," devices that will reduce waves coming into the boat ramp during times of high winds, and to put out safety ropes and dividers to keep jet skis and boats away from public beaches.
The local chapter of Walleyes Unlimited also is planning several activities in the area in the next few months.
The Fresno Chapter is inviting students in the fifth and sixth grades from area schools to come to Kids' Education Day at Fresno Reservoir on May 9 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Members of the chapter will offer fishing demonstrations and boat rides, and four seminars will be given. One, on safety, will be presented by the Havre Fire Department. FWP wildlife expert Vince Yannone has been invited to give another.
Yannone's presentations are always popular, Barthel said. He often brings live animals, "including eagles that perch on his shoulders."
Musician Lonnie Johnson will provide live entertainment at the event.
The tournament season also is about to begin.
FWP has approved the Roy Robertson Memorial Ice Breaker on April 12, Barthel said. The tournament is limited to 50 two-person teams, with a $50 entry fee for each team. There will be a free barbecue rib dinner for the anglers at Blackie's Tavern following the tournament.
Entry forms are available at Stromberg's Sinclair, Bing N Bob's and Blackie's Tavern.
FWP has approved the Fresno Challenge Walleye Tournament for May 30-31. The tournament is limited to 125 two-person teams, with a $150 entry fee. The tournament returns 80 percent of the entry fees to the competitors in cash and prizes, Barthel said.
The tournament includes a sloppy joe feed, a barbecue rib dinner and a Calcutta auction. For more information or entries, contact Barthel at 265-2016, Jim Rettig at 378-2176 or Doug Grubb at 378-2163.