As social distancing rules were being set this spring, the recently formed Big Horn Basin Chapter of Walleyes Unlimited was forced to cancel its annual banquet. Now, with rules relaxed, it’s …
As social distancing rules were being set this spring, the recently formed Big Horn Basin Chapter of Walleyes Unlimited was forced to cancel its annual banquet. Now, with rules relaxed, it’s back on for Saturday, Sept. 26 — but will be facing some stiff competition.
“We were scheduled for April and we were forced to postpone it. And of course, now we’re competing against hunting season,” said Pat Slater, president of the organization formed in 2018.
The group’s efforts are an attempt to raise funds for community service work, including updates at Deaver Reservoir — the closest destination to Powell for feisty, tasty walleye — and other nearby fishing venues. “That’s our main function as an organization along with education and youth activities.”
The group is hoping to partner with the Wyoming Game and Fish Department to make needed access changes at the reservoir. The department manages the Bureau of Reclamation property, and has been aggressively managing the reservoir for walleyes for years.
“We’re going on 20 years of managing it as a walleye fishery,” Jason Burckhardt, Cody Region fisheries biologist, said during a recent test of the species’ population at the reservoir. “Most folks, including myself, are amazed about the quality of a fishery this reservoir is. It’s a tiny 30-acre lake and we’re producing some decent fish.”
Until the funds are available for updates, local Walleyes Unlimited members continue to clean the facility, making it a happier place for all who visit. They are also working to make improvements at Wardell and Harrington reservoirs, near Burlington. The lakes are known for bank and ice fishing, as well as a great place for birdwatching.
But the big push is education for youth interested in fishing. The group is giving away three lifetime fishing license and conservation stamp combinations to youth at the upcoming banquet. To be eligible, the child must be a continuous resident of Wyoming for 10 years and be present at the banquet.
“It’s a $500 deal,” Slater said. “And that’s just to promote youth fishing.”
In addition, every youth who attends will receive a free spinning rod and reel combination.
“We’ve got a bunch of games and different raffles scheduled as well,” Slater said, including raffling off three rifles and silent and live auctions.
The grand prize of the evening is a pheasant hunting trip for up to four adults and two youth hunters, courtesy of David Rael, a Game and Fish commissioner from Cowley. The group is limiting the number of tickets for the trip to 200, making the odds of winning better than many lottery draws.
Slater is a tournament walleye fisherman and a long-time member of the Billings chapter of Walleyes Unlimited. The Big Horn Basin chapter operates under the Montana chapter of the organization.
“We want to do a lot of the same things. They [Billings] already had a 501(c)3 and it was easy for us to begin our chapter under them because of the difficulties establishing [a nonprofit],” Slater said. “Since our water runs into Montana, it’s kind of a natural fit.”
The group has about 60 active members, Slater said.
The price of a ticket to the Sept. 26 banquet is $35 for adults and $25 for 12 and under — but you’ll have to act fast. The last day to buy the tickets is Friday, due to social distancing rules. The group is unable to serve dinner buffet-style, so all tickets must be purchased in advance so the organizers can get a firm grip on how many plan to attend. You can call Slater to arrange ticket purchases at 307-202-0815.