When Alberton angler Mike Dominick netted the next Montana state record smallmouth bass this fall, word of the catch spread across social media like a hooked Missouri River brown trout taking a reel-ripping run.
Before day’s end, photos of the 7.51-pound lunker sprang up on the Montana Fishing Addicts’ Facebook page, with information about the angler, the catch and a string of questions and congratulatory comments running down the page.
When Townsend angler Jake Updike landed what is likely the largest northern pike taken on rod and reel in Canyon Ferry Reservoir, Townsend/Canyon Ferry Lake KOA’s Facebook shared the photos, getting more than 100 shares the first day. That photo also found a home on Montana Fishing Addicts and the 34-pound, 47-inch giant quickly began popping up in social media feeds.
“It’s been really surprising for me and Jeffrey Mack, because when we started the page we thought it’d be a local-to-Bozeman-type of group,” said Troy Warburton of Bozeman. “Now we have about 3,600 members including from other states and Canada.”
Montana Fishing Addicts launched as Montana Hardwater Addicts last year. Warburton says they wanted a discussion group focused on a positive approach to information sharing for ice fishing. They changed the name as summer approached and wanted to keep momentum going.
“Some of the other pages, there can be some big egos and people aren’t willing to share info,” he said. “We wanted the opposite of that.”
Page administrators do not censor posts, but have had to remove some who refuse to follow the rules.
“We’re all adults and you can disagree with someone, but you need to do it like an adult,” he said.
Montana Fishing Addicts has morphed into a mixture of memes, fishing reports and grip-and-grin photos. Warburton believes the memes provide some comedic relief that keeps the page fresh, and are a big reason why the page has grown so fast.
Interest in the page comes in waves, he said, with 10 to 15 requests per day to join over the summer. Administrators do have to wade through spam requests, but for the most part it is fun and rewarding to run the page.
“I’ve made a few friends just because of the page and a few that we’ve gotten together to fish,” he said. “We get a lot of messages from people that say they’re impressed with the page and grateful for the admins because we’re all about helping people out.”
Warburton has both offered information — such as tips for Canyon Ferry — and received information — like advice on Tongue River Reservoir — that has turned fishing trips around.
He acknowledges the immediacy that social media provides for anglers, and that some may not like it. Concerns about fishing pressure mean not everyone wants to give up secrets, and talk once reserved for tackle shops and boat launches is now available with a few clicks.
“You go to Sportsman’s Warehouse and those boards might be good for the day they were written, but we all know those conditions change so fast,” he said. “With social media you can ask the question and get an answer, so I think it lets people have a better trip.”
Warburton sees some potential in Montana Fishing Addicts being recognized as a brand, but beyond considering some logoed apparel, he wants the page to continue to grow and stay a place to share stories and tips. The page will also offer occasional drawings for gear from local businesses, he said.
Montana Fishing Addicts is not the only angling resource available through Facebook.
Montana Hunting, Fishing and Outdoor Group boasts 1,700 members in an online classified setting.
Montana Ice Fishing’s 4,400 members share angling photos and offer answers for those seeking information on ice conditions and techniques.
Whether geographic or species specific, numerous other pages cater to a handful of anglers to a few hundred.
“I started the page on Dec. 17 last year, and I basically felt like there are a lot of people here in Montana that are trout and walleye fishermen, but you don’t really see much on pike,” said Ronald Miller of Great Falls, who launched the Facebook Page Montana Pike and Tiger Muskie Fishing.
Miller has enjoyed the aggressiveness of pike and muskies ever since he was 13, and his dad bought him an 8-inch pike bait for Christmas. That summer he caught eight of the toothy predators in Tiber Reservoir while attending the Walleyes Unlimited Kid’s Fishing Camp, and he has enjoyed chasing them ever since.
“I love catching them, but there just wasn’t much out there on the topic so I decided to start the page,” he said.
As it turned out, a lot of Montana anglers craved a forum to talk pike and muskie fishing. Nearly 1,800 members now share reports and photos from Montana and beyond.
“At first I didn’t really know how to get it out there to get people to join, but once I shared it to a couple of fishing and hunting groups, all of a sudden I had 500 requests to join in the first three hours,” Miller said. “They were just like me, looking for something to do with pike here in Montana.”