The Montana Fish and Wildlife Commission Thursday upheld the denial for a proposed walleye fishing tournament on Holter Reservoir.
Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks denied the proposal by Don Pyrah of Lewistown to hold the Holter Thaw Walleye Tournament this April. The department based the denial on language in the reservoir’s management plan that prohibits walleye tournaments while a slot limit is in place.
A slot limit restricts the size of fish that can be kept, typically to bolster size or populations. Holter currently restricts anglers to keeping only one walleye over 25 inches with the goal of growing trophy fish. From 2000 to 2013, Holter had a 20- to 28-inch slot limit prohibiting keeping fish in that size range. Since 2014, the limit changed to allow only one fish over 25 inches to be kept.
“I don’t believe under the current management plan that a catch and release tournament would have a negative impact on the fishery,” Pyrah told the commission.
The tournament would be limited to about 30 teams, and in April to tournament anglers it's an early season event, he said.
Area fisheries manager Grant Grisak said that FWP also believed the tournament would have little biological impact. The management plan followed input of walleye and other anglers, he said.
“I don’t believe there’s a biological concern, it’s strictly a social concern in terms of the size component of walleye,” he said.
While Commissioner Shane Colton of Billings questioned whether management goals would be compromised by a tournament, the commission voted to uphold the denial.
The management plan is up for review, and Pyrah said he would push for changes that would allow the tournament.