Valier Ice Fishing Derby, Montana

Kurt Norris
Last Updated: February 27th, 2023

The Valier Ice Fishing Derby is an annual event held on the frozen waters of Lake Frances. A man-made reservoir, the lake itself is known for its world-class Walleye, Pike, and Perch fishing.

While the area is a fantastic destination for wranglers year-round, the lake’s peak fishing experience is only done during the region’s winter months. Every January, ice anglers flock to the nearby community of Valier to participate in the ever-competitive Valier Ice Fishing Derby.

Hosted by the Valier Area Development Corporation, the ice fishing derby is traditionally scheduled for a weekend in January when the weather conditions are most suitable.

ice fishing
Image: USFWS Fish and Aquatic Conservation

Candidates can preregister at one of the town’s many participating stores, including Froggies Bar, Curry’s Panther Café, or DeVoes.

Alternatively, visitors can sign up for the derby the day of, with registration beginning at 6:30 am. Be sure to come early, though. No entry tickets will be sold after 10:30 am.

The competition itself lasts for seven hours, starting at 8:00 am. At $25 per participant, the derby features a 100% payout awarded in prizes to the three biggest perch and the three biggest pike caught.

The 2021 Valier Ice Fishing Derby saw a grand prize payout of $1,870 awarded to the largest fish of each category. An additional prize is awarded to the biggest fish caught by a kid 14 years old or younger.

Valier Ice Fishing Derby Event Details



Launching from the fireman’s pavilion along Lake Road, contestants can either preregister or buy their tickets at the lake until 10:30 am. The derby officially starts at 8:00 am, and contestants have 7 hours to catch the biggest fish they can. No weighing will be done after 3:00 pm.

Those not competing in the derby are invited out to the lake to partake in the myriad of fun winter activities that Lake Frances offers.

In the Shadows of the breathtaking Rocky Mountains, guests can participate in activities such as snowmobiling, ice skating, and tubing. Also, be sure to enter the raffles for a chance to win one of the many fantastic prizes the Ice Fishing Derby features.

Whether competing in the event or not, visitors to the lake gather back at the fireman’s pavilion at 3:30 pm. At this time, Derby officials announce the winners with the biggest Perch and Pike catches of the day, the kid’s prize winner, and the lucky winners of the many raffle prizes.

Regardless of whether you are an ice fisher yourself, the Valier Ice Fishing Derby offers plenty of excitement in the beautiful winter climates of the idyllic Lake Frances.


Valier is a small farming community in the heart of rural Montana. Located along Highway 44 and only a short drive to the Glacier National Park, the town is a fantastic spot for exploring the region’s many highlights.

Unfortunately, the small community only features a single hotel within its borders. And while the Lake Frances Inn offers excellent year-round accommodation for its patrons, rooms are often fully booked on the days surrounding the derby.

For this reason, many event participants will opt to stay in one of the other nearby cities occupying Pondera County. One of the best communities to stay in as you prepare for the Valier Ice Fishing Derby is the nearby town of Shelby.

Only 32 miles from Lake Frances, the city offers a much more diverse accommodation selection. The following are some of the best hotels in Shelby that are perfect for hosting your visit to the Valier Ice Fishing Derby.

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About The Author

Kurt Norris

A Canada-based freelance writer, Kurt acquired his bachelor’s degree in English Language and Literature from the University of Windsor. Upon graduating, Kurt left the courtside media desk behind and began venturing the globe. Throughout his journeys, Kurt enjoys partaking in slow travel and loves to explore the histories and cultures of each destination, which he shares with others through his writing.

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