Colt Foltz of La Grande tied for third place in the 7-to-10 age category at the La Grande Optimist Club-Bi Mart Morgan Lake Fishing Derby by landing this 1-pound, 8-ounce catfish.
Isaak Carson of La Grande displays some of the fish he caught at the La Grande Optimist Club-Bi Mart Morgan Lake Fishing Derby. The fish he caught included a 1-pound, 8.6-ounce catfish, the heaviest fish caught in the derby.
The annual La Grande Optimist Club-Bi Mart Morgan Lake Fishing Derby took some long-time residents down memory lane Saturday.
It cast their thoughts back to an era before spinning reels, a time when Morgan Lake was filled with perch and catfish.
No perch were caught during the derby but plenty of catfish were. The winners of all three age divisions claimed the top spot with catfish weighing between 1 pound, 6.8 ounces to 1 pound, 8.6 ounces.
The age group winning youths were Alysha Frye of La Grande, Isaak Carson of La Grande and Kenzie Cruse.
The top team of brothers at the derby were Jack Foltz, 4, and Colt Foltz, 9, both La Grande. They each reeled in catfish which netted them third place honors in their age categories. Their success rekindled memories for their grandfather, Tom Roe of La Grande, who has fished in Morgan Lake since the 1940s. Roe said the lake was filled almost exclusively with catfish and perch in the 1940s, 1950s and part of the 1960s. Perch were the most abundant of the two fish.
The place where Sheep Creek and the lake connect was the best place to land perch, Roe said.
State fish and wildlife crews removed the perch and catfish about five decades ago and then began regularly stocking Morgan Lake with trout.
Today Morgan Lake is teeming with rainbow trout, but it appears catfish are gaining an increasing presence. The top three fish landed in the age six and under category were catfish. In addition six of the 10 fish which won boys and girls top three honors in their age divisions were catfish.
Catfish are bottom feeders so it is important to run your line along the bottom of the lake to have the best chance of landing one, Roe said. Pulling in a catfish is different than reeling in a trout because they do not jump as much.
"They just tug,'' Roe said.
Catfish were never stocked in Morgan Lake but were introduced years ago by someone who planted them.
A total of 162 youths entered the fishing derby. The majority of the fish they caught were rainbow trout, said Randy Miles of the La Grande Optimist Club. The Optimists put on the derby each year with major help from Bi-Mart, the event's sponsor.
Ted Blaylock of the Optimists said that the floating dock and the four piers put in just a few years ago again proved to be popular with anglers.
Many of the trout landed were likely fish which had been put in about a week earlier by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. The ODFW stocks the lake each year prior the derby. This year 1,000 8-to-10 inch trout and 250 one-pound "trophy'' trout were stocked, said ODFW biologist Tim Bailey.
The people who came to the derby included about dozen who come from Walla Walla each year, Miles said.
The Morgan Lake Fishing Derby has been conducted annually for about four decades.
Fishing derby results
Age 6 and under
1, Alysha Frye, La Grande, 1-pound, 6.9-ounce catfish
2, Charlean Pepper, 1-pound, 5-ounce catfish
3, Jack Foltz, Boise, 1-pound, 3.1-ounce catfish
1, Isaak Carson, La Grande, 1-pound, 8.6-ounce catfish
2, Brenna Strand, La Grande, 1-pound, 8.5-ounce trout
3, (tie) Colt Foltz, Boise, 1-pound, 8-ounce catfish and Jacob Moseley, 1-pound, 8-ounce trout
Age 11 to 16
1, Kenzie Cruse, 1-pound, 6.8-ounce catfish
2, Desirae Kellogg, La Grande, 1-pound, 6.2-ounce trout
3, Lucas Williamson, La Grande , 1-pound, 4.9-ounce trout