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Catfish are bottom feeders, but landing one at Morgan Lake can take an angler to the top of the local fishing world.
THE CATâ€™S MEOW: Colt Foltz of Boise landed this 1-pound, 8.8-ounce catfish at the Morgan Lake Fishing Derby Saturday. The fish was the heaviest one taken at the derby. Submitted photo
Just ask Colt Foltz of Boise. The youth landed a 1-pound, 8.8-ounce catfish Saturday at the annual Morgan Lake Fishing Derby. Colt’s catch was the top one in his age 6 and younger category. The catfish also was the heaviest fish caught by any of the 118 people who took part in the derby.
Catfish have been in Morgan Lake for years but were never planted there by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. Someone illegally released some into Morgan Lake years ago and the fish took root.Catfish are an invasive species which sometimes take over ponds and lakes they are introduced into, expanding their population to the point that other fish and aquatic life are harmed. Morgan Lake’s catfish population, though, appears to have remained in check.
“For some reason this (prolific catfish population growth) has not happened at Morgan Lake,’’ said ODFW biologist Nadine Craft.
Craft said catfish have been in Morgan Lake at least since she came to La Grande seven years ago.
All of the other fish caught Saturday at the derby were trout, many of which had been planted at Morgan Lake a few days earlier by the ODFW.
The total consisted of 100 1.5-pound trophy trout and 1,500 8- to 10-inch trout, said ODFW biologist Tim Bailey.
The ODFW will next stock Morgan Lake with rainbow trout a few days before the annual statewide Free Fishing Weekend, June 7-8.
The water at Morgan Lake was clear of ice Saturday, a stark contrast to a year ago when about 95 percent of it was still frozen over.
The fishing derby had to be canceled for the first time in more than 30 years as a result.
Morgan Lake at the time was better suited for a hockey game than a fishing derby, Ted Blaylock of the La Grande Optimist Club told The Observer a year ago.
The La Grande Optimist Club puts on the derby each year with major help from Bi-Mart, the event’s sponsor.
Prizes were awarded to the top three placers in the 6 and younger, 7-10 and 11-16 age groups.
Contestants placed based upon the weight of the heaviest fish they caught.
Age 6 and under: 1, Colt Foltz, Boise, 1 pound 8.8 ounces. 2, Thalon Taylor, 1 pound, 1 ounce. 3, Mason Welch, 14.6 ounces.
Age 7-10: 1, Terry Hamilton, 1 pound, 6.5 ounces. 2, Ayla Welch, 1 pound, 4 ounces. 3, Adam Martin, 1 pound, 1.3 ounces.
Age 11-16: 1, Brody Norten, 14 ounces. 2, Seth Jansen, 10.5 ounces. 3, Dustin Beith, 10.1 ounces.