Catfish make presence known at Morgan Lake derby

By Dick Mason, The Observer April 30, 2010 02:45 pm
Six-year-old Maddy Kimball participates in the Morgan Lake Fishing Derby Saturday. Submitted photoTom Roe of La Grande remembers the years well.

The time when all Morgan Lake basically had was perch and catfish.

Lots of perch and catfish.

Roe, who grew up in La Grande, fished at Morgan Lake in the 1940s and ’50s. It was an era before trout were stocked in the lake by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.

“Sometimes two or three of us would land 100 perch in a day,’’ Roe said.

Catfish were not as abundant,  but there were plenty of them in the north part of Morgan Lake.

State fish and wildlife crews removed the perch and catfish about five decades ago and then began regularly stocking Morgan Lake with trout, Roe said.

Today Morgan Lake is teeming with rainbow trout, but it appears that catfish are gaining an increasing presence. The success of Roe’s grandsons, Jack and Colt Foltz of Boise, may be proof. The Foltz brothers won their age divisions at Saturday’s annual Morgan Lake Fishing Derby by landing catfish. The catfish they landed were among about half a dozen pulled in by youths at the derby. A year ago just one catfish was landed.

That one was a 1-pound 8.8-ounce fish landed by Colt Foltz, one that was the biggest taken in the 2009 derby, which 149 youths entered.

Colt landed a 1-pound 5.2 ounce catfish Saturday to win the 7-to-10 age category. The fish was the second heaviest caught, behind a 1-pound 7.4 ounce catfish taken by Colt’s bother Jack, age 2 1/2, who won the age six-and-under category.

“They were just tickled. They thought it was great,’’ Roe said of his grandsons.

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.

Those pulling in catfish Saturday also included David Alton of Washington, who placed second in the 7-to-10 age category with a 1-pound 4.3 ounce fish. That catfish was one of two he caught.

Most of those who landed catfish were deliberately angling for them, said Ted Blaylock of the La Grande Optimist Club. The Optimists put on the derby each year with major help from Bi-Mart, the event’s sponsor.

Prizes, provided by Bi-Mart, were awarded Saturday to the top three placers in the age 6 and younger, 7-to-10 and 11-to-16 categories.

Blaylock said that that the floating dock put in last September and the four new piers finished earlier this month at Morgan proved popular among anglers at the derby.

The fish available to anglers included 100 trophy trout released by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife about a week before the derby. Each of the trophy trout weighed a little more than a pound. The ODFW also released 1,000 trout 8-to-9 inches, which weighed about a third of a pound each prior to the derby.

2010 La Grande Optimist Club-Bi-Mart Morgan Lake Fishing Derby Results

Age 6 and under: 1, Jack Foltz, Boise, 1-pound 7.4 ounces. 2, Mason Welch, La Grande, 1-pound 3.3 ounces. 3, Danika VanLeuvan, La Grande, 1-pound 1.7 ounces.

Age 7-10: 1, Colt Foltz, Boise, 1 pound 5.2 ounces. 2, David Alton, 1-pound 4.3 ounces. 3, Gage Lassley, La Grande, 1 pound 3.5 ounces.

Age 11-16: 1, Joshua Gunshore, 1 pound 4.3 ounces. 2, Austin Richie, 1 pound 1.1 ounces. 3, Logan Anderson, 14.7 ounces.

Editor’s note: All of the placers with no home town listed are from Union County except David Alton, who is from Washington.