Boaters who ventured this weekend onto the Red River along East Grand Forks will have plenty of fishing stories to tell their buddies.
Just ask Ryan Boline of Devils Lake. It was his first time coming back for the Cats Incredible Catfish Tournament in more than 10 years, and he was rewarded by reeling in a catfish that weighed just over 16 pounds.
“You never know what you are going to catch,” he said. “It could be a 20-pounder, it could be a five-pounder. You don’t know.
The Cats Incredible tourney attracted 102 teams of two from across the Midwest in its 29th year, up from 95 teams last year. The two-person teams had Saturday and Sunday to catch up to 10 fish—only five to be weighed each day—in the Red River. The team with the heaviest load of qualifying fish were declared the champions.
Teams competed for cash prizes, including $4,080 for first place, $2,448 for second and $1,632 for third.
The East Grand Forks Firefighters Union, which has hosted the tournament for four years, didn’t change much from last year, Committee Chairman Ryan Swang said. The tournament offers a different style of fishing compared to other tournaments in the area, he added.
“It’s not like when you go to walleye tournaments when you’re moving around a big lake all day long and using different tactics,” he said. “Here, you pretty much just throw your line in the water with some cut bait and hope for the best.”
Fish caught in the tournament are measured and weighed in front of audience members on the Red River’s east bank near Cabela’s in East Grand Forks. The fish then are hauled to a slide that goes into the Red River, where they are released back into open waters.
The tournament isn’t just about fishing. Outdoor enthusiasts can enjoy a beer garden, food vendors and a car show. This weekend, the tournament was held the same day as the Happy Harry’s Blues on the Red, giving anglers a chance to relax to music after a long day in their boats.
The Cats Incredible event also offers games for children, and some had a chance to volunteer to help handle the catfish.
Colter Blank, 11, came from Bozeman, Mont., to watch his grandfather and uncle fish in the tournament. When he showed up Sunday, he was asked if he wanted to help handle the catfish.
“My friend … said, ‘Go get a shirt and you can wrangle the catfish,” he said, adding this was his first time wrangling catfish at the tournament.
He said the experience was fun and that he wanted to come back next year to handle catfish again.
When asked what the best part of the tournament was, he said, “You get to see all of the big fish,” before he prepared to haul another monster catfish to the release slide.
Boline said he has been hooked as well and will definitely be back next year.
“It’s a nice tournament and it’s relaxing,” he said.
Cats Incredible Catfishing Tournament winners
First: Darwin and Trever Lunski, Grand Forks, 82.79 pounds
Second: Philip Hartwig and Cason Weber, East Grand Forks, 80.13 pounds
Third: Thomas Grzadzieleski and Brandon Patterson, Drayton, 75.1 pounds
Total fish caught: 565 catfish for 4,107.19 pounds
Largest fish: 21.32 pounds, 36.5 inches, caught by Jeff and Mike Kostrzewski of Crookston
Clarification: In an earlier version of this story, Thomas Grzadzieleski’s last name was omitted.