BRAWLEY – Last weekend brought fishers together for some friendly catch-and-release competition, hosted by West Coast Cat Masters (WCCM) Catfishing Organization. While the weigh in was held at Wiest Lake in Brawley, fishers participating in the derby fished anywhere within Imperial County waters.
Brian Cummings organized the weekendâ€™s event with hope of raising awareness about the availability of flathead catfish on the west coast.
â€œWe want to promote the sport of catfishing on the west coast. Lots of people are not aware of big, flathead catfish being available on the west coast. We surely do have them in the local canals and various waterways,â€ said Cummings.
Registration began early Saturday morning. After registration, fishers had 24 hours to get the lunker they needed to win the derby.
The derby was divided into two divisions: the flathead division and the channel catfish division. While most contestants aimed to win the flathead division for the larger prize, many still tried for the channel ‘cat’.
Hector Oceguera, winner of the flathead division, hooked a flathead weighing in at 47.14 pounds. Second place was caught with a 42.50 pound flathead and the third place flathead came in at 32.4 pounds.
Anglers were expected to follow Department of Fish and Wildlife (DFW) rules and regulations. Anyone that violated DFW rules was disqualified from the derby and cited.
After ten years of WCCMâ€™s Catfishing Organization hosting these derbies, a surplus of large catfish in Imperial County waters still swim the canals.
â€œWe also want to promote preservation by encouraging catch and release of trophy fish, that way we can ensure we will have some for future generations,â€ said Cummings.
Third place winner of the flathead division, Austin Bland, brought his son out to compete as well. His son won second place in the channel cat division. They spent their time fishing at the Alamo River and the All American Canal.
â€œI would consider myself one of the major competitors. Itâ€™s really an extreme tournament for most anglers. Some of us spend endless time and money running around out there to catch trophy size cats,â€ said Bland.
Cummings and the WCCM Catfishing Organization plan to be back in the Imperial Valley with another derby in May. However, this year’s season finale reeling competition will be in Palo Verde this October.