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CATS Incredible fishing tournament canceled due to high river levels

It's news only a catfish could love. Civic leaders met today and cancelled the popular and large Cats Incredible fishing tournament in East Grand Forks because the Red River will be too high to safely get on and off the water. Barry Wilfahrt, pre...

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It's news only a catfish could love.

Civic leaders met today and cancelled the popular and large Cats Incredible fishing tournament in East Grand Forks because the Red River will be too high to safely get on and off the water.

Barry Wilfahrt, president of The Chamber of East Grand Forks and Grand Forks, made the announcement that the event that brings thousands, including 300 catfish hunters, to East Grand Forks each summer won't go on as scheduled July 29-31.

"It's a huge event for East Grand Forks," he said. "But you can't control Mother Nature."

Wilfahrt said the National Weather Service ran a special hydrograph this morning for the Chamber that projects the Red River will be at 26.5 feet on July 29 and a foot lower on July 30. Flood level is 28 feet and usually by this time of the summer it's well below 20 feet.

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Three weeks ago, members of the East Grand Forks Catfish League and Cats Incredible tournament committee decided that if the Red wasn't lower than 23 feet by tournament time, it should be cancelled. Access to the Red at the LaFave landing in East Grand Forks is too difficult to be safe when the Red is higher than 23 feet, they said.

It's the biggest single event for East Grand Forks each year, drawing 5,000 people for the festival in addition to the 300 fisherpersons, who all spend time and dollars here, said Wilfahrt.

Last year, 151 two-person teams from 10 states, including Arizona and New York, competed for $21,900 in prizes; first place was $4,000. They buy lots of bait and other supplies at local stores, of course.

But it's more than just fishing. It's weekend festival with races, a chili cook-off, inflatable games and events for children, and live music events through the weekend, with more than 150 volunteers helping run it all, Wilfahrt said.

But according to Karry Kyllo, who was set to chair the event for the second year: "The safety of our 300 fishermen is the most important consideration in this decision."

It will mean some losses, Wilfahrt said.

"We will refund all the entrance fees to every team that entered," he said. "From the Chamber's point of view, we cancelled as soon as we could so we are hoping we will be able to cancel a lot of things we had planned with minimal losses."

It's the first time in the 24-year history of Cats Incredible that is has been cancelled, he said.

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The Chamber makes about $15,000 from the tournament each year, which goes ot cover staff time and resources in planning it, he said.

"So it definitely will be a loss to the Chamber this year," he said.

But in three weeks, the Chamber and others will meet to begin planning the 2012 tournament, Wilfahrt said.

"We're excited about next year."

In 2012, Cats Incredible will be held July 27-29.

Related Topics: 2011 FLOODFISHINGRED RIVER
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