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BRAD DOKKEN COLUMN: Red River Catfish League off to great fishing season as participation grows

The Red River Valley Catfish League is off to another great season. The Wednesday night fishing events, which run from 6 to 9 p.m., are drawing an average of 29 boats per week. According to Bruce Nelson of East Grand Forks, one of the league's organizers, 31 boats were on the water this past Wednesday night, a new league record.

It's quite a turnaround for the league, which was on the brink of collapse just a few years ago until new blood on the club's board of directors helped spark renewed interest. According to Brad Durick of Grand Forks, who serves on the board, participation was down to seven or eight boats per week in 2014 and 2015.

Beginning in 2016, participation built to a weekly average of 18 boats on the water, rising to 22 last year and this year's average of 29.

League participants must be members of the Red River Valley Catfish Club and pay an annual membership fee of $20. There's also a $10 per team fee to fish each of the weekly Wednesday night events, and teams can weigh in two cats.

Each week, 80 percent of the weekly entry fee is paid out to the top teams. The winning team takes all if less than 10 boats compete. From 10 to 25 teams, the top two teams win money, and if more than 25 teams are on the water, the top three teams win prize money.

The league also offers several optional contests, including weekly and seasonal big fish competitions, that require additional small fees.

This year's league season began May 9 and continues through Aug. 8 with the final Wednesday night event. There will be no league nights June 20, which precedes the Scheels Boundary Battle catfish tournament set for June 23-24 (the tournament is full), July 4 and Aug. 1. The Wednesday night events alternate between the LaFave Park boat landing in East Grand Forks and the Whopper John Little boat ramp on the Grand Forks side of the river.

A "no membership required" night, set for July 25, is open to any team that pays the weekly $10 entry fee. The season wraps up Aug. 11 with a year-end tournament based out of the Whopper John Little boat landing. There's an entry fee of $100 per team, and the tournament is open to anglers who aren't members of the Red River Valley Catfish Club.

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Builders and Traders take annual fishing trip

Duane Pojar of Sioux Falls, S.D., landed big fish honors and the traveling trophy with a 29⅞-inch walleye during the Grand Forks Builders and Traders Exchange's 11th annual George Gardner Memorial Fishing Derby, held Friday, June 1 and Saturday, June 2 on Lake of the Woods.

This was the 69th annual fishing trip for the Builders and Traders, and the group again this year stayed at Amason's Obabikon Camp on Lake of the Woods near Morson, Ont. The group's fishing contest is named after George Gardner, a longtime organizer and Builders and Traders member who died in 2008 at age 94.

A total of 49 Builders and Traders members attended this year's fishing trip, said Pat Heffernan of Grand Forks, one of the trip's organizers.

"The weather was cool, wet and very windy," Heffernan said. "Fishing was a little slow but we caught some nice fish."

This year, organizers also started an "I Make the Rules" contest in honor of Clint Rodningen, who died last August. Rodningen had planned the annual trip since the 1970s, said Heffernan, who now helps plan the trip with Builders and Traders member Jim Swingen.

Dave Wylot, Heffernan and Gary Sondreal, all of Grand Forks, won the first day of day of the Rodningen competition with 25½-, 24- and 22¾-inch walleyes, respectively. Pojar won the second day with his 29⅞-inch walleye, followed by Mike Robinson and Mike Compton, both of Grand Forks, with 25¾- and 24-inch walleyes, respectively.

Brad Dokken

Brad Dokken is a reporter and editor of the Herald's Sunday Northland Outdoors pages. Dokken joined the Herald company in November 1985 as a copy editor for Agweek magazine and joined the Herald staff in 1989. He worked as a copy editor in the features and news departments before becoming outdoors editor in 1998.  A Roseau, Minn., native, Dokken is a graduate of Bemidji State University. 

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