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Published January 04, 2012, 09:47 PM

This Year, 'Cats Incredible' a Minnesota-only Event

EAST GRAND FORKS, MN (WDAZ-TV) - Anglers will see big changes at the 24th annual "Cats Incredible" catfish tournament. Beginning this year, the tournament will be a Minnesota-only event.

By: Stacie Van Dyke, WDAZ

EAST GRAND FORKS, MN (WDAZ-TV) - Anglers will see big changes at the 24th annual "Cats Incredible" catfish tournament.

Beginning this year, the tournament will be a Minnesota-only event.

New laws have forced the tournament to be contained to the area south of the Riverside Dam on the Minnesota portion of the Red River.

It draws in thousands of people from all over the U.S. and Europe, but will no longer be held in North Dakota.

"A lot of my friends, best cat fishermen in the country, swear by the north end," Red River Catfish Club president Rob Raymond said.

"It's always a little frustrating when you're used to fishing north and you like to fish the snags that are up there and now you have to fish south," Cats Incredible co-chair Tom Stennes said.

The changes come as new laws prohibit transporting fish and water over state lines in order to stop the spread of invasive species, particularly zebra mussels.

"If you go from one body of water that has zebra mussels and you move to another body of water, it's really easy to infest that new water," DNR invasive species specialist Darrin Hoverson said.

And there's no way to get rid of them once they're in a system. That causes problems not only to the environment by destroying the habitat and food supply of the fish, but also economically by destroying pipes and equipment.

Teams have also been reduced, from 150 to 125 to avoid overcrowding of the limited space. Organizers of the tournament are now dealing with the backlash of the changes.

"I have mixed feelings about why they made the changes. I think there needs to be a little common sense about the water they're talking about," angler Mark Swenson said.

"The biggest problem I have is it's the same body of water. You're moving fish from a mile down the stream to the same body of water. What's the difference?" angler Bruce Nelson said.

"We could have a weigh-in point on the north end, our headquarters could still be on the south end, people could still go to the south end, but some people were afraid it was going to cut into beverage sales, and I just think there were better ways to do it," Raymond said.

The tournament will be July 28 and 29.

The new law requires all boat and live well plugs and bait buckets to be completely drained to stop the movement of water. So it's a lot of extra work for fisherman.

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