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Published March 22, 2013, 03:01 PM

Cats Incredible Organizers Consider Canceling Tournament

Only 78 teams had signed up as of March 15; cancellation set for April 17 if tournament isn’t filled.

By: Herald Staff Reports, Grand Forks Herald

Faced with declining participation, organizers of the Cats Incredible catfish tournament say they’ll cancel this year’s event if they don’t reach the full field of 125 teams by April 17.

In a news release, Barry Wilfahrt, president of The Chamber of Grand Forks and East Grand Forks, said the tournament had received only 78 applications as of the March 15 entry deadline.

To make the tournament successful, the full roster of 125 two-person teams is needed, the news release said. The first Cats Incredible was held in 1988, and the tournament grew to become recognized by national publications such as In-Fisherman as one of the finest catfish tournaments in the country.

Cats Incredible entries have faltered in recent years, in part because high water in 2011 forced organizers to cancel the event and changes in laws to prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species in Minnesota and North Dakota. The laws, which restrict the transport of water and live fish away from the boat ramp, forced organizers to change tournament boundaries in 2012, closing off the stretch of river north of Riverside Dam that was favored by many tournament anglers.

Essentially, the changes made it illegal for anglers fishing north to transport their fish away from the boat ramp, which is on the North Dakota side of the river, to the weigh station on the Minnesota side of the river.

To compensate for the change, organizers reduced the number of teams from 150, the previous limit, to 125, but many teams that had fished north throughout the tournament’s history opted not to participate.

Wilfahrt in The Chamber’s news release also cited increased competition from other events.

Organizers meeting earlier this week decided to accept tournament applications until April 17. If Cats Incredible hasn’t reached its 125-team limit by that time, the tournament will be canceled and the $230-per-team entry fees will be returned.

Tournament applications have been mailed out twice and are available on The Chamber’s website at http://www.gochamber.org or by email at info@gochamber.org.