PORTLAND – Catfish anglers are a special breed.
"They are very dedicated," said Jason Roman of Middletown's Fishin' Factory bait and tackle shop. "They have their special rigs and baits – and, of course, they'll never tell you where their fishing holes are."
Some of the area's most dedicated anglers will be looking for a little this weekend during the 19th annual Catfish Tournament on the Connecticut River.
"Catfish are not all that difficult to catch, so it's fun for kids," said Bill Large, one of the organizers of the popular fishing tournament hosted by Portland's Riverside Marina. "At the same time, there are guys who take it very seriously."
The tournament began Friday at 6 a.m. and ends with a final weigh-in at noon Sunday. Top prize is $300 for the heaviest fish, with $250 for second prize and $150 for third prize. There is also a special under-12 division, with a top prize of $100. Fishing takes place on the river from Hartford to Old Saybrook, with fish caught on rod and reel either from a boat or on shore.
The Sunday noon weigh-in is followed by a barbecue at the Portland marina, where the fish – white catfish, channel cats and bullheads – can been seen in a circulating water pool until their release back into the river.
About 70,000 catfish are caught in the Connecticut River each year between Hartford and Old Saybrook, according to the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection. The state record for channel catfish (caught in a lake) is 23 pounds, while the Connecticut River record for white catfish is 12 pounds, 12 ounces. Meanwhile, the largest brown bullhead pulled from state waters weighed 4 pounds, 15 ounces.
Roman, whose bait and tackle shop is one of the tournament sponsors, said catfish like deep holes, so the best method is to fish the bottom with the weight at least 18 inches above the bait, which can be night crawlers, eels, bunker, or even chicken livers.
"Holes and drop-offs are best, or riverbends where you get deep water," Roman said. "Catfish sit on the bottom waiting for the bait to come down. A lot of guys fish at night, but the best time is just after sundown."
Bill Large said the catfish tournament was started in 1995 by Riverside Marina owners, Ken and Elsie Gouin, and has grown from a few dozen fishermen, to more than a hundred anglers.
"Some go out in the day. Others insist you can only get catfish at night," Large said. "There's a certain amount of black magic to it all."
Registration forms for the Catfish Tournament are available on line at http://www.portlandriversidemarina.com/catfish/Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun