COLUMBIA — There's a good chance to see some of the biggest fish ever dragged into a boat Sunday according to members of the Wilton Boat Club, which is hosting its first all night catfish tournament this weekend on the Missouri River.
Bryan Crump, the president of the club, said he expects the winning fish will weigh as much as 90 pounds. Channel, flathead and blue catfish are the ones contestants will be going after. Crump said the biggest flathead catfish can weigh 70 to 80 pounds while a nice blue catfish can weigh more than 100 pounds.
"We want to encourage people to come to the weigh-in," Crump said. "Some people have come to our previous weigh-ins to see how big the fish are."
The tournament begins at 7 p.m. Saturday and ends at 9 a.m. Sunday when the weigh-in will take place at the Wilton Boat Club's boat ramp at mile marker 162 on the Missouri River, located on route M north of Hartsburg and west of Ashland.
Club member Brad Mann said the club used to hold its tournaments in the early morning but decided to give an overnight tournament a try. He said overnight is the best time to catch catfish, because the cooler temperatures cause the oxygen levels to rise which causes the fish to be more lively and feed more.
"We want to give the anglers the best opportunity to catch the biggest fish possible," Mann said.
Crump said the improved fishing conditions bring hazards, though. Taking a boat on the river at night means avoiding partially submerged buoys, rock dikes and logs in the dark, and if there is a mishap, it will be more difficult for participants to get assistance.
"It can get spooky out there," Crump said. "It can get testy out there when fishing overnight."
Some participants will travel as far as 60 miles down the river to fish. Mann said the National Weather Service predicted the river to be near flood level at 21 feet on Saturday night, which might keep some fisherman from competing.
"We hope that the high waters won't put a damper on people wanting to fish," Mann said. "The hardcore anglers will be there no matter what."
The entry fee for the tournament is $100 per boat, which can carry up to three people. A $1,000 prize will be awarded for the boat with the biggest total weight of a maximum of 10 fish. There will also be a $250 award for the biggest single fish.
The proceeds will go to youth groups supported by the Wilton Boat Club, such as the 4H and FFA.