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Inaugural Lake Mitchell catfish tournament deemed 'big success,' local anglers claim first with 53-pound bag

“Lake Mitchell is an incredibly healthy catfish fishery. Net surveys show that catfish make up for 65% to 70% of the total fish population on the lake, and it's in a league of its own,” said tournament official Jaryd Guericke, who also competed in the event.

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Jason Stansbury, an angler who competed in the inaugural Mitchell Locker Catfish tournament, watches his line on Saturday night on Lake Mitchell.
Photo courtesy of Jaryd Guericke
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MITCHELL — Local and area anglers tested their catfishing skills over the weekend on Lake Mitchell during the inaugural Mitchell Locker Catfish tournament.

After a full night of fishing the lake on Saturday night into early Sunday morning, it was local anglers James Gilchrist and Joey Muntefering who hauled in the biggest bag of catfish that weighed just over 53 pounds. The longtime Mitchell anglers claimed first place with the 53-pound bag and took home $600.

Nineteen teams competed in the night tournament that brought anglers from around the Mitchell area and as far as parts of northern Iowa. Tournament official Jaryd Guericke deemed the event a “big success.”

“For it being the first catfish tournament we’ve held on Lake Mitchell, I thought it went well. We definitely learned some things that we will do next year to make it better, but the nice turnout and community support made it a great one,” Guericke said, noting Precision Fishing and Runnings were among some local businesses that donated.

The rules were unique compared to other fishing competitions. Guericke said each team — which consisted of two anglers — could compete by fishing the shores of the lake or utilizing a boat.

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The tournament also featured a “Biggest Catfish” contest. Mitchell angler Dale Gullings’ 25-pound flathead catfish he reeled in Saturday night earned him the Biggest Catfish title.

Josh Constant and Derrick Gukeisen narrowly came in second, reeling in a 52-pound bag of catfish. Mitchell native Cody Strand and Walker Fischer came in third.

An ideal body of water to host a catfish tournament

With the large amount of big bags of catfish that anglers managed to weigh on Saturday morning, Guericke said it “showed how good of a catfish fishery” Lake Mitchell is.

“Lake Mitchell is an incredibly healthy catfish fishery. Net surveys show that catfish make up for 65% to 70% of the total fish population on the lake,” he said.

What also makes Lake Mitchell an ideal body of water to host a catfish tournament, Guericke said, is it being one of the only lakes in the state to have a healthy amount of flathead catfish.

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People fish the shores of Lake Mitchell in the summer of 2020.
Republic

Teams could weigh in both channel catfish and flathead catfish.

Guericke said the tournament helped bring more exposure to the good catfishing Lake Mitchell offers.

“We saw anglers come from Sioux Falls and even further away than that come to compete. This tournament helps spread the word of the great catfish fishery we have here on Lake Mitchell,” he said.

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Good fishing conditions over the weekend also helped make for a successful tournament, Guericke said.

Although the lake is typically dealing with algal blooms during hot days in early August, Guericke said he’s “never seen the lake this clear” at this time of year compared to previous dry, hot summers.

“The water was looking great. It was clearer than I’ve ever seen it in my years of fishing here on hot summer days,” he said of the lake.

"We set $15 million as the rough target for dredging the lake, so it's an exciting time for the lake," Parks and Recreation Director Nathan Powell said.

Sam Fosness joined the Mitchell Republic in May 2018. He was raised in Mitchell, S.D., and graduated from Mitchell High School. He continued his education at the University of South Dakota in Vermillion, where he graduated in 2020 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a minor in English. During his time in college, Fosness worked as a news and sports reporter for The Volante newspaper.
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