April 30, 2016 by Joe Kukura

This catfish derby offers $10,000 in cash prizes!

The largest catfish tournament west of the Mississippi returns to northern California this spring, as the days are counting down to the Clearlake Oaks-Glenhaven Catfish Derby, May 13 to 15. For more than 30 years, this popular catfish tournament has been held about 100 miles north of San Francisco on the waters of the oldest lake in North America, Clear Lake—a giant and gorgeous stretch of water in the shadows of the monumental wine country mountains annually ranked by Bassmaster as one of the top bass fishing pools in the whole United States. The Catfish Derby is one of the annual high-water marks of the world-class fishing in Lake County, and there’s still plenty of time to register for it.

Catfish on Clear Lake

A great catfish haul on Clear Lake.

And register you should, with more than $10,000 in cash prizes “on the line” at the Catfish Derby, including the $4,000 grand prize to whoever catches the tournament’s largest catfish. There are also two kids’ divisions—ages 10 and under and ages 11 to 15—where the winning youngster takes home a cool hundred bucks. All Catfish Derby entrants are automatically eligible to win additional cash and merchandise drawings, so check the prizes page for the full list of winnings. The three-day event makes a great weekend getaway for any fan of fishing, and with the size of these cash prizes, your trip just might pay for itself!

There’s a reason that Clear Lake is so great for catfish tournaments and fishing in general. Known as the “Bass Capital of the West,” Clear Lake has 43,000 acres of surface and is packed with more fish per acre than any other lake in the country. Plus, the fish are just bigger here. There are certain unique geological qualities to Clear Lake that produce abundant plant life and large populations of smaller food-source fish, giving Clear Lake the largest average weight per fish of any lake in the western United States. Clear Lake also happens to be the largest freshwater lake within California, and is Lake County’s centerpiece as a paradise for wildlife, fishing and hunting.

There is no doubt that California has suffered from severe drought, but there is reason why it has not affected Clear Lake like it has other California lakes and reservoirs. Clear Lake doesn’t rely on the snowpack melt to fill it. Plus, there is only one outlet on the lake. Therefore, Clear Lake acts as a basin which collects all the rainfall and runoff, and with limited outlets, the water stays in the lake. This year, Clear Lake is considered full for the first time in several years. That means there are still plenty of fish in Clear Lake. The enormous fish population also attracts a very large and diverse bird population (including bald eagles) and makes Clear Lake a haven for bird watching. And it will be a haven for catfishing and lovers of the great outdoors for the three days of the Catfish Derby.

Registration opens at noon on Thursday, May 12, at the Catfish Derby headquarters in the Clearlake Oaks Fire Station. Mussel inspection stickers are required if you’re competing from your boat, but anglers can also rent a boat in Lake County or just simply compete from a dock.

The Clearlake Oaks-Glenhaven Catfish Derby is the granddaddy of fishing tournaments on Clear Lake, but the lake will host several other tournaments in the weeks and months to come. The California Team Championships for the Wild West Bass Trail Tournament will be held on Clear Lake on June 11 and 12, and many more tournaments and contests on Clear Lake are scheduled throughout the remainder of the spring and summer.

Get hooked at the Clearlake Oaks-Glenhaven Catfish Derby in May and enjoy one of the top catfish tournaments in the great West, along with a great crowd of your fellow anglers both young and old.