- Sports and Recreation
Erie County Catfish Club
How it came to be
I am 36 Years old. All my life I had fished for bass. That all changed in 2014. When my very best friend introduced me to cat fishing. As I watched him reel in fish after fish, and the fight that was. I decided what the heck, lets give this a try. So I rigged my line and hook and cast out. Within 1 min I had one on. I went to set the hook and he was gone. Then again and again. this continued to happen for 3 more times. So I asked now extremely frustrated, what am I doing wrong, as I watch him explain and reel in yet another. He tells me don't set the hook. Let them do it. Well make a long story short, didn't catch one cat that day. Went home got on YouTube and found some videos and watched to see exactly how they were doing it. Now (with a big smile on my face as I write this) we head out the following weekend. i had literally become a pro overnight. Not only was I bringing them in I had also set the record for the lake with the longest Channel Cat reeled in at 36". Talk bout excited. It was at this moment when I realized what i wanted to do. I wanted to join a catfish club. After a months worth of searching online and to no avail, I discovered that there was no catfish clubs for my area. So I decided to create one.
I knew right away I didn't just want this to be a club. I wanted it to educate the people of Erie County and its members. After looking back into the last 100 years of Erie's history i discovered that Erie used to be a rich cat fishing experience. But as time went on it gave way to other sport fish like Bass and Walleye and Trout. Now these species were fished a lot back then but the fish and boat commission felt that they would be easier to stock and keep up with them rather than all of the species native to Erie County. Thus the catfish restocking program was basically put on the back burner and restocked once every 4 years with minimal amount restocked and at very small sizes. so small not even worth catching.
And so the conservation effort was seen. Catfish like any species of fish have an impact on the body of water in which they inhabit. Every body of water where there is fish there is a cycle of life where each and every species depends on each other. Catfish for example play a huge role in keeping algae growth down in the waters as well as keeping other species of fish in check by eating their eggs. This is also the case for Bass and Pan fish as they will go after the catfish eggs to keep them in check. While catfish also help to keep water cleaner and clearer as they are a bottem feeder and help to clear out rotting plants and other fish which in turns reduces odor and cloudiness in the water. When there is a body of water that contains bluegill, bass, catfish, and minnows, you will have a basic complete self sustaining cycle. With all the reasons how can anyone over look the importance of having an abundant catfish supply in any body of water.
Through fishing derbies and events and tournaments we will have plenty of opportunity to educate young and old on the importance of conservation, not just for catfish but for all species of fish and how any one species native or nonnative can have a impact weather positive or negative. And it is through mine and our members relentless commitment to this quest that we will bring back the once forgotten great past time.
Why make a fee to join?
While Erie County Catfish Club is a nonprofit organization, we will have costs that need to be covered. While we are not just a fishing club, We are an education center, a conservation effort, a passionate fisherman, and yes a not so ordinary club. Our membership fee is a 1st of each year to end of year membership. With portions of each membership going towards the purchase of channel catfish to help restock all of Erie County. As Erie County Catfish Club is the only fishing club in Erie County with authorization from the Fish and Boat Commission to restock public waters. With our efforts we can bring back the population of catfish to Erie County and in turn what that will do is this, allow the fish and boat commission to focus even more money on other aspects, bring back the fishing experience of catching cats one after another, and with Erie being promoted and pushed towards being a tourist city, this can and will bring in more revenue for our great city as more and more big fishing will be coming here to fish.
While the remaining fees will go towards us hosting workshops, fishing derbies for the youth, and eventually hosting our own fishing tournaments that anyone who is and isn't a member can participate in. As well as but not limited to advertising and other such expenses.
Our first and primary mission is and will always be conservation. I have sat down and crunched the numbers for what it will take and estimated time to restock lakes. Every lake is different, in size and depth and the species that's in it as well as current populations already existing there in. With all of this in mind, we have chosen our first to target lakes to focus on. First will be Lake Leboeuf, located in Waterford,PA. The second target will be Edinboro Lake located in Edinboro,PA. Leboeuf is a 70 acre lake with a depth of bout 25ft. This is the smallest of the Lakes in Erie County and will be the fastest one to have restocked as will be the cheapest to raise the money for. Working closely with the Fish and Boat commission will allow solid communication and a knowledge of what is currently in there population wise and what we would like to see in there. As it stands now we will be looking to restock anywhere from 50-200 catfish 6"-8" in size per acre of surface water. That's 3500 minimum catfish to a maximum of 14000 catfish. Now 3500 and even 14000 may seem like a lot of fish, maybe even over kill, but one thing needs to be accounted for, is that these fish are only 6"-8" in size and for every 100 restocked estimated survival rate will only be 25-50. As the rest will die or become food for the other species in the lake. Which of course in turn will promote larger fish of the other species. Within 2 years the cats put in the first year will be close to if not at least 12" in length. Our projected date of finalization could take 4 years and as long as 10 years to complete. And upon completion we would only need to put a minimum amount in yearly to keep population up as many fisherman will be taking their prizes home to eat or maybe even stock their home and or farm ponds. Now with all this being said, we will not, and let me emphasize will not just be restocking catfish , but will restock minnows, bass, and bluegills and sunfish as with out them the cycle in each lake wont be complete. We will literally turn each lake in Erie County into a rich (cast your line and reel a fish in) experience. This is the kind of experiances young and up and coming anglers need and look forward to, catching their first fish and catching more. No one wants to go out and fish for 4 hours and not catch anything, especially kids. This one of the reasons our membership for 12 years old and younger is completely free, while 13-17 is only $20 the first year and $10 each year after that, with adults aged 18-64 being $30 the first year and only $20 each year after, and seniors 65 and up and veterans are only $20 the first year and $10 each year after. I spent a good amount of time in finding a fair and honest membership fee that would cover costs and be reasonable. I believe I have. we will also be holding fundraising events to help generate the money as well in an effort to hopefully speed up the conservation effort.