CLEARLAKE OAKS – The Derby ended on Sunday afternoon to cheers from locals and outsiders who waited to return home until the results were announced by committee chairman Dennis Locke.
After a cancellation in 2020 and a reduced version in 2021, the 2022 derby returned to normal operation and the total number of registrations increased by 75 compared to last year.
“Welcome to the 38th Annual Catfish Derby,” Locke announced. “One thing we know for sure – while this is arguably the biggest catfishing derby west of the Mississippi – we know it’s the biggest fishing event of any kind, ever. organized, on Clear Lake!” We appreciate your continued support – all of you 957 who participated in the derby this year – and your families.
Derby participants came from as far east as Muskogee, Oklahoma; as far north as Enumclaw, Washington; and from all areas of California – 61% traveled to Clear Lake; 39% were from Lake County.
The Pearsons, a family of eight from Clearlake, are regulars at the derby and stayed on until the end. “We didn’t place this year, but we’ll definitely be back next year,” said Dan Pearson. “Fishing and camping is what we like to do as a family.
Dan Sansome of Kelseyville won the top prize – $5,000 for his 24.32 pound catfish. “This is my 10th year in the Catfish Derby,” he said.
Formerly from San Diego, Sansome was the captain of a long-distance fishing boat, the “American Angler”. Dan has been competing in the Catfish Derby since he retired to fish in Clear Lake. “I’ve wanted to live here all my life,” he says. “I also fish for bass, but that’s the only tournament I take part in. I love the challenge of catfishing and the high volume of fish in the lake,” Dan said. “Even though I fish, winning the top prize this year is very special.”
Along with Sansome was his longtime friend, Ed Puente, who placed third in 2019 with a 26.73 pound catfish. Sansome was all smiles at his friend’s good fortune this year. “I met Dan years ago when I went on a multi-day fishing trip on his party boat from San Diego. I hadn’t seen or heard from him for many years. when about 8 years ago I saw his picture in one of the local tackle stores I looked him up and we have been fishing Clear Lake together ever since He is an expert fisherman .
Second-place winner Daniel Shelton, also of Kelseyville, took home $1,000 for his 24.10-pound catch. Third place winner Corey West came from Yuba City and took home $800 for his 23.82 lbs.
In the older children’s division, ages 11-15, Kianii Hill Bourlet of Reno won the top prize of $100 for his 18.28-pound catfish; Josiah Lopez of Folsom won second prize of $50 for his 17.91-pound catfish; and Scarlett Ocheltree of Yuba City placed third with her catch of 17.64 pounds and took home $25 in prize money.
In the younger children’s division, up to 10 years old, Tommy Higman of Fairfield, won the first prize of $100 for his 17.64 pound catfish; Hazel Allen of Kelseyville, won second prize, $50, for her 17.16 lbs; and Arthur Weatherwax IV, also of Kelseyville, won third prize, $25 for his 16.68-pounder.
If some of the names of the young derby winners sound familiar to you, there are good reasons. “A lot of the young people who participated this year have been fishing since they were strong enough to hold a fishing rod,” said Barbara Higman, a derby volunteer whose family has fished Clear Lake — and the derby — for years. “I’m so proud of my grandson, Tommy, for his first place finish,” she said. “He’s a third generation fisherman!”
Antelope’s Lee Her has fished the derby for years and was back this year with his nephew, Darrel Her. Lee Her placed eighth this year with his catch of 22.06. “In 2018, I took first place with my catch of 24.34 pounds – almost the same weight as Dan Sansome’s first place finish this year of 24.32.”
“I love to fish,” Lee Her said. “I learned to fish when I was young with my uncle and now I teach my nephew. Sure, winning is part of the appeal, but it’s so much more than that. It’s about reuniting as a family, reconnecting with some of the derby people I see year after year, and building on great memories, that’s what it’s all about.
As for Darrel, “I’m hooked, I’ll definitely be back next year with my uncle,” he said.
For all the scores visit: clearlakeoaks.org/derbystandings and for interesting derby commentary and photos visit Catfish Derby At The Oaks on Facebook.