Fishers of all ages descended on the dock, the shores and the water for Stillwater’s long-running Independence Day celebration.
Thursday’s Catchapalooza at Lake McMurtry has brought joy to many families and only a few weeks ago, Assistant Director Jared Avilez was afraid he was going to have to cancel.
The annual Fourth of July fishing tournament was in jeopardy after torrential May and early June rains caused the lake to reach levels higer than Avilaez has ever seen.
The staff at the lake had to close the recreation area for two weeks as even roads to reach the lake had been underwater. Thanks to mostly dry weeks since the statewide storms, the show was able to go on with another year of good participation.
Fifteen teams signed up for the event – held from 6-11 a.m. – which Avilez said was no drop-off from last summer, with a group from Georgia even making a return trip.
“It’s really heartfelt to see families come out year after year,” Avilez said. “Everybody that registered, participated last year. I am honored to have those families come back and utilize Lake McMurtry Recreation Area as a memorable place to spend the Fourth.”
Wes Horne of Stillwater was enjoying the time with his family and even though he was having trouble catching much fish – though he did catch one box turtle – he appreciated the event.
He and his family arrived at the lake right at the beginning of the tournament and witnessed the sunrise creep over the shoreline and brighten up the mostly calm lake.
“It pays to get here early,” Horne said.
The sun would spend much of the tournament hiding behind the clouds, though, which was fine for the contestants, as it was a cool morning with wind coming off the water.
“Everybody was excited about the weather this morning,” Avilez said. “To be honest, we’re not out here sweating, we are enjoying ourselves with a nice cool lake breeze. What more could you ask for?”
Although Horne wasn’t having much luck from the dock, the group dubbed “The Three Amigos” came ashore with a haul from their boat.
The trio, consisting of James Halford, Tony Halford and Roger Cox, comes every year and has been going to the event since it was held at Boomer Lake. Hailing from Claremore and Perkins, the group had the largest combined weight in the boating division with 14.16 pounds, including an individual fish wearing more than four pounds that James Halford caught. That was the best amongst the adult division.
“We were fishing brush piles fairly deep out there on the western side of the lake trying to stay in some clearer water,” James Halford said. “Weather helped out a lot. It was really nice today and stayed a little below 80. Didn’t get real, real hot but the overcast sky helped us a lot.”
In the non-boating division, Greg and Ben Earp of Stillwater had the best haul with 4.3 pounds combined. The best youth fish was caught by Christian Johnson as it weighed 3.6 pounds by itself.
It was a success for the McMurtry crew again and the City of Stillwater as it kicked off a solid day of festivities to celebrate America’s birthday.
“We try to market this as a good, fun family event in the morning so they can come out and catch fish in the morning and then come out for the Chickasaw Boomer Blast fireworks show at night and enjoy all of those activities,” Avilez said. “It is so much fun and we are glad to be a part of that whole entire Fourth of July day.”