Kent County Ducks Unlimited reported a huge success with its inaugural Chester River Catfish Tournament held on Sunday, September 6. With clear skies and balmy temperatures, the were active catfish hunters on the Chester River.

The tournament drew 138 boats with 450 anglers. Participants included nearly 100 Junior anglers (aged 15 and under).

With COVID-19 forcing the cancellation of the annual November banquet and silent auction, Kent DU started planning this alternative fundraising event in early June.

“Until 2020, our large yearly fundraising event has been a dinner and auction, held at Washington College and last year we had over 600 attendees,” Kent DU chapter president Peter Heller said. “We knew with the global pandemic that we were going to be unable to hold that event indoors in November so we decided in early June

to plan the Chester River Catfish Tournament as a safe, outdoor and family friendly event.”

Kent DU is an all-volunteer, local committee dedicated to the mission of wetland and waterfowl conservation. Founded in 1965, the Kent chapter has been active in local conservation awareness and habitat projects.

The tournament received support from many local businesses. Molly’s Place Sporting Goods on Md. 213 north

of Kennedyville led the effort.

“We raised $15,000 in local sponsorship money for this event,” Heller explained.

The event was focused on COVID-19 safety.

“We held a masked and socially distanced Captain’s Meeting on Friday night in the back outdoor area of the

Blue Bird Tavern,” Heller said.

Heller went onto explain that weigh-ins were held at a private property on the river, just south of the Chester River Bridge.

“We did not allow on site spectators this year, due to COVID concerns, but we hope to be able to do that in the

future,” he continued. “We did however, live stream the whole weigh-in to our Facebook page and it was broadcast to FM 87.9. This way people could still safely enjoy the tournament excitement.”

Kent DU reports that the overall adult winner was Ian Miller out of Church Hill, MD with his 28lb 12oz Blue Catfish. Ian’s boat also walked away with the tournament calcutta (heaviest 3 fish stringer) of $9,000. 2nd place adult was Mike Kempel of Millington, with a 23lb Blue Catfish. 3rd place adult was Tony Perschau of Dover, DE with 18lb 10oz catfish. 4th place went to Patrick Wallace of Millington with his 18lb 10oz fish. 5th place went to Eric Gartland of Westminster, MD with an 18lb 8oz catfish.

The event’s Junior Angler Division first place winner Cayden Cheslosky of Millington, MD with his 15lb 4oz fish was awarded the A.D. Burt Memorial Cup in memory of Alexander D. Burt, IV, local avid fisherman who lost his life in a tragic car accident earlier this year.

“We plan to pass this cup down each year in his memory and to encourage our youth to get outdoors,” Heller said.

The trophy was inscribed with the message: “Thank you for remembering me. May there be no sadness of farewell. I am fishing on my ‘Magic.’ Running outbound on a gentle swell.”

2nd place junior went to Isabelle Gerstmeyer, of Chestertown with a 13lb 4oz catfish. 3rd junior went to Charlie

Schmidt of Chestertown with a 12lb 10oz fish. 4th and 5th places were tied and the tie was broken by the fish that was weighed in first. 4th place was Hunter Hitchens of Middletown, DE with 12lb 4oz fish. And 5th place junior went to Kyle Dyott of Easton with a 12lb 4oz fish.