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Finding Minnesota: Catfish Derby Days

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(credit: CBS) Angela Davis
Angela Davis joined the station in 2006. Angela co-anchors the Sund...
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FRANKLIN, Minn. (WCCO) — This coming weekend people who enjoy a challenge will head to southern Minnesota for a popular fishing contest. And it’s not for walleye or sunfish — it’s for a fish with whiskers.

Each year on the last weekend of July, thousands of people drive to the small town of Franklin, Minnesota in Renville County.

When your town only has 500 people and only covers a single square mile, you need to do something to create a buzz. Thirty seven years ago, folks in Franklin turned to the water, a section of the Minnesota River where catfish rule.

“If you know anything about catfish, you know they feed off a bank,” said Franklin Mayor Ron Degner. “Wherever there is a curve in the river, the food goes up against that bank, and the fish go up against it to eat.”

The prize for the biggest catch during Catfish Derby Days is modest — only a hundred bucks — but the bragging rights are priceless. Fourteen-year-old Dylan Marlow has won twice in his age group.

“Find a good spot,” he said. “It’s a river, you can catch anything, you never know. It’s a waiting game. That’s all it is, you never know. Throw out your bait and hope something comes by.”

The city rakes in thousands of dollars from all the tourists who come through.

The festival lasts for three days and includes live bands, a beer wagon, plus a softball and a volleyball tournament. And get this, some lucky lady or guy will get to kiss a catfish before all is said and done.

Meet Sheila “Sugar Lips” Robinson — she’s a teller at Franklin State Bank.

“We set cans around town. And people cast votes by putting money in cans, the winner — whoever gets the most money in the can — is the one who gets to kiss the fish Saturday night,” she said.

Catfish Derby Days starts this Friday, July 27 and runs through Sunday, July 29. Last year, the biggest fish that was caught weighed in at 44 pound and 5 ounces.

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