JEFFERSON – The Knee Deep Club at Lake Hopatcong held its annual Leo August Memorial Awards Breakfast earlier this month, honoring the top three fishermen of 2013. The event was held at The Windlass Restaurant.
Gary Bruzad from Lake Hopatcong took the top prize of $500. Bruzad snagged a 17 lb. 14 oz. channel catfish “somewhere near the east shore” while fishing the club’s September walleye tournament. While watching four other lines he had in the water, Bruzad said he baited a small pole with a night crawler and left it on the bottom of the boat while it dragged along the bottom of the lake. The catfish snagged the night crawler and began dragging the pole out of the boat, luckily getting hung up on the gunnel. A ten to fifteen minute fight between man and fish ensued.
“As soon as I netted it I pulled in the rest of the poles and went straight to Laurie (Dow’s Boat Rental) for authentication and weigh-in,” said Bruzad. “You never know when a simple night crawler will get the job done.”
Tom Facciola from Hopatcong took second place with a 9 lb. 9 oz. hybrid stripper he caught while fishing off shore near the municipal beach in Mount Arlington.
“I got a lot of large strippers that day. Everyone was getting ‘em,” said Facciola, who said he caught one just as big in 2012 that was did not win any awards. “Just one of those unbelievable lucky days, ya know?” he said.
Third place went to Paul Grel from Clifton who caught an 8 1b. 12 oz. walleye while fishing off Chestnut Point last June. Grel also took first place in the Knee Deep Club’s 2012 walleye tournament.
“I like fishing walleye,” he said. “Other fish don’t excite me. The walleye is elusive, hard to get.”
Bryan Collins from Lake Hopatcong won the William G. Clark youth fishing award with a 2 lb. crappie, “the most impressive fish among our junior fishermen,” said club president Ed Mackin. Collins was unable to attend the breakfast.
In other news, the Knee Deep Club has added a third ice fishing tournament on Lake Hopatcong, scheduled for Sunday, March 16. For rules and to sign up, visit their website at http://www.kneedeepclub.org.