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Sunbeam Fish Derby
(Left to right) Vyanna Acevedo, 8, Miguel Vega, 12, and Gustavo Moreno, 9, were among the young anglers and their families participating in the 25th Annual Jr. Trout Fishing Derby on Jan. 18 at Sunbeam Lake county park west of El Centro. | Elizabeth Villa photo

Fish On! Young Anglers Descend on Sunbeam Lake for Annual Derby

SEELEY — More than 200 children hoping to catch the big one attended the 25th Annual Jr. Trout Fishing Derby on Jan. 18 with the young anglers and their families arriving as early as 6:30 a.m. to register.

The event at Sunbeam Lake county park west of El Centro was sponsored by the Kiwanis Club of El Centro for youth ages 15 and under. Organizers said 225 children entered in part for a chance to win a prize for catching the largest fish in their age category, but mostly to just have fun.  

Each participant received a free yellow t-shirt, which served as another layer to protect against the under-50-degree weather.  Most people had cold hands and red noses, but by the start time of 7 a.m. the youth were full of energy and casting their lines into the lake.   

When asked what bait was being used, participants indicated use of a variety, including spinners, mice tail, PowerBait, PowerBait dipped in salmon eggs, night crawlers, chicken livers and even marshmallows. Most were using a three-prong hooks.

Happy Kids

When the kids caught a fish, they couldn’t stop grinning in pride and, of course, the parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles and friends couldn’t be happier to see their smiles. 

“This is my first time. It’s nice, weather is good, nice atmosphere for kids and (I’ve) met a lot of friendly people today,” said parent Natasha Jackson from Calipatria.

Even those with a bit less luck than others were able to put a good spin on the morning outing.

“We are letting everyone else catch them first; we will catch a few later,” parent Xavier Rodriguez said sarcastically when asked if his group had caught any fish.

Putting the fishing derby together was no small feat, organizers explained. Coordination was required among state Department of Fish and Wildlife, Imperial County Fish and Game Commission and the Kiwanis Club.

“This is one of the signature events with over 100 youth with families enjoying a beautiful morning and our goal is to provide youth enjoyment and family activities,” said Alex Cardenas, a Kiwanis member.

“We were successful in planning with County of Imperial and want to thank (county) CEO Tony Rouhotas, and Fish and Game for stocking Sunbeam Lake with thousands of pounds of trout so that fishing should be excellent for kids,” he added.

Lake Stocked With Fish

A few days prior to the derby the park was closed to fishing in order to restock the lake with trout to increase the chances of youth catching fish.  

In addition, the Imperial County park rangers worked maintaining and cleaning the park for the event. 

“The derby gives the kids something fun to do and many families come,” said ranger David Stanton.  

Added ranger Luis Pacheco, “I enjoy seeing kids when they get their very first fish.”

Noting he has been a Kiwanis member for about a decade, Jason Jackson of El Centro said the organization focuses on helping youth in education, arts and recreation, including through scholarships, foster children horsemanship and Kiwanis “key clubs” at Imperial and Southwest High Schools. As such, the fishing derby is consistent with the club mission.

“I have seen hundreds (of kids) catch their very first fish,” he said. “They bring their own tackle and fishing gear, and the more experienced Kiwanis members will go around and help them. The end goal is to have a good time and catch fish.”

Winning Catches

The culmination of the experience was when the young fishers went to the Kiwanis table to measure their fish to determine if they were a prize winner. The prize summary as provided by the Kiwanis club was:

Ages up to 5 girls: #1 Eden Enders

Ages 6-8 girls: #1 Alexis Weir, #2 Yazmin Ham Acosta

Ages 9-11 girls: #1 Kassandra Valenzuela, #2 Maya Castillo

Ages 12-15 girls: #1 Elisa Padilla, #2 Erin Arbogast

Ages up to 5 boys:  #1 Keegan K. Huffman, #2 Ayden Alfaro, and #3 Benjamin Aguilar

Ages 6-8 boys: #1 David Vega, #2 Brody Moler, #3 Matthew Braga

Ages 9-11 boys: #1 Leo Vega, #2 Alan Rocha, #3 Nicolas Moreno

Ages 12-15 boys: #1 Miguel Vega, #2 Ronnie Severt II, #3 Elijah Guerrero

Overall biggest fish:  Amelia Renign Severs

This story is featured in the Jan 23, 2020 e-Edition.

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