Fishing more than bait, hooks, says derby director

By Ryn Gargulinski: CNJ staff writer

Fishing can be much more than hooking up a squirmy worm and whaling it in the lake — especially for those who plan to take part in Saturday’s Kids All-American Fishing Derby, according to derby director Jeff Baum.

This 18th annual event, held at the back lake of Ned Houk Park and sponsored locally by the Optimist Club of Clovis, is a time for families to get hooked on spending time together — not to mention netting in some prizes, Baum said.

With registration beginning at 8:30 a.m., fishing begins at 9 a.m. in six age groups ranging from under 5 to 16 years old.

Prizes are given for the biggest fish, the combined weight of fish and the most fish. There is no charge to enter and no fishing license is needed that day, Baum said.

Baum said the biggest fish caught was 7 1/2 to 8 pounds, the most combined weight registered a hefty 14 pounds, and the most fish caught by one angler once totaled eight.
One overall winner in each category wades away with the booty of their choosing — from fishing poles, to lantern-radios, chairs, tackle boxes, and more.

“I always let the kid choose,” Baum said of the prize selection, for some kids return year after year and may already have the standard rod and reel.

Even those who don’t haul in the biggest, heaviest or largest amount of fish make out swimmingly well with give aways from the wide array of freebies the Optimist Club amasses from local sponsors, Baum said.

“Just watching the kids is the biggest satisfaction of it all. I had one kid came up to me after the derby and thank me,” Baum said. “He said, ‘This is the only time my dad takes me fishing.’”

To make even more of a splash at the fishing derby, the Kids All-American Fishing Web site at offers helpful hints for would-be anglers. Although Baum said kids have used bait ranging from chicken livers to corn, the site said 85 percent of the fish are caught by worms.

The site also suggests to look for fish around rocks, weeds and pilings as they prefer shade and cover. Perhaps one of the toughest slices of advice the site offers, it said that fish are caught best when everyone is quiet.

Although silence may be tough for the kids and parents who show up in droves for the annual derby — Baum said the record number of attendees clocked in two years ago at 176 — past winners have hauled in quite a catch, so to speak.

Although Baum said participants have never reeled in the proverbial boot, he did mention one year a kid caught a goose. “It was heck getting him loose,” Baum said, “He was hissing like you wouldn’t believe.”