IV Junior Trout Derby Gives Families Good Times Along with Big Catches

(L) Julian Vaca & (R) Zack Hayes
Best friends (L) Julian Vaca and (R) Zack Hayes caught a 30-pound carp Saturday at Sunbeam Lake during the 21st Annual Imperial Valley Junior Trout Fishing Derby.

SEELEY – Spending quality time together is always a treat, and that is exactly what Imperial Valley families had the opportunity to do Saturday morning during the 21st Annual IV Junior Trout Fishing Derby at Sunbeam Lake.

The event is sponsored by the Kiwanis of El Centro, Imperial County, and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, and organizers said close to 300 children participated in the annual derby.

“This year’s participants are a little less than last year, probably because the derby was held in January rather than March” said Vicky Garcia, a Kiwanis volunteer. “Families come and have a good time teaching their kids how to fish.”

The event was free of charge for all participants ages 15 and under. Children received a free t-shirt donated by the Kiwanis Club, along with prizes consisting of gift cards and fishing poles for those with big catches.

Twelve year old Zack Hayes could not contain his excitement after catching a 30-pound carp within the first hour.

“I’m excited to have caught this big fish” said Zack. “It’s amazing to be here with my best friend who wants to see what we can catch.” Zack was accompanied by his parents and best friend, Julian Vaca.

“This is the first time I’ve gone fishing and it’s a lot of fun. I’m glad my friend (Zack) invited me,” said Julian.

Park Ranger Luis Pacheco explained the derby was held earlier this year to take advantage of the water’s cooler temperature.

“Temperatures must be under 50 degrees Fahrenheit for the Trout to survive,” explained Pacheco. “Normally the State re-stocks the lake twice a year, once during the winter time, and once during the summer time. However, this year the water temperatures are rising sooner. Therefore the lake was re-stocked yesterday (Friday) with a second re-stock scheduled for next week and the last in April.”

Nearly 1,800 pounds of trout were brought in from Northern California and dumped into Sunbeam Lake Friday evening prior to the event.

Jerry Robles, 12, said he caught two rainbow trout with the help of his grandmother, Tammy Casas.

“I’m learning patience because that’s what fishing takes,” said Jerry.

El Centro resident Brock Russell also attended the event with his stepson, Raiedon Gilbert, for the first time.

“Raiedon and I come here often to catch trout and decided it was time to participate in the Derby,” said Russell.

Saturday was all about bonding time for Tommy Gastelo and daughter Skyler Gastelo who anxiously waited to catch a fish.

“She wants a fish so we have to wait and see how long it takes,” said Gastelo of his daughter. “This is the first time Skyler has gone fishing and she is certainly enjoying it. Her grandparents gave her the fishing pole for Easter and she is finally using it.”

“I have been coming here for years with my son Ruben Ruiz, Jr.,” said Ruben Ruiz. “I don’t like the canals because they are not safe.”

This year, the derby was dedicated to Clem Muller Jr (1927-2015) who served as Commissioner on the board of the California Fish & Game Commission.

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