Size does matter – just ask the hundreds of anglers that will be casting their lures, hooks and flies into Lake Cachuma this weekend in search of a tremendous trout that could reel in a hefty cash prize.
The Tenth Annual Cachuma Lake Nature Center Trout Derby, which will take place from 6 a.m. Saturday until noon on Sunday, offers fishing enthusiasts of all ages a chance to compete with anglers from around the state for bragging rights – and $5,000 in prize money. Tonight, 250 trout tagged for the derby will be released into the lake, and event participants will have until the end of the competition to hunt for prize-winning tagged fish.
Registration for the event, which costs $35 per person, will be open starting today at noon at the Cachuma Lake Recreation Hall, and will continue through the weekend.
Linda Taylor, executive director of the Lake Cachuma Nature Center, said several hundred anglers have already registered for the competition. She said the number of entries, which could reach more than 1,100, is on a pace to set a new derby record.
“Usually our pre-registration is an indicator of the final number of participants,” Taylor said. “If that holds true, then we’ll have more entries this year than we’ve ever had.”
Taylor said proceeds from the event, which is organized entirely by volunteers, go to fund the Nature Center, a nonprofit education center that spotlights the history and wildlife of the lake. The derby usually brings in about $15,000-$25,000 for the Nature Center, she said, and last year’s event raised $20,000. However, Taylor said changes to the derby have made it too difficult to predict how much revenue this year’s event will generate for the center.
“It’s hard to say,” Taylor said. “We raised the entry fee this year, but our costs also increased. There are just so many variables – I don’t want to speculate at this point.”
The prizes for the event include cash awards for the trout with the three highest tag numbers and for the longest and shortest trout, as well as prizes of fishing gear and other merchandise – all donated by over 100 different local businesses.
Taylor said the response from those who participate in the derby, ranging from young children to octogenarians and older, is always overwhelmingly positive.
“People just have a great time,” Taylor said. “It’s a whole park full of people who love to fish, and it’s a lot of fun for everyone.”
Josh Phillips, a fourth-year history major, said he competed in the derby for the first time last year, and enjoyed the event despite his lack of preparation.
“It was an absolute blast,” Phillips said. “We had no idea how to fish the lake, but we went up there and had fun anyway.”
Nick Langer, a fifth-year business economics major, said he and Phillips will return to Cachuma Lake for this year’s derby with a much larger group in tow.
“Last year, four of us just went up on a whim and camped by the lake,” Langer said. “This year we have about 10 people going, we’re taking two boats and we’re staying in a motor home and bringing along plenty of beer and country music.”