Community Sports

Thursday, Apr 18 2013 11:19 PM

Steve Merlo: Plenty of tagged trout at Isabella fishing derby

By The Bakersfield Californian

This weekend's Isabella Lake Fishing Derby, despite near-record low lake levels, will go on as advertised, and plenty of room will be available for anglers vying for the 1,000 tagged trout planted in the Kern River Valley impoundment.

Promoters of the popular event claim the lake will have nearly 100,000 acre feet by tournament time, making the lake one of the largest bodies of water in California.

Boaters will find even more good news. The US Forest Service has recently finished work on two docks in an effort to improve boating and launch and recovery safety at the lake. A total of six docks will eventually be rebuilt or refurbished under a special grant, with one more to be finished by Derby time.

This year's 24th Isabella Lake Fishing Derby will again feature plenty of money in the form of tagged trout. At least $250,000 in tagged fish has been earmarked for the event, including 989 fish each valued at $50-$1,000, nine at $10,000 each and a single fish at $20,000. The $20,000 trout can also be worth up to a cool $40,000 if caught by a registered angler wearing one of the Derby's special T-shirts or hoodies.

Be sure to register early, because no entries are accepted after 7 a.m. on Saturday. Contact Derby Registration at (866) 578-4386 or (760) 379-5236, or visit www.Isabellafishingderby.com.

I'm going to the derby, so what do I use for bait?

Planted trout are suckers for all forms and colors of "Power Bait," but they will hit other offerings such as night crawlers or salmon eggs, not to mention their penchant for small, shiny lures like spinners and spoons. Also, the most critical error made by most anglers regarding their desire to reel in a tagged fish remains their insistence on using too heavy of a line.

Light line allows the bait on the hook to be presented to the trout in a more natural manner, rather than looking like a rope and anchor. The average sized fish caught in the derby generally weighs barely a pound and only a relatively few larger ones are caught each year. Because of that fact, smart anglers need not spool on lines testing over six pounds, with the favorite at four. (Having a correctly set reel drag is the most reliable step in catching the big ones that occasionally hit, rather than using heavy line.)

Fishing line, especially that still on the reel from last year or before, needs to be changed before heading up to do battle. Believe me, there's nothing more frustrating than to have a tagged fish break off because someone forgot to install fresh monofilament.

The next most important factor in catching fish is to ensure each hook is needle sharp. That means purchasing or using chemically or manually sharpened hooks that dig into your fingernail at the slightest pressure. Because few hooks are sharp right out of the box or package, I honestly believe that more fish are lost to dull hooks than for any other reason.

Last year, more than 6,000 people lined the shores of Isabella in anticipation of catching a tagged fish or two. The same holds true for this year, but with the water down, anglers need to get to a spot early or consider bringing their own rock to stand on. Campers and trailers have already been parked around the lake for close to two weeks, but rising waters may put a snag in their owner's plans because many will certainly have to move before becoming inundated with water. Shore fishermen will find plenty of sandy beaches and rock strewn shorelines to ply their trade and the trout should be active all over the lake, rather than in just a few areas.

Remember, the key to earning a payday at the lake is to catch as many fish as possible, stacking the odds more and more in your favor each time one is caught.

Good luck and we'll see you there!

A.P.W. charity Sporting Clay Shoot

The Association of Petroleum Wives is sponsoring their 11th Annual Sporting Clay Shoot at the Kern County Gun Club today. Check in is 8 a.m. with shooting beginning at 10. Proceeds go toward the California Living Museum, Garden Pathways and WarmLine. Contact Arlene Fisher at (661) 333-3206 or e-mail APWsportingclays@aol.com for more information.

Shoot for the Stars on tap

The Bakersfield Music Theatre, in support of keeping the performing arts alive, will hold a Shoot for the Stars sporting clay shoot at the Kern County Gun Club on Saturday. Check in is at 7:30 a.m. with shooting starting at 9 sharp. Phone (661) 325-6100 for more information.

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