Outdoor / Fishing

Thursday, Apr 10 2014 11:25 PM

STEVE MERLO: Big weekend on tap for skeet shooters, anglers

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    Steve Merlo

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By STEVE MERLO, Contributing columnist

Any skeet shooter worth his salt instantly recognizes the name of Ken Barnes, former world skeet shooting champion, world record holder and hall of famer. At one time, he held eight world skeet shooting championships, seven world records and was a 12-time Sports Afield All-American. This weekend, top shooters from all over the United States will gather at the Kern County Gun Club to vie for top shooting honors at the skeet shoot named for him and his incredible shooting abilities.

The event, dubbed the Ken Barnes Open, draws the best in skeet shooting, including past and present world-class shooters and a lot of All- Americans. The public is invited to attend and watch the world's best shooters vie for top guns in their sport.

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Isabella Trout Derby

There's not much time left to sign up for the 25th annual Isabella Lake Trout derby Saturday through Monday. Often billed as the largest trout derby in the world, over $125,000 in cash and prizes will be available for contestants capturing specially tagged trout during the event, and the sponsors are ready to roll out the red carpet for all entrants during the Kern River Valley gala fishing contest.

Signups for the Derby must be completed by 7 a.m. on Saturday. Individual rates are $20, but a family rate of $45 is available for a family of five with up to three children under 16 years of age. One tagged trout will be valued at $25,000, so a lot is riding on each and every fish caught. Call (866) 578-4386 or (760) 379-5236 for more information or go on line at www.isabellafishingderby.com to register.

How to catch the Big One

This year's derby will highlight some larger-than-average tagged trout to discourage predation by birds and other fish before they are caught by lucky fishermen. These 500 select fish will weigh between one and one-and-a-half-pounds each and will carry tags worth between $50-$100 (489); $500 (5); $1,000 (5) and the grand prize of $25,000 (1), so there's a lot of money on the line just waiting to be caught.

One can expect a lot of fish to be caught on varied colored Power Baits, Mouse-tails, inflated night crawlers and the occasional odd fish on a lure, but no matter what bait fishermen choose to use, here are some ways to stack the odds in their favor.

1. Use a quality-made hook -- i.e. one that's sharp right out of the bag. If the point doesn't immediately dig into a thumbnail and stick, then it's dull and should not be used. To do so might cost someone that huge payday when the hook fails to set properly after a bite.

2. Don't scrimp on quality line. We're all in this for the fun and the possible cash or prizes, so let's not try to get by on bargain drawer monofilament.

3. The number of strikes one will get goes up exponentially as the line test goes down. Four-to-six pound test is about right.

4. California law states that a fisherman can use two rods at one time, provided he has the proper licensing. Kids under 16 years can use two rods without the special validation, so a family of five can and should have 10 rods out to maximize the number of strikes they get. Hey, put the odds in your favor -- we're talking about hard cash here.

5. Trout have a super olfactory sense. Every type of bait should be dipped or sprayed with good commercial enhancements like garlic oil or bait fish scent so they can home in on the offerings.

6. Lots of fish will be caught within 20 feet of the bank ... enough said?

7. Provided the wind doesn't blow, the use of a bobber with salmon eggs or a worm dangling beneath it can work miracles. Use the smallest that can be cast easily from the bank or boat.

Here's some other advice for those daring to challenge the derby:

Do not put live trout in the livewell of your boat. The fish and wildlife officer who checks you can seize your boat, car and equipment if he finds a live trout swimming around in your tank. Kill each fish and put them on ice.

When was the last time your boat or trailer batteries were charged or serviced?

Space will be at a premium on the shores of drought-stricken Isabella Lake. Remember, the guy next to you just wants a chance to fish, too. Make a party out of it and have a blast!

Lastly, Isabella Lake can turn into a dangerous, churning cauldron in mere minutes, so boaters need to take extra precautions and carry all Coast Guard-approved and mandatory gear.

We'll see you there.

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