Hundreds Turned Out for the Annual Huck Finn Fishing Derby

The fishing competition for kids was the biggest it's ever been this past weekend. About 400 people participated in the event, in which the city fills two small lakes with water and 600 lbs. of rainbow trout, that begin in the 1970s

By Justin Chapman, Sierra Madre Patch, 4/3/2011

Fun was had by all this past weekend as the annual Huck Finn Fishing Derby, which is held at the Sierra Madre Holding Basins, experienced its biggest turnout yet. According to Adam Matsumoto, Recreation Supervisor for the City of Sierra Madre and the city's liaison for the event, more than 200 kids participated, and including parents about 350 to 400 people were in attendance.
"This is definitely the biggest turnout we've ever had," said Kyle Schnurr, Events Specialist for the city.
The event, which has been conducted by the Community and Personnel Services Department every year since the 1970s, began Friday night when people camped out next to the two small lakes (or large ponds) that the city fills each year for the event by letting water flow down through a gate by the Santa Anita Dam, near and Dapper Field. During the campout, which was sold out for the first time ever, a bonfire was held and marshmallows were toasted.
Schnurr said they started filling the two lakes last Monday. James Carlson, Management Analyst for Public Works, said about 600 pounds of rainbow trout, which are purchased from Jess Ranch in Apple Valley for $2,000, were released into the lakes on Friday.
On Saturday, from 7 a.m. to 11:30 a.m., only kids are allowed to fish in the Huck Finn Fishing Derby. There are four age groups, ranging from three to 15 years old, in which kids compete for a total of 14 trophies: 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place for each age group as well as Largest Fish and Smallest Fish. The kids are limited to catching three fish for the competition, so winners are determined by the highest total combined weight of the fish they catch. Every participant, however, receives a certificate for participating, which includes their name and the weight of their fish.
"People were complaining that the fish weren't biting for the first couple of hours," said Schnurr. "It's really hit or miss, however. Last year people were catching fish left and right."
As the day went on, though, kids caught plenty of trout. Sabrina Haag, who is 6-years old, caught two fish on her first two tries.
"I'm excited because  they were my first fish I've ever caught," she said. "It's very fun, but it was hard to pull the fish in so my dad helped me a little."
Madison Cardella, an 11-year-old who caught a fish and is on the fishing club at Santa Fe Middle School, lives in Monrovia but drove over from Fontana with her family to participate for the first time in this event.
"I taught her how to cast the reel and that kind of stuff," said her mom, Debra Cardella, to which Madison replied, "Oh sure, mom, take all the credit for the fish I caught."
As for the fish that are not caught during the competition, family fishing began after the derby and continued all day Sunday. During the family fishing portion of the weekend long event there is no catch limit. Then during this week teens from the nearby 's teen fishing program get their chance to try to catch the remaining fish.
"We usually catch them all," said Carlson. "The lakes retain some water most of the time, but they are drained significantly after the derby. So there'll probably be some old grumpy rainbow trout flopping around after that."
Matsumoto said they try to get as many fish out as possible. He said that the $2,000 fee to buy the fish from Jess Ranch comes from donations made by local civic organizations, as well as the money made from the derby admission and campout fees. Schnurr explained that several civic and volunteer organizations also help put the event together.
"We have volunteer fishing guides from the Huck Finn Committee, headed by Chris Campbell, who are local residents that supply fishing gear for those who don't have their own rods or equipment," she said. "They also show the kids how to set the reel and rod, put on the bait, and how to cast their line."
The city's Fire Department and lifeguards were on hand in case of any injuries or other emergencies. Fortunately their services did not need to be utilized during the derby. The Sierra Madre Civic Club, the Kiwanis Club, and the Interact Club also help plan and organize the event. There were also several Cub Scout troops participating.
"This is the first year we've participated," said Scoutmaster Mark Abernathy of Cub Scout Den 4 Pack 110 from in Sierra Madre. "The kids are doing it for a Fishing Belt Loop. They have to rig a pole, put on the bait, and fish for at least half an hour. We taught them the basics at a meeting two weeks ago. We told them that once they turn 16 they have to have a fishing license in order to fish. We talked limits and safety. We also brought bamboo sticks to use as poles if they wanted, because bamboo poles are a little more primitive."
After the derby ended at 11:30 a.m., kids lined up to have their fish weighed and receive their certificate of participation. As the organizers tallied up the winners, Matsumoto called out raffle ticket numbers that were given to the kids when they signed up for the event. Several kids won fishing rods and other equipment that were donated by local residents and civic organizations. Then came the Winners' Presentation.
And the winners are…(drum roll):
In the 3-6 age group:
1st Place, Caysen Sullivan; 2nd Place, Nathan Sanchez; 3rd Place, Max Reynolds
In the 7-9 age group:
1st Place, Brandon Wong; 2nd Place, Griffith Simmon; 3rd Place, Isabella Moreno
In the 10-12 age group:
1st Place, Conrad Oakes; 2nd Place, Sampson Sly; 3rd Place, Sofia Cimino
In the 13-15 age group:
1st Place, Destiny Miller; 2nd Place, Kristin Shigenaga; 3rd Place, Grant McComb
The Smallest Fish trophy went to Kaila Rillorta. Her fish weighed 2.2 ounces. The Largest Fish trophy went to Destiny Miller, who also came in 1st place in the 13-15 age group. Her fish weighed a whopping 2 pounds and 7.4 ounces.
Congratulations to all the winners as well as all the other kids who participated in the family fun event.