LAKE ISABELLA, Calif. — The Lake Isabella Fishing Derby brings in thousands of people to the Kern River Valley every year for one weekend of epic fishing.
But for those organizing the event, preparation starts much earlier and requires the dedication of many volunteers .
“We have a team of volunteers that feeds these fish three times a day. We usually get those fish in at the end of October. We'll feed them usually until the beginning or middle of March and release them for the angling community to have a great time,” said Fred Clark, President of the Kern River Valley Chamber of Commerce, the organization that puts on the derby.
They raise approximately 6,000 to 10,000 trout annually.
The fishing derby is a large event that brings many tourists to Lake Isabella. There are trout in the Lake that are raised specifically for the event and then even more fish are brought in.
Some of the fish will be tagged, and there are chances to win prize money for catching them.
“We will have 500 tagged trout and over $60,000 in value in the water. We just want to make sure that everyone that's here is having a great time,” said Clark.
“There's a very good chance that you're going to catch a fish,” said Robbie Miller, a volunteer that helps put on the event, “There's so many trout in this lake right now.”
It's a labor of love for those who volunteer to make the derby happen.
“They love giving back. This valley is what we get to call home,” said Clark.
Roughly 30 volunteers donate their time to feed the fish in the months leading up to the derby.
“Without them and all of their efforts, this could not happen.”
The fishing derby brings thousands of tourists to the KRV. Locals want to show them the beauty and fun of the Kern River Valley.
“Last year I was able to volunteer and that's when I knew I wanted to be a part of it,” said Miller.
After the trout are fed and fully grown over a period of several months in the pens near Red’s Marina in Isabella Lake, volunteers tow the pens through the lake, releasing fish along the way.
“I'll be with a big net and I'll just be like Santa Claus, just letting them all out,” Miller remembers, “People are just so excited and happy. That's when I got hooked and I wanted to be a part
Clark's favorite part of the derby is seeing the memories that families make.
“The fun and the excitement and the camaraderie of getting back together and just having a good time, that's what it's about. Fishing is just the bonus.”
The Isabella Fishing Derby is taking place from March 23 to March 25 and you can buy tickets for it at KernRiverValley.com.
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