Fishing Derby brings families together at Ned Houk Park

Everett McSchooler, 4, of Clovis, looks at the catfish he caught as his dad Scott shows it to him during The Optimist Club of Clovis’ 17th annual Fishing Derby Saturday at Ned Houk Park. McSchooler caught five fish on the day. CNJ photo: Eric Kluth

By Janet Bresenham: CNJ CORRESPONDENT

Timothy Estrada, 5, yawned and sank back in his chair along the banks of the lake at Ned Houk Park early Saturday morning, as he watched for movement in the water near his fishing pole.
The sleepy soon-to-be kindergarten student summed up his favorite part about fishing with his grandfather, John Moya, who was seated beside him for The Optimist Club of Clovis’ 17th annual Fishing Derby.
“My Grandpo catches the little fish and I catch the big fish,” he said.
The pair, who fish together frequently at Ned Houk Park, were trying out a mixture of liver, hot dogs and pieces of bacon in their first time at the fishing derby.
Nearby, brothers Stephen and Matthew Encinias, both 11, and their cousin, Luis Prieto, 11, relied on biscuit dough to try to reel in some of the 500 catfish stocked in the lake by the Dexter Fish Hatchery for the competition.
But Prieto, who was working hard to keep a promise to his mother to catch at least one fish, said the store-bought dough they were using might not stand up to the homemade dough their grandmother makes sometimes.
Meanwhile, the Encinias boys’ little brother, Christopher, 5, stayed close to their father, Cip, as he planned what he would do with any fish he caught.
“I will keep them like a pet,” Christopher Encinias said. “I’m going to make a big pond for them.”
The youngster wasn’t the only one who anticipated an alternative to the frying pan for his catches of the day.
Callie Rush, 15, who will be a sophomore at Clovis High School, used worms and corn to catch four fish by midmorning, including one catfish that was more than a foot long.
“I let them loose,” Rush said. “I never eat them; I’d rather let them go. I’ve been out here quite a bit. I enjoy fishing. It’s fun and relaxing. I think I was about six years old the first time I went fishing.”
Instilling a love of fishing and enjoying fun with family and friends is what event organizer Jeff Baum said fellow members of The Optimist Club of Clovis hope people get out of the fishing derby. Baum said he was happy with Saturday’s turnout at the lake.
“This year, we had 88 boys and girls,” Baum said. “Last year, we had 87 kids and the year before that, we had 125. But the year before that, we had 178 and you couldn’t even fish because it was so crowded.”
Dennis and Melba Reid sat on either side of their grandchildren, Levi, 7, and Hannah, 5, as they talked about all 17 years they have been coming to the fishing derby.
“I just like to see the kids have a good time,” said Dennis Reid, who served as charter president of The Optimist Club of Clovis when the derby originated.
Staff Sgt. Scott McSchooler and his wife Linda said they were excited to find out about the fishing derby for their four-year-old son Everett, who caught five fish using worms as bait and stopped to pet each of the fish he caught.
“We fished a lot in California, where we lived before coming to Cannon Air Force Base,” Scott McSchooler said. “Everett loves fishing. He’s been on me for about a month now to go fishing.”
Worms also proved successful for sisters Kelsey and Kylee Porto, ages 11 and 7, and their best friend, Katie Young, 8 — though the bait didn’t guarantee the size of the catch.
“I called my catfish ‘Mini’ because it was so small,” Young said.