Dennis Smith helps his 4-year-old son Isaac reel in a catfish during the Kids All-American Fishing Derby Saturday at Ned Houk Park. A record 323 fish were caught this year, according to organizers. (Staff photo: Eric Kluth)
By Ryn Gargulinski: CNJ staff writer
Never mind baseball, Zack Austin said, fishing is his all-American sport. In fact, he skipped his T-ball game Saturday to attend the Kids All-American Fishing Derby at Ned Houk Park.
Austin was among the dozens of youngsters who hauled in a record number of catfish and a couple of oddball goldfish during the 18th annual event sponsored locally by the Clovis Noon Optimist Club.
Baseball is big in the Austin family, said John Austin, Zack’s father. But he was OK his son traded in a bat and glove for a rod and reel for a day.
“Letting Zack skip baseball for fishing is a really big thing,” said John Austin, who coaches Little League.
Zack Austin used biscuit dough laced with garlic to land his five fish, whereas a nearby batch of female fishermen were singing praises of other bait.
“I love worms,” said Halle Reid, 7, who was fishing with her brother, sister and dad. Although Reid was unsure why the squirmy critters enamored her so, she was able to relate her favorite part of the sport.
“I like touching the fish — they’re wet and smooth,” said Reid, who landed two “keepers.”
Sister Jessa, 4 1/2, who won most fish honors in her age group with eight, said the hardest part for her was reeling in the fish because of how much they weighed.
“They are as heavy as mom’s diaper bag,” she said, equating her haul to the sack her mother uses to tote supplies for her baby brother.
Brothers Christopher, Billy and Andrew Sandoval also agreed the toughest part about catching the fish was reeling them to shore. The best part, said Christopher Sandoval, 11, will be eating them.
“We clean them and have a fish fry with grandpa,” he said.
Chris Sandoval said he and his sons go fishing every chance they get. Although this Clovis crew had yet to nab a top prize in one of the three categories — biggest fish, most fish or overall heftiest weight — Chris Sandoval said that was not the point.
“Getting fish is enough prize for us,” he said.
Farwell resident Tre Orozco, 11, said his favorite part of the outing was spending time with his family.
Orozco said he’s attended the derby five or six times and uses a variety of bait, like minnows and worms, but this year’s fish preferred Kraft American singles.
Tim Lee, on hand with his three children — Chance and 11-year-old twins Taylor and Rylie — added to the litany of benefits of the derby, and fishing as a whole.
“It teaches kids really good sportsmanship and about nature,” said the elder Lee, who said he takes his children fishing twice a month.
Richard Sanchez, 13, who sat with a basket full of nearly a dozen squirming catfish and won combined weight honors in his category, was another avid angler open to sharing what he’s learned about fishing and nature in his six years in the sport.
This Clovis teen found the best success with worms and chicken liver.
Sanchez advises deeper waters for the best fishing, and catfish as the best to nab.
“They give the best bite and the best fight,” he said.
Winners in the 18th annual Kids All-American Fishing Derby:
Overall winners (115 anglers)
• Biggest fish: Mariah Hall, 2 pounds, 12 ounces
• Combined weight: Dominic Reyna, 12 pounds, 10 ounces
• Most caught: Weston Bobo, 13
• Anglers who caught fish: 83
• Total fish: 328
• Total weight (estimate): 316 pounds
Under 5 (19 anglers)
• Biggest fish: Josh Kelley, 1 pound, 12 ounces
• Combined weight: Andrian Romero, 9 pounds, 3 ounces
• Most fish: Jessa Reid, 8
• Anglers who caught fish: 12
• Total fish: 51
• Total weight: 58 pounds
Age 5-6 (14 anglers)
• Biggest: Selina Dowdy, 1 pound, 13 ounces
• Combined weight: Jacob Thomson, 4 pounds
• Most fish: Sidney Dallas, 4
• Anglers who caught fish: 10
• Total fish: 28
• Total weight: 30 pounds
Age 7-8 (23 anglers)
• Biggest: Dante Downy, 1 pound, 12 ounces
• Combined weight: Elyssa Dominquez, 8 pounds
• Most fish: Lauren Rowley, 7
• Anglers who caught fish: 17
• Total fish: 62
• Total weight: 56 pounds
Age 9-10 (25 anglers)
• Biggest: Tristan Ham, 2 pounds
• Combined weight: Oscar Lopez, 10 pounds 8 ounces
• Most fish: J.J. Williams
• Anglers who caught fish: 16
• Total fish: 87
• Total weight: 74 pounds
Age 11-12 (20 anglers)
• Biggest: Aubrey Sandoval, 1 pound 12 ounces
• Combined weight: Blainne Smith, 7 pounds, 4 ounces
• Most fish: Taryn Kosier, 5
• Anglers who caught fish: 17
• Total fish: 50
• Total weight: 52 pounds, 8 ounces
Age 13-14 (11 anglers)
• Biggest: Ryan Kosier, 1 pound, 14 ounces
• Combined weight: Richard Sanchez, 10 pounds, 5 ounces
• Most fish: Ben Young, 9
• Anglers who caught fish: 9
• Total fish: 46
• Total weight: 40 pounds m8 ounces
Age 15-16 (3 anglers)
• Biggest: Lelanea Weed, 12 ounces
• Combined: Carson Beierman, 13 ounces
• Anglers who caught fish: 2
• Total fish: 4
• Total weight: 1 pound 4 ounces