SANTA MARGARITA LAKE — Brandon Brownell, 14, Atascadero, won the “biggest fish” prize at the Optimist Club’s Free Fishing Derby, Saturday, May 26, at Santa Margarita Lake.
Brandon had been fishing a few times before but never caught anything. He was happy and surprised to not only reel in his first fish, but also the biggest catch of the day, a 2.1-pound, 14-inch bass. This is the 18th year for the fishing derbies under the leadership of Del Bishop of the Paso Robles Optimist Club.
“Our club manages the fishing portion of the event and this is the biggest turnout we’ve ever had,” Del Bishop said.
The derby had 175 children register and the Atascadero Optimist Club handled the free lunch. The plan was to provide 150 lunches, but at 10:30 a.m., they were worried.
“I saw how many families were coming and I knew we were in trouble,” said Cathy Williams of the Atascadero Optimist Club. “I called another volunteer and asked her to go to the store and buy double of everything!”
They served more than 300 barbecue hot dog lunches to the families. The children won prizes for many categories including the “weirdest fish,” which went to a very young angler who reeled in an old fishing pole.
The derbies are made possible by sponsorships from the California Fish and Game Commission and Virg’s Landing in Morro Bay.
The next derby is Saturday, Sept. 8, 9 a.m.–1 p.m. at Santa Margarita Lake. The event is open to children 15 years and younger and participants must be accompanied by an adult. The derby provides loaner poles (or bring your own), tackle, bait, instruction, prizes for every child and lunch — all for free. There is a $10 per car fee charged by the County to enter the lake.