The Lane Family, 17-year participants, from Oregon
The 39th Annual Catfish Derby drew 958 anglers – children and adults – this past weekend for the 3-day event in Clearlake Oaks, a small-town community of about 2,200 residents. Many brought along their immediate and extended families and friends and most came in from outside of Lake County.
Dennis Locke, Derby Committee Chair, credited the lake conditions for the crowds. “These are the best lake conditions in my memory, and we had a near-record high for the total number of anglers registered.”
Locke said considering those that attended but didn’t fish the derby likely drew in well over 1,000 visitors. “That’s a real boost to our local economy,” he said.
According to Locke there are other catfishing derbies, but none that bear the distinction of being the largest of its kind west of the Mississippi and occurring in an ancient lake considered the largest fresh warm water lake in the nation.
The annual 3-day derby is definitely a family affair and, for some, a long-time tradition. Locke estimates 80% fish as families.
Most that registered to fish, 60%, came from outside of Lake County, some traveling great distances to get here, as far away as Tennessee. Many brought along family members that didn’t register to fish but who came to cheer on their dads, moms, sisters, brothers, cousins, and friends – and to enjoy the natural beauty of the area, especially the lake.
“It’s beautiful here; my entire family fishes the derby,” said Jeremy Cain, this year’s 1st place winner with his 25.87-pound catch. Cain said his 8-year-old son registered as an adult and brought in an 18-pounder. “Neither he, my daughter or wife placed this year but we’ll be back next year for another try.”
Cain has been fishing with his dad since he was a youngster. “My dad’s here with us,” he said. “We were surprised to win and have no idea what we’ll do with the $5,000 prize money. We love the environment here, and as much as anything, we come for fun and relaxation. The cash is icing on the cake,” he said.
In the 11- to 15-year-old category, Cruz Gomez, from Clearlake was the lucky winner with his 20.28-pound catch. Cruz said he wanted to give a shout out to his brother-in-law, Orin, for the good bait. “It’s a secret family recipe,” he said.
Cruz is a first-time derby participant. “My sister placed last year and encouraged me to enter. I’m glad she did and I will definitely come back next year,” he said. As to what Cruz will do with his $100 prize money, “I’ll probably put it towards a new phone,” he said.
Ten-year-old Alani Hickison from Sacramento won 1st prize in the “up to 10 years” category with her 19.69-pound catch. She wasn’t present at the awards ceremony but her $100 prize money will be mailed to her, according to Locke.
During the awards ceremony, Locke acknowledged two families – the Lane’s and the Parish’s.
“The Lane family hails from Oregon, they have been coming for 17 years. They represent four generations and we’re happy to see them here again,” he said.
As for the Parish family, this was a very special and somewhat emotional year. Kevin Parish, Jr., the anointed leader of the group, said they were honoring the legacy of his father, Albert Parish, Sr, who recently passed away and had led the pilgrimage to the derby for 18 years.
“There are 15 of us here this year,” Parish said.
Nine-year-old Nicholas Hughes Jr., the youngest of the group, placed 2nd in the up to 10-year category with his 18.90-pound catch. “Nicholas is from Muskogee, Oklahoma,” Parish said.
“We’re from all over; Oklahoma, Kentucky, Tennessee, Texas and Southern California – Riverside, San Bernadino, and Los Angeles Counties,” he said.
“We’ll be back next year, count on it,” Parish said. “It’s a family tradition and what my father would want us to do.”
Sponsored by the Clearlake Oaks-Glenhaven Business Association, the proceeds from this year’s event – $25,000 – will again be returned to the community to support school academic and sports programs, elder needs and more.
Association President Alvaro Valencia reminded everyone to thank the many volunteers who helped put on the 3-day event, also noting Locke’s leadership. “He undoubtedly pulled some very long nights to make sure every detail was attended to and the results are outstanding,” Valencia said. “It’s a lot of work, but also fun. We are especially proud to host an event that brings families together. I like to think that families who fish together stay together,” he said.
Locke also thanked and acknowledged the over 60 volunteers who worked long hours to run this year’s derby. “There are always questions after the derby so call us at 707-596-0248 and we’ll respond,” Locke said. “Just give us a couple of days to rest up.”
For photos, final results and other details about the derby, visit www.clearlakeoaks.org/derby and catch some of the day-to-day postings and stories on the derby Facebook page, Catfish Derby in the Oaks.
The Parish Family, 18-year participants, from So. Cal & Oklahoma, Kentucky, Tennessee, & Texas