YOU ARE HERE: IVPress HomeCollections

Locals compete in annual fishing event

February 25, 2002|By RICHARD MYERS

Sports Editor

SEELEY — Ten-year-old Hayden McNeer of Holtville couldn't contain his enthusiasm.

"Look, look," he said Saturday morning as he lifted a string of trout to show people walking by. "That big one is mine."

Hayden was one of more than 320 youngsters who lined the banks of Sunbeam Lake during the annual Imperial Valley Junior fishing Trout Derby, which was held at both Sunbeam and Wiest lakes near Brawley.

Hayden was at Sunbeam as the guest of his neighbor Bob Justice. Justice, an avid fisherman, had brought his daughter Lani, 10, and two of his neighbors, Hayden and his brother Cameron McNeer, 12.


"They've never caught a fish before," Justice said of the McNeer brothers. Never, that is, until Saturday.

Both brothers caught a few trout as did Justice's daughter Lani.

"I took them fishing one other time to the canal, but we didn't catch anything," Justice said. "I thought they'd have a better chance out here."

He was right.

Not only did the McNeer boys both catch fish, they also had a good time doing it.

But before he reeled in his first fish, Cameron McNeer was expressing mixed emotions.

"I'm kinda both happy and sad," Cameron said. "Happy because if I don't catch one I don't have to kiss it, and sad because if I don't catch one I don't catch one."

Justice had teased the kids that the first time anyone catches a fish he has to kiss it "on the lips."

Cameron wasn't looking forward to that.

But after he caught his first fish he changed his tune.

"He said he didn't care how many fish he had to kiss, he wanted to catch another," Justice said.

The problem was trying to keep up with his younger brother and Lani to see who would reel in the most. Hayden reeled in a third fish late in the morning to take the lead.

"Look how small he is," Hayden said.

"I think we should let him go," Justice said.

"No, no," Hayden said, proud to have hooked another.

To satisfy Hayden, Justice came up with a suggestion.

"I'll put it in my fish tank at home," he said as he loaded it into an ice chest filled with lake water. He just hoped the trout would survive after all the touching by the excited kids.

"Cool," Hayden said. "I can visit my fish every time I come over to your house."

And so it went all around Sunbeam Lake.

Emory Muckle of Imperial brought his two sons, Damian, 10, and William, 7.

While they had not caught any trout yet, that did not dampen their enthusiasm.

"I'm just a hillbilly from Tennessee," Muckle said. "And my daddy told me, ‘Even a bad day fishing is better than a good day at work.'

"This is real fun for the kids," Muckle said.

It was only last month that Damian Muckle had caught his first-ever fish — a channel catfish.

They were having a tough go Saturday.

"People are getting fish all around us," Emory Muckle said. "We haven't gotten any. We have had a lot of strikes though."

The Andersons of Holtville also were trying to catch their first fish. Stephanie and Otis Anderson were helping their grandchildren Brady Anderson, 8, and Tori Anderson, 4, try to land a trout.

Stephanie watched with great mirth as Tori tried to reel in her line.

"It's a crack-up when they can't do it," she said.

Stephanie added Saturday was the first time either grandchild had ever been fishing. While she said it Tori flashed a broad smile under her cap.

"It really doesn't matter if they catch a fish or not," Stephanie said. "All that matters is that they're having fun."

El Centro's Leo Fleates agreed. Fleates was at Sunbeam with his son Leo Jr., 7. "This is what it's all about," Leo Fleates said, watching his son try and cast.

"I like to throw it far," Leo Jr. said. His dad added that's been the most fun for his son up to that point "because he hasn't caught a fish yet."

Even if all of the youngsters who participated in the trout derby did not catch a fish, they still came away winners.

"We've gotten great cooperation from a lot of merchants," said Bill DuBois of the El Centro Noon Kiwanis Club, organizer of the event at Sunbeam.

DuBois pointed out merchants throughout the Valley donated enough prizes so every child who participated could come away with something.

"There are some nice prizes too," DuBois added. There also were grand prizes of a rod, reel and tackle box to the longest fish for the top boy and girl in each of three age divisions — 5 and under, 6-10 and 11-15.

Anglers were lining up early to cast their lines for prizes and fun.

"I came at 6 a.m. and there were people already here who must have camped out overnight," DuBois said.

"They wanted to get the best spot," he continued. "Hey the parents are just as enthusiastic as the kids."

DuBois said the parents are allowed to help the kids bait the hook, untangle lines, even cast out lines.

"But the kids have to be the ones who reel in the fish," DuBois added.

DuBois was unable to take his own children, ages 5 and 6, fishing because he was running the tournament.

"But both paternal and maternal grandfathers are out here with them," DuBois said.

"They're out here giving the kids tips on how to catch the biggest fish," he continued, "Just like every other grandparent and parent."

"This is what it's all about," Bob Justice said as he stood back and watched the action. "Kids having fun."

Imperial Valley Press Online Articles