CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. --
Approximately 280 families participated in Semper Fit’s 9th annual Lake O’Neill Kids Fishing Derby, here, Sept. 6.
The fishing derby is a competition where children attempt to catch the largest fish they can while competing in three to five, six to 10 and 11 to 15 age categories.
“This event is designed to get kids out of the house where they can learn and have a fun outdoor experience,” said Dolores Perez, a recreation specialist with Marine Corps Community Services’ Semper Fit division. “I think this is a great way to keep them active and expose them to what could potentially be a new hobby.”
According to Perez, the lake is stocked with ample and various amounts of fish to catch.
“Base environmental stocks the lake with blue gill, black croppy, bass, catfish and carp,” said Perez. “That really makes the experience fun for the kids because they don’t know what they’re going to come up with.”
Although there aren’t many rules, there are a few that are strictly enforced during the competition.
“The kids have to catch all of the fish themselves and they all have to get their catches weighed and verified by our record keeper,” said Perez. “The parents usually want to help them win, but their only allowed to supervise.”
Perez said that despite having to make sure parents aren’t helping, she likes the level of support they show.
“I really like this event because it gives the family an activity to do together,” said Perez. “We always get a lot of participation from parents and grandparents.”
The fishermen also need to have what they need before they are allowed to register.
“They all have to provide their own fishing poles. We allow them to bring their own bait, but we also provide worms for whoever needs them,” said Perez. “Most of them don’t like to tell what kind of bait their using. Guess it’s a fisherman thing.”
During the event the staff announced the size of each fish as they are caught to let the fishermen know that the competition is high.
“We just had someone catch a 10-pound carp and it was about 36 inches long,” said Perez.
That fish belong to the child who won overall biggest fish and the largest catch in his age category.
“It was heavy,” said Joshua, a 7-year-old. “It was hard to get it out of the water.”
There was another fish caught close to that size, but Perez was clear about how tie-breakers are handled.
“If there is a tie weight, we measure the fish and whoever has the largest one wins,” said Perez. “We also give a prize to whoever catches the most fish.”
According to Perez, catching a fish at the lake may seem like hit or miss to the grown-ups, but the children seem to have a little more luck.
“Sometimes adults will come out here and not catch anything and other times the kids will come out here and catch multiple fish,” said Perez. “They all have their secrets on what their using for bait”
Joshua said that this isn’t the first fish he’s ever caught.
“We go fishing together several times a month,” said Michael Toler, Joshua’s father and fishing coach for the competition. “It’s really good bonding time for us.”
According to Joshua, he and his father often go fishing for carp and small mouth bass and other types of fish.
“We went fishing in Sequoia to catch trout,” said Joshua. “I like fishing with my dad.”
Michael Segaline, whose son caught a 9-pound carp, said that he enjoys bringing his children to the fishing derby for the bonding.
“I think the fishing derby’s important because it brings the community together, it inspires people to get out with their kids and it’s really family oriented,” said Segaline. “This is a great thing that MCCS is doing and I hope they continue to do events like this in the future.”