JOLON — More than 550 youth participated in the 18th annual Youth Fishing Derby at the Del Venturi Reservoir last Saturday, hosted by Fort Hunter Liggett’s Directorate of Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation.
Those age 15 and under were able to fish for the 2,000 pounds of trout that had been stocked in the pond for a chance to compete for prizes, divided into four age categories.
“It’s a fun day we do once a year,” said Charlemagne Tertulien, director of the DFMWR program at the army base. “Last year it was canceled due to Covid.”
In the event’s almost two-decade run, Tertulien explained that only severe drought has forced it to shut down. That was until Covid-19 restrictions caused its cancellation last year.
An estimated 800 guests made up of youth and their families, both military and civilian, were able to travel out to Fort Hunter Liggett and enjoy breakfast and lunch along with their time fishing. Entry into the derby was free, and fishing licenses were not needed to try out the sport.
“The main goal of this event every year is the camaraderie, the partnership with the surrounding community,” Tertulien said. “The majority of people who live in the surrounding community have just heard there is a military installation. But have they ever been there? The answer is no. So we create an opportunity.”
The April 24 derby was a way for people to visit Fort Hunter Liggett as well as participate in an activity with the personnel. The base is a long drive to King City and an even longer drive to Paso Robles, but Tertulien noted the base personnel see the surrounding communities as their towns, especially with the need to travel to them for items and services not available on the base.
“This is a great opportunity to bring the community together so we can have a little fun and celebrate, especially with the children,” Tertulien said.
Prizes won by the youth included fishing rods and gift certificates, with the community event backed by 20 sponsors and assisted by volunteers from different area groups, such as King City VFW. Sponsors spanned from Carmel to San Luis Obispo, and included A&G Pumping, Lion’s Club, McDonald’s, Rio Farms and L.A. Hearne.
California Department of Fish and Wildlife provided 500 pounds of fish from the San Joaquin Hatchery, with Fort Hunter Liggett stocking another 1,500 pounds.
“It was a fantastic event and everyone in the surrounding community should mark their calendar,” Tertulien said, adding that the 2022 derby is planned to take place next April.