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When I was a kid growing up in Sacramento, I had to figure out how to catch trout, steelhead, striped bass and other species in local waters pretty much on my own. Many of the adults I fished besides were hostile and unhelpful – and often resisted anybody else fishing anywhere near “their spot.”
Nowadays, young and novice anglers have excellent opportunities to learn about fishing from angling experts in clinics, seminars and workshops provided by government agencies, fishing groups and bait and tackle stores.
The Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Fishing in the City program, developed to improve angling opportunities for California’s growing urban population, has been offering fishing clinics, free rod and reel rentals and stocking rainbow trout and channel catfish ponds in close to home ponds in the Sacramento and Stockton metropolitan areas for 20 years. The program also serves the San Francisco and Los Angeles metropolitan areas.
I attended the inaugural day of the program at Southside Park in the summer of 1993 – and I was there during the most recent fishing clinic and trout derby at Florin Creek Park on Saturday, January 26. This is one of the DFG’s most successful and popular programs and my personal favorite.
Joe Ferreira, the coordinator of the Fishing in the City Sacramento area program, was there with Don Paganelli and program volunteers to loan rods and reels, bait up the rods and show the anglers how to fish.
The American River Fish Hatchery had stocked the small pond with over 300 pounds of catchable rainbow trout, about 600 fish, for the event. The fishing was pretty tough, maybe because of the cold water temperatures. I saw about a dozen fish caught while I was there.
As I have pointed out many times, one of the myths of angling is that stocked trout start biting right away and are easy to catch right after a plant. In reality, sometimes the fish don’t want to bite until several hours or a couple of days after. I have been to many lakes where the fishing was very slow just after the fish were planted.
The most successful angler I saw was Lizabeth Yang of Sacramento, who landed four rainbows and lost another one. She enticed all of her fish with Power Bait.
Paganelli, a seasonal aid for the program and a bass fishing guide, commented, “She caught the most fish because she just sat there patiently and waited for the fish to bite. A lot of kids weren’t hooking up because they kept reeling in their lines, not letting the fish have a chance to bite.”
A total of 60 young anglers , accompanied by parents and guardians, participated in the derby sponsored by the Southgate Parks and Recreation District and the Florin Creek Neighborhood Association.
At noon, the event organizers, Alice Moreno and Sheila Surrity fromthe park district, awarded prizes including fishing rods and reels and tackle boxes to the young boys and girls for the first, biggest and smallest fish. The kids also won prizes for their winning raffle tickets.
Jamie Thad landed the first fish, a 13-1/4 inch rainbow. However, the biggest and smallest fish were not rainbow trout, but catfish.
Scott Thomas landed the largest fish, a 15 inch channel catfish, while soaking a worm with his father, Scott Thomas, Sr. The fish was probably one of those planted last summer during the DFG summer fishing clinic.
Jolin Zhang bagged the smallest fish, a 6-3/4 inch bullhead, probably a resident fish from the pond.
Other happy anglers include Maria Workman of Sacramento, who landed a big rainbow while fishing with her grandpa, Dennis Smith of Sacramento. Maria and Dennis are big advocates of the Fishing in the City program, since they have frequently fished the local ponds for both trout and catfish. This was one of many times that I’ve seen them fishing together in the city parks.
Maria came up to me to remind me of the two 9 lb. channel catfish that she caught in Howe Park when she was much younger.
The next major event in the Fishing in the City program will be on February 9 from 8:30 am to noon at Hagen Park in Rancho Cordova. On the same day, the ponds in Elk Grove Regional Park and Howe Park in Sacramento will be planted with rainbows. “Mt. Lassen Fish Farm will stock 4,000 pounds of trout between the three parks,” said Ferreira.
You can find out the schedule for clinics and lakes being planted by calling Joe Ferreira at (916) 358-2872. Many city parks will also be planted with trout by American River Fish Hatchery. Call 916-351-0832 for more information.
During the summer, channel catfish will also be stocked in Sacramento and Stockton area park ponds, including Oak Grove Park in Stockton.
In covering Fishing in the City events, I’ve seen some surprising catches by anglers. I’ve seen crappie, huge redear sunfish, brook trout and even brown trout caught at Elk Grove Park.
However, none of the catches I’ve witnessed rival the 22 lb. white catfish that James Robinson of Sacramento pulled out of William Land Park Pond in March 1994. That fish is not only the state record, but also a world record for the species, according to the Freshwater Fishing Fall of Fame.
Fishing in the City has four simple objectives: to provide fishing opportunities close to home; teach a new generation the joys of fishing; build support for aquatic resource stewardship; and develop programs by communities for communities.
Ferreira says the success of the program is demonstrated by the fact that many anglers who fish for a variety of species grew up as children in the program.
“I meet a lot of adult anglers in the Sacramento area who started out by coming to our clinics,” he said. “Repetition is how one learns fishing skills.”
Paganelli, also touted the benefits of Fishing in the City.
“There are a lot of people who have never been fishing before who have kids and want to introduce them to fishing,” said Paganelli. “This is a perfect opportunity for them, since we provide rod and reel combos, tackle rentals and bait for them to use free of charge to find out what the fishing experience is all about. Plus there are a lot of people who don’t have the means to travel to lakes and streams outside the urban area."
“I see a lot of single moms coming out with their kids at our events,” he emphasized. “It’s great to see the looks on kids’ faces after they catch their first fish.”
The trout and catfish caught in the urban ponds are safe to eat, since the DFG conducts water sampling to make sure that the water conditions are suitable for the fish to survive and anglers to eat them, according to Ferreira.
Many of the ponds have fountains to aerate the water so the water is oxygenated. Each park's water source is different and some ponds use their water for irrigating the gardens and trees and lawns in the parks.Back To Reports
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